How to keep pets calm in thunderstorms

·4-min read
Keep dogs and cats calm during a thunderstorm by providing them with a safe space and keeping calm yourself (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Keep dogs and cats calm during a thunderstorm by providing them with a safe space and keeping calm yourself (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for thunderstorms and rain across large parts of England. The warnings start from 6am on Saturday, with thunderstorms expected to continue until midnight.

Tom Morgan, a Met Office forecaster, told the PA news agency: “We have two yellow weather warnings in place, the first covering the south-west of England including parts of Cornwall, Devon and Bristol, which will see heavy and persistent downpours and even some flooding from Saturday afternoon.

“Another warning of thunderstorms will cover large swathes of central England, spanning from the south to north, starting from 6am on Saturday. These areas will see scattered, heavy showers, thunderstorms and even some hail.”

Loud thunder and flashes of lightning can be frightening for many pets and can lead to anxious behaviour that pet owners may worry about.

Dogs can show signs of being stressed or anxious during thunderstorms by panting excessively, drooling, shaking and yawning, or putting their tail between their legs. According to the Blue Cross for Pets, they may also pace around, whine, bark and drink more water.

Cats, on the other hand, may hide in cupboards or under furniture until the storm passes. But if they are especially afraid, they may display a strong response such as a raised coat and bushy tail, and may become aggressive if someone tries to handle them.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your pet calm during a thunderstorm:

Give them a safe place indoors

Designating a safe space for your pet can help them feel less anxious. It can be a kennel indoors, a closet, a space under your bed or even under the covers on the bed.

Ensuring your pet has a place where it feels safe is important for them to hide in and wait out the storm without feeling they are in any additional danger. It could also help if their designated safe place is insulated from noise to keep the sound of thunder further away.

You can help reduce noise by placing a towel or blanket over the kennel, or ensure there are soft furnishings around their safe place to absorb the sound of thunder and rain. Closing any curtains or blinds will also block out sudden flashes of lightning that might be frightening.

Stay relaxed

While it may feel counterintuitive not to soothe your pet and give them treats when they appear stressed, experts say that pets can sometimes interpret this as you rewarding them for their behaviour.

Dog specialist website Dogster advises against constant petting or consoling when pets are showing fear responses to the storm. Instead, project a calm and relaxed demeanour and give your pet attention in the form of activities they normally enjoy.

Speaking to your pet in a happy voice could also help boost their confidence and reassure them that everything is fine.

Exercise before the storm

Exercising your pets before a storm may help tire them out and make them less antsy once the storm arrives. Take your dog for a long walk or play with your cat to expend excess energy a couple of hours before the storm is forecasted to hit.

Play soothing sounds

Avoid watching anything with lots of sudden, loud noises during a thunderstorm as this might heighten your pet’s stress levels. Instead, play calming music or put something soothing on the television to act as background noise that will help block out the sound of thunder.

Look into pet garments

Some pets benefit from wearing a snug-fitting garment during thunderstorms. These garments are specially designed for anxious cats and dogs and are said to have a calming effect, similar to swaddling a baby.

You can also make your own by wrapping your pet in stretchable bandage or by using an old t-shirt. Make sure it’s snug, but not so tight that they struggle to breathe, especially if they are anxious.

Use supplements, pheromones or herbal remedies

Pet food brand Hill’s Pet recommends using pet-safe compounds for cats and dogs that work to calm them without sedating them. These can come in the form of pheromone diffusers or sprays, or calming collars and treats.

Always consult your vet to determine the right amount to give your pet.

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