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10 Tips on How to Calm Pets in a Thunderstorm

Dog looking out window at storm

Does your cat flee for cover when lightning flashes across the sky? Does your dog start vibrating like an oversized furry cellphone when thunder booms? It’s common for pets to be scared of nature’s ultimate sound-and-light show. Knowing ways to calm your pets in a thunderstorm can help your fur friends cope during such a scary experience.

Cat looking out from behind blinds

10 Stress-Free Ways To Calm Your Pet During a Storm

As tempting as it is to scoop up your shivering fur baby and tell them everything’s going to be okay, this isn’t the best way to calm them during a storm. When you shower your pet with extra affection, it could end up reinforcing their anxious behavior.

Instead, the ideal goal is to help them overcome their fear and anxiety about thunderstorms. Here are 10 things you can do to help calm your pet when a storm starts raging.

1. Keep Calm

First and foremost, when it’s storming, it’s important that you maintain a calm attitude if you expect your pet to be calm. Cats and dogs sense their owners’ stress. So if you start getting nervous about the storm, your pet picks up on your mood.

Pay attention to how you behave and move around when it storms. Do you suddenly frantically scurry about the house, closing shutters, and rummaging around for flashlights in case of a blackout?

If you’re filled with frenetic energy when prepping for a storm your pet notices. You’re unwittingly teaching your pet to be agitated. So take deep breaths, move slowly, and talk to your pet in a matter-of-fact voice.

2. Play with Your Pet

Show your pet that a storm’s nothing to be afraid of by starting a play session with them. Your pet will appreciate the attention and being close to you. Plus, when you instigate a rousing game of play as thunder rolls, you’ll send your pal the message that all’s well.

3. Create a Safe Space for Your Pet

Rain or shine, cats and dogs appreciate a place to call their own. If your fur baby doesn’t already have their own special landing pad, make one for them. The space should be comfortable and cozy so it makes your pet feel safe and secure.

Include a few of your pet’s favorite toys, fresh water, and a comfy spot to snuggle. Add anything that your pet finds particularly reassuring, whether it’s something to hide under or a T-shirt with your scent.

No matter where this safe zone is, make sure your pet can come and go as they please. If it’s a room with a door, leave the door open. If it’s your dog’s crate, leave it open. It’s essential that your dog or cat doesn’t feel trapped if you want them to feel at ease.

4. Mask the Noise

Play white noise, classical music, the television, or the radio to help mask the sound of thunder. Add a radio or sound machine to your pet’s safe zone for some extra comfort. 

Try several different sounds with your pet to see which one seems to make the most difference. Pets have preferences, just like people. What one pet loves, another might find more frightening than the thunder.

5. Desensitize Your Pet to Thunder Sounds

Desensitizing your pet to thunderstorms is the most beneficial option in the long run. When your pet no longer has a negative response to storms, they cope better during times when you aren’t at home, or they’re with a pet sitter

When there’s no storm, start playing the sounds of thunder and other storm sounds at a very low volume. Let the sound effects play while you go about your usual routine.

If your pet acts scared, don’t give attention to the behavior since this will inadvertently reward and reinforce it. Instead, redirect your pet to a toy or other favorite activity.

As your pet seems to pay less attention to the sound, gradually increase the volume. Expect to work on this process for several weeks or longer to get your pet used to the storm sounds.

6. Distract Your Pet

Never underestimate the power of distraction when it comes to pets (and children). When your pet starts to react negatively to the storm, distract them with their favorite toy, or excitedly call their name and throw a ball, etc.

This step goes hand in hand with playing with your pet during a storm. It’s all about refocusing their attention to something else. Then they don’t fixate on the big scary sounds and lights happening outside.

7. Close the Curtains

It’s not just thunder that can rile pets up during a storm. Many pets also get spooked by the lightning flashing through the windows. So go around the house and close all of the curtains and shades so your pet can’t see outside.

8. Be Proactive When a Storm Approaches

If you know a storm is coming, you have more time to prepare. Not only is this good for your own sake, but for your pet’s too. When the weather mentions a possible storm, start prepping (calmly). Close the curtains, turn on the TV or white noise, and start playing with your pet.

Some studies and theories suggest that dogs can sense impending storms from a buildup of static electricity in their bodies. Therefore, one recommendation is to rub your pet with an anti-static laundry sheet or provide them with a non-carpeted area to rest.

The primary takeaway is not to wait until it’s already storming to start trying to calm down your pet. Put the steps into action before the storm arrives, and you can easily dissuade much of your furry friend’s angst.

9. Use Calming Pet Products

Lots of pets don’t like storms. Likewise, many pets get anxious about various situations. Therefore, there are several products available to lend a helping hand to calm your pets.

  • Neat-Lik Treat Mat — Spread your pet’s favorite soft treat on this grooved mat and watch as they lick their troubles away. As they lick, their body releases endorphins that help ease stressful feelings. Plus, the tasty snack doubles as a distraction.
  • Rolly Cannoli — Playtime gets a whole lot more fun with a toy like the Rolly Cannoli. Fill it with some peanut butter or wet food and a few tasty treats. Similar to the treat mat, it encourages your pet to lick. But it also provides mental stimulation as they try to get the treats out of the toy, shifting their focus off the storm.
  • Thundershirt — This popular pet shirt features a patented design that applies pressure when your dog wears it. The pressure helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and fear (all the things your pet’s feeling during a thunderstorm).
  • Calming Sprays and Diffusers —Try Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats. These calming products come in various styles, including collars, sprays, and plug-ins. They release scents that mimic dog or cat pheromones to encourage an overall calmer feeling.

10. Talk with Your Vet

Finally, if, despite your valiant efforts, your pet’s still terrified during a storm, talk to your vet. In some cases, it may be necessary to give your pet medication to help calm them. 

Or your vet might recommend that you speak with an animal behavior consultant. This pet professional can help you develop a better system for working with your pet. 

Be Your Pet’s Hero During a Thunderstorm

After trying out a few (or all) of these ways to calm your pet during a thunderstorm, you should see some changes. But if your pet still shakes like a leaf or hides under the couch, give your vet a call. Sometimes, it takes a village to raise happy, healthy pets.

That’s why we’re always adding more resources and useful tips to the Neater Pets blog. Your pets are your family, and they deserve the very best. 

Is your pet a quivering ball of fur when thunder strikes? Tell us what’s helped you calm your pet during a storm!


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