A sudden thunderstorm can be terrifying for any pet, and cats and dogs can become very stressed during storms. There are easy ways to help your pet feel more comfortable, however, and keep them from getting too excited or anxious when storms pass by.
Provide a Safe Place
Your pet will feel more secure if they have a safe, comfortable place to retreat when a storm strikes. A small, interior room without windows works best, such as a laundry room, walk-in closet, pantry or bathroom. Make sure there is a comfortable, familiar blanket, some water and other comforting objects in the room, but avoid crating your pet or restricting their movements, which would make them more anxious or destructive.
Minimize the Storm
The less pets see and hear the storm, the calmer they will be. Close windows, curtains and blinds to muffle noise and reduce lightning flashes, and turn on a radio or television for some cover noise to dilute thunder or the sounds of hard wind and rain. Keep doors closed during the storm, and never take your pet outside during a storm when they might panic and run away.
Keep your pet occupied during the storm to keep their mind off the upsetting conditions. This can be a good time for a game, playing with a favorite toy, grooming or refreshing familiar training exercises. Creating a fun bonding time during the storm will also help your pet associate stormy conditions with pleasant activities and positive reinforcement rather than with anxiety, stress and fear.
Keep Your Pet Company – But Not Too Much
Stay with your pet during a storm, but be sure they do not see any stress or anxiety from you. Both cats and dogs can easily read body language and will react more strongly if you are upset, but they will also settle down more quickly if you are relaxed. Petting and cuddling them is fine, but don't overdo affection or they will sense the change in routine and may react negatively.
Desensitize Your Pet
If your pet is particularly sensitive to storms, some basic desensitizing training can be helpful. Play a recording of a severe storm, gradually increasing the volume and intensity of the recording with each playing, and flash lights or use a strobe light to simulate lightning if necessary. Training your pet to stay calm and relaxed during these playback sessions will help them adjust more easily when real storms occur.
It is perfectly natural for a pet to be afraid of severe storms, but there are ways that pet owners can help their dogs and cats adjust to anxious conditions and weather storms without fear.