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Friday, July 2, 2021

Calm in the Eye of the Storm (or Fireworks)

It's that time of the year again, especially in the South where we live. We tend to have daily thunderstorms during the summer afternoon and evenings and it's legal to shoot off fireworks in neighborhoods. Many cats (and dogs) don't react well to the loud noises and seek out hiding places or experience anxiety attacks. We're providing some tips to help your cats survive during this time of the year.



Strategies for Helping Your Cats Remain Calm

ENVIRONMENT

Sometimes, adjusting the environment in your home is enough to calm down a stressed cat, especially during a thunderstorm or fireworks explosion. Cats are more sensitive to noise and can tune into high and low pitch sounds that human cannot hear.

  • Provide a Safe Place to Hide. Cats like to feel secure when they feel threatened. Having an easily accessible location in your home will provide comfort for both your cat and you. You know where she is and should the situation present itself, you can easily retrieve her and put her in a place of safety, such as a carrier or a bathroom. It’s important to know their secret hiding places so you can get to them, if needed. If you choose to let your cat’s hiding place be in a carrier, it’s important to acclimate them to the carrier long before a stressful situation. I do not recommend closing your cats up in a bathroom or bedroom unless your cat is already comfortable behind closed doors.

  • Keep Cats Inside. There is an alarming trend of 30% more pets becoming lost between July 4th and 6th than any other time of year (PR Newswire, 2015).Unless you live in a rural area, it’s always a good idea to keep your cats indoors. There are too many dangers outdoors, such as cars, wild animals, dogs, and “mean” people. Should you choose to allow your cats outside, you should bring them indoors when there is a threat of a thunderstorm or fireworks in your area.

  • “Drown Out” Outside NoisesIf you usually leave your windows and doors open, it's important to close them during a thunderstorm or when there are fireworks. Some people recommend playing calm music to help quieten the noise.  There is some great music on Apple Music and You Tube for cats. Consider leaving the television turned on during the day (especially if you will be away). Turn the volume up slightly to normal programming to help drown out some of the outside noise.


SAFETY AND PROTECTION

With the large percentage of pets who become fearful and run away during blasting fireworks or loud thunderclaps, you should plan to protect your cat prior to such events. 

  • Identification Collar and Tags. There are a lot of devices and services available now to help you find your cat should be become lost. At a minimum, your cat should have an ID tag attached to her collar with contact information, especially if she has access to the outside world.
  • Microchip Identification. One of the most effective products you can use to reunite with your pet should she be lost. Microchips are tiny transponders that communicate your cat’s ID information through radio frequency waves. A study from the American Veterinary Medical Association (2007) found that animal shelters were able to reunite people with their pets if they were microchipped 74.1% of the time. If a pet is taken to a shelter or veterinarian, they use hand scanners to check for the presence of a microchip.


HUMAN BEHAVIOR

If possible, you should try to be home if you know there is the chance of fireworks or a thunderstorm in your area. However, even if you are home, there are some strategies you should use with your cat.

  • Remain Calm. Cats have an uncanny ability to sense your emotions and if you are stressed, chances are, they will also be stressed. Do things that help you relax such as watching TV, listening to music, exercising, or reading. If you know you experience stress or panic with loud noises or storms, you should prepare. Your cats need you to be a strong role model for them.

  • Play with Your Cat. A tired cat is a more rested and less stressed cat. Pull out those wand toys and catnip toys and play with your cat. The interaction with you may help keep her mind off the noises occurring outside.

  • Act Normal. This goes back to remaining calm. Cats hate change. You need to act as normal as possible, so your cat doesn’t pick up on things being different. If you usually sit at the computer or watch TV in the evenings, you should carry on with normal routines.

  • Don’t Comfort Your CatThis recommendation may be totally opposite what your instincts tell you to do. If your cat displays signs of fear or anxiety and you pick them up to try and comfort her, you are reinforcing her behavior to the stimuli. 

  • Hire a Pet Sitter. If you must be away during an event that may cause stress, anxiety, or phobic behavior in your cat, consider hiring a qualified and professional pet sitter to stay with her. If your cat is comfortable with your pet sitter, this could be a great option to assist in helping her feel safe and less inclined to exhibit fearful behavior.


two silver shaded Persian Cats, sleeping on top of cat trees

Truffle and Brulee relaxing while I perform normal activities



ANTI-ANXIETY PRODUCTS


Sometimes, you need additional help to provide a feeling of security and safety for your cat. These can be in the form of prescription medication, flower essences, pheromone sprays & diffusers, calming supplements, and calming shirts. If you find you need to use any of these products with your cat, a key piece of advice is to use these products during a time when there are no outside stimuli (storms, fireworks, trips to vets). Your cat may need time to adjust to the various products and you don’t want to cause more stress when your cat is fearful of outside noises or situations.


  • MedicationDepending on the severity of the behavior, a veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for your cat. Many of these medications must be administered daily and in advance of a situation in order to be effective. Cats taking a prescription-calming medication should have yearly blood tests done to determine their kidney and liver levels. Some cats are not good candidates for this type of medication.

