Storms can be fun to watch, but not if you’re a cat. Plenty of our feline patients at LazyPaw Animal Hospitals have major reactions to the weather, especially thunderstorms and sometimes even rain. Whenever it rains, and sometimes even before it rains, a few of our feline friends get the shakes, meow like crazy, and take cover anywhere they can—under beds, blankets, couches, or in cabinets.
Some humans who get migraines or have joint pain can closely connect their aches with storms on the horizon. Doctors believe this is thanks to heightened sensitivity to atmospheric pressure, and the same is likely true of cats (and dogs).
If your cat is a rescue, she may be connecting rain with an unpleasant past. For example, if she was homeless, she might associate rain with being cold and damp, which could be why she ducks and covers at the first sign of a drop.
Another possibility is electricity in the air. You know how you can get a tingle or shock if you scoot your socks across carpet or wiggle into a fluffy down coat? Since cats are completely covered with hair, they may be more susceptible to shocks and charges caused by changes in the weather. Translation: For animals, storms may smart!
This trick may not work for your pet, but some say that if you rub your cat or dog with an unscented dryer sheet once or twice before storms, they might not be as frazzled. The theory is that static electricity sets animal hair on end, so a little de-static treatment may help diffuse and prevent shocks and charges. Never leave your pet alone with a dryer sheet or turn it into a toy, though, since too much exposure to the chemicals on them can be toxic and cause reactions.
There are a few other things you can try to soothe your cat during rain and storms. First, help them associate inclement weather with good things. If kitty hates rain, try to cuddle with her, bribe her with major treats, and even have a little play time if she’s up for it. Giving your cat the things she enjoys most during weather she doesn’t will help her associate the rain with better experiences. Plus, goodies and love are great distractions! Over time, your cat will likely learn to be calmer during rain and storms.
If nothing seems to help, as long as your cat isn’t in danger of harming herself or others, it’s okay to let her hide under the furniture. You could try getting her a cozy, partially enclosed cave-style bed if you want her to stay somewhere near you during storms. If Fluffy feels calm and safe in a small space, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with letting her have a little privacy to wait the storm out. If the anxiety is still unbearable, talk to your veterinarian about medications that might help.