Creature Feature: Thunder rolls, claws and howls

4 May

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Family, 1E, May 4, 2011

BY RHONDA OWEN, Special to the Democrat-Gazette

During storms, my cat always tries to hide. Last night when there were tornadoes, Molly escaped out the door and was gone for two hours before we found her under the deck. I was frantic and don’t want to go through that again. But I know there will be more storms. Any tips for how to handle my fraidy-cat?

Storms are nerve-wracking for everyone, including pets, but can be less so with a few preparations.

Here are some tips for safety as well as for easing a pet’s anxiety during one of Arkansas’ inevitable storms. They’re compiled from personal experience with fraidy-cats and dogs, plus information from the Humane Society of the United States (hsus.org), petplace.com and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org).

    CONTAINMENT, CALMING

Hiding when scared is a cat’s normal way of handling a threat (which is how a cat views thunder), so Molly’s behavior isn’t out of the ordinary. You can control the situation by providing her with a safe retreat, such as a crate or a hidey-hole in the area of the house your family goes during a tornado warning.

If Molly doesn’t get into a crate unless she’s going to the vet, she probably won’t have pleasant associations with it. This means that you’ll have to condition her to it when then are no storms. Put treats or a favorite toy inside and leave the door open. Let her go in and out at will.

Spray the inside of the crate with a calmative such as Feliway, which is a synthetic hormone that can lower stress. There is also a version for dogs called D.A.P. (dog-appeasing pheromone). Both are available in a spray or as plug-in diffusers.

During a recent storm, I sprayed one of my dog Simone’s scarves with D.A.P. and tied it around her neck. I also sprayed D.A.P. on my jeans because I knew she’d either be in my lap or sitting next to me while the thunder rolled. While it didn’t dispel all her anxiety, there was a noticeable calming effect.
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