Author Topic: Fear of Thunderstorms and Noise Phobias  (Read 2605 times)

Offline Tan

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Fear of Thunderstorms and Noise Phobias
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2008, 16:45:36 PM »
It is unknown why some pets become afraid of noises; it is a common problem in dogs, but less so in cats. The fear can soon become a phobia, which is defined as A persistent, excessive, and irrational fear response. In the case of thunderstorms, pets may also be fearful of storm-associated events such as a change in barometric pressure, lightning, electrostatic disturbances, and even smells associated with the storms.
Noise phobias can include fear of thunderstorms, firecrackers, Hoovers, and even the sound of birds.

What is going through a cat's mind when a noise, stranger or activity sends it into hiding under a bed?  As far as the cat is concerned, it has removed itself from what it sees as a dangerous, possibly life-threatening, situation. In its safe "den" it feels safe and relieved. This feeling of relief reinforces the fleeing and hiding behaviour.
The owner's attitude can influence the severity of the fear. For instance, if owners themselves are nervous during storms, noise phobias in their pets may occur more often or become more severe.  Getting under the bed with the cat or removing it from a cupboard will stress it even more as its safe den has been invaded. Unlike dogs, cats are not pack animals and cannot call on pack-mates to help it out if threatened. To survive, its reaction to danger is to find a safe place to hide until the danger has gone. While this makes sense to the cat, it is upsetting to family members who only want to comfort the cat.

The cat should never be punished for showing fear. This will only increase his anxiety level. 
Keep calm yourself.  Play theropy may work to calm the cat and take his mind off the noise.
Petting, consoling, or even saying, "It's OK," will be interpreted by the cat as a reward for the fearful response so the cat belives it is the right reaction to the noise. In the event of comforting a cat during a storm, for example, it may signal to the cat that the storm really is something he should be afraid of.

Basically, You need to offer the cat something even more rewarding than the feeling of safety and relief that it gets from instinctively running and hiding. This can be difficult because you are trying to overcome a hard-wired survival instinct. First, it needs to learn that the situation it is fleeing from is not actually a threat to it.

In severe cases, Consult with a veterinarian experienced in animal behavior problems. Usually treatment can include medications, changing the environment, and behavior modification.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2008, 00:29:20 AM by Tan »


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