by Stacey Brecher
Many cats become fearful during storms, turning fall and winter months into high-anxiety time. Here are some ways to calm your cat until the thunder, lightning and rain subside.
First, know how to detect fear in your cat, since cats sometimes try to mask their emotions and state of health.
"If your cat is fearful or anxious, his body will look hunched," says Kristen Collins, an animal behaviorist from the ASPCA's behavior department. "He'll hold his tail low, between -- or curled against -- his rear legs. He might flatten his ears against his skull and fold his whiskers back against his face. He also might cower close to the ground, leaning so that his center of gravity is over his rear legs to permit a hasty retreat."
To help ease such fear, you can provide a safe place for your cat to ride out the storm. Collins suggests a small, comfy and quiet place, like a bathroom, laundry room or closet. "Make the safe zone comforting with some soft blankets or pillows, a few favorite playthings and some treats or food-stuffed toys. Introduce your cat to his new hiding spot in advance," says Collins. "When skies get stormy, take him to the safe zone and let him hide there until he wants to come out."
It's OK to try to calm your cat, since it's a myth that paying attention to a frightened animal is rewarding bad behavior and worsening the problem. Instead, if you keep calm, your cat will feel that response from you and will relax.
If your cat becomes incredibly upset during storms, Collins suggests trying a synthetic pheromones spray. "Pheromones are a great alternative to behavioral medications because they're not sedatives and they haven't been found to cause dangerous side-effects," she says. Pet parents don't need a prescription to obtain them for their pets. If you opt for a spray or diffuser, use it in the safe zone you've set up for your cat.
Stacey Brecher is an editor at Woman's World magazine, and a contributor to Animal Fair magazine.
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Pets | Cats: Keep Your Cat Calm During Storms