  • Natural Medications. If you believe your cat needs something to calm her for a short period of time, you may want to consider using a natural flower essence. Flower Essences are water that has been infused with the vibration healing of flowers. Different flowers aid in alleviating unwanted berhaviors, like fear, panic, or aggression (Coryelle Kramer, June 30, 2016). Coryelle explains that possible flower essences that may help are Rescue Remedy for stress, stimulus for known fears like fear of loud noise, or rock rose for panic. The natural calming medications usually last for a few hours to help relax your cat and there are no side effects. Natural calming medications don’t require a prescription from a veterinarian. However, if your cat is currently on medications or has a medical condition, you should consult with your veterinarian prior to giving your cat flower essences.

  • Pheromones. Synthetic pheromones mimic your cat’s natural facial pheromones, which helps your cat feel calm and safe when she inhales them. Synthetic pheromones are available in liquid sprays and electric diffusers. Some common brand names for cats are Feliway, Comfort Zone, and bSerene. The spray is recommended for carpeting, bedding, carriers and other surfaces your cat likes to rest. You may need to use additional products such as flower essences or calming treats during a thunderstorm or fireworks.
  • Calming Shirts. Thunderworks makes a calming vest for both dogs and cats. The ThunderShirt has a patented design that applies a gentle, constant pressure that has a dramatic calming effect on most cats. The ThunderShirt uses pressure to relieve anxiety in people and animals and is similar to swaddling human infants and the use of gentle pressure and weighted vests to help people with autism. You would definitely need to get your cat accustomed to the ThunderShirt prior to using it in a stressful situation.
  • Calming Treats. There are a lot of calming treats/chews on the market. I’ve tried many of them with some success on my cats. I’ve found a lot of these calming treats are a little larger than a normal treat for my cats, so I need to break them into smaller pieces. As with other treatments, you need to try these treats with your cat before they are needed. They are too fearful to try something new and are usually seeking a safe place to hide. During events such as the 4th of July weekend or New Year’s Eve weekend, I’ve learned to give calming treats to my cats about an hour prior to sundown.

What strategies do you use to help keep your cats calm during a storm or a fireworks display?

Would you like to comment?

  1. Excellent post and great for all pets! Thankfully our little June will sit by the window during lightning and thunder so has shown no fear at all, yet we know so many others do and must be protected as best possible.
    On another note: Paula ~ your new blog design is absolutely beautiful in every way! Sweet, soft, forward looking and speaks perfectly to you and the kitties ~ well done!

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    1. So happy to hear you like the new design. It's taken us a while to get to this point. We still have some work to do, but are pleased with the results.

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  2. Yes, it sure is the season for loud booms, natural and man made, yikes!

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  3. Great tips. I did find the one of not comforting your cat to be odd, but it makes sense.

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  4. I'm usually not that thrown by fireworks, but my human usually stays home and turns up the noisy wall air conditioner and I'm sure that helps. This year, we are a little worried about the mom and kittens that have taken up residence in or near our backyard. My human is trying to trap them, and she doesn't want them to run off the day before the rescue person comes over!

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  5. This time of year sucks for the furry family members. The noise and confusion can make them crazy scared. You provided a very detailed list of tools, tips and options to help soothe pet anxiety around fireworks. I was actually surprised about the tip to "don't comfort your cat". I used to do that with Dusty but maybe because I never picked her up but just talked to her, she seemed less anxiety ridden. She's hid under the bed whenever the fireworks would go off and I'd go the the bed room and tell her it's okay, this will pass. You are safe. Thanks for sharing these tips and I love the new pink design on your blog.

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  6. Comprehensive list of good tips! Our kitties always hide from the thunderstorms and the fireworks.
    I like the design of the blog too, especially the drawings of the kitties at the top.

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  7. Your blog looks great, Paula! We are lucky, as Ava doesn't seem phased by the fireworks or thunder. Plus, she is an indoors only kitty.

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  8. I really dread this weekend, poor Icy is terrified of fireworks! I give her calming treats and ensure she has a quiet place to go when the "bombs" go off. These are great tips for cats, and many for dogs too. Too many pets end up in shelters after the 4th of July weekend. I'm a huge proponent of microchipping pets.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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  9. Great post - and I truly hope a lot of pet parents read it. Fireworks and animals are a bad mix - and it's interesting to learn about how cats handle it. At the core, fireworks creates anxiety for animals - and anxiety is very much a real thing and can be harmful to our pets. These tips are fabulous - will share!

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  10. Great post and I think Layla is going deaf as this is the first year she is not freaking out although I am following my fear rules which are similar to yours. I posted them on my blog this year also

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  11. Many of these tips work well with dogs too! I'm lucky that my three dogs aren't concerned at all about fireworks or thunder, but one of my daughter's dogs is terrified of fireworks. I'll share this with her.

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  12. We have firework here in November every year and they start the week before and carry on for a week afterwards. I have to keep all the cats in for days due to other people's stupidity and carelessness. Bangs are not fun and spending a lot of time keeping our cats safe is frustrating and stressful.

    I agree 100% that collars and microchips are vital for pet safety. Even if you have an indoor cat, if it runs due to loud bangs a chip will have it home really quickly (and you will be a very relieved cat parent!)

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