What Is Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats?
An excessive dread of stormy weather elements like thunder, lightning, heavy rain, and powerful gusts is known as thunderstorm anxiety in felines.
Given that thunderstorms are characterized by their loud noise, glaring brightness, and abrupt occurrence, they have the potential to startle anyone, not excluding a typically anxious cat. Felines suffering from this unique form of storm-related anxiety show signs of distress when they detect an incoming storm, their senses being acutely aware of shifts in barometric pressure before and throughout the storm's duration.
Symptoms of Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
Symptoms can include:
- Acting restless
- Increased vocalizing
- Inappropriate urination/defecation
- Decreased appetite
- Destructive behavior
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
Causes of Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
Felines plagued with a thunderstorm phobia exhibit fear responses to abrupt, loud noises and sudden bright flashes typical of such storms. Like many other creatures, they are perceptive to slight atmospheric pressure changes triggered by these tempestuous weather events.
Cats hailing from uncertain origins or those that have endured neglect or abuse may exhibit a heightened fear during storms, finding loud noises particularly distressing. Uncertain situations usually instigate a flight response in cats. Furthermore, experiences of entrapment, disregard, or situations that denied them an escape route could intensify the likelihood of phobia development.
How Veterinarians Diagnose Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
Veterinary professionals identify thunderstorm phobia in felines through:
Inquiring about the past instances of your cat's purported fear of storms
Conducting a comprehensive physical examination to eliminate the possibility of other illnesses or conditions (if a cat exhibits unusual behavior like hiding excessively or acting out of character for extended periods, there might be a hidden medical concern)
Requesting a blood test to examine if there are fluctuations in the count of red and/or white blood cells and an escalated glucose (blood sugar) level
Stress can induce a rise in the counts of both red and white blood cells, although an increased count of red blood cells due to stress is generally more prevalent in dogs.
Treatment of Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
Approaches to managing thunderstorm phobia in felines could involve:
Prescribed drugs like acepromazine, gabapentin, and trazodone, all of which generally induce a sedative state
Over-the-counter products such as tranquility-inducing oral chews and snacks that include ingredients like tryptophan, Zylkene, hemp, and/or colostrum
Tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin and melatonin, which can induce a relaxed and sleepy state. In the case of Zylkene, studies have explored a substance found in a mother's milk that could induce relaxation in newborns post-feeding. Alpha-casozepine, the uniquely derived protein in Zylkene, encourages relaxation without sedation.
Although research on hemp's application in cats is ongoing, it might have calming effects that influence receptors in the brain. However, the usage of hemp in cats and dogs remains a debate among many veterinary practitioners. Colostrum's research for its potential calming effect is limited, but it may help ease anxiety-related digestive issues.
4 Ways to Calm Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
Aside from a treatment strategy that could involve medication, there are supplementary methods to soothe your cat, such as:
- Implementing calming diffusers that emit feline pheromones. The Feliway is one such diffuser that plugs into an electrical socket and disperses the pheromone in a confined area.
- Utilizing compression attire. The ThunderShirt is a type of compression clothing that acts as a comfort blanket, helping to keep your cat tranquil.
- Establish a serene, cozy sanctuary where your cat can retreat with its preferred bed, blanket, toy, or treat.
- Sharing a cuddle with your cat in a tranquil space if your cat is frightened but isn't attempting to flee or hide.
Recovery and Management of Thunderstorm Phobia in Cats
While treatment can lead to complete desensitization to thunderstorms in some cats, others may continue to experience a lasting phobia.
Consistency in the method you select to pacify your cat is crucial. The willingness to experiment with different strategies (as suggested above) is equally vital if a method doesn't show desired results after multiple trials.