Many animals seem to be aware of an upcoming storm or rain before it actually occurs. Among those animals is the cat.
According to Communicating With Your Cat, by J. Anne Helgreen, for Japanese fishermen and sailors, watching cats has been a weather-predicting method for hundreds of years. Cats were even included in many out-to-sea adventures because of their ability to predict stormy weather.
Among the theories explaining this feline phenomenon:
- A cat can sense changes in barometric pressure.
- A cat picks up on changes in the bioelectric field or shifts in the ionization.
- A cat can smell rain from a faraway distance.
Whether the reason lies within one of these theories or perhaps some other explanation, cats (as well as dogs) have become known as forecasters of the animal kingdom. But sometimes cats are frightened by the change in weather.
Why Is My Cat Scared of Rain?
My son’s cat openly shows her fear of rain, which seems to have grown from her fear of thunder. A certain look of concern comes across her face, just before it rains. Once the wet stuff starts, she eases across the floor (practically tiptoeing, so as not to get on the wrong side of the rain gods) until she reaches her hiding spot, behind the bathroom toilet.
It is quite possible that fear of rain in cats begins with a fear of thunder. Once a cat associates the noise with the rain, she becomes fearful of both.
Generally, cats tend to hide from the thunder and rain — under beds, in cabinets or behind toilets — until the storm passes. According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, DVM, this is a self-preservation response, which does not usually become a full-blown phobia. (Cats with phobias will resort to hissing and spitting, with their hair raised on their back.)
What Should I Do?
A big influence on the intensity of a cat’s fear or anxiety is the attitude of her owner. If her owner is nervous and scared during a storm, the kitty will often sense those emotions and become more frightened herself. (The same goes for dogs that are scared of storms.) Although you may be tempted to comfort or pet your cat during this scary time for her, that sort of action will only suggest to her that there is something to be afraid of.
While the best treatment for this sort of fear is avoidance (let her have her hiding spot), you may also find that playing a television or radio to muffle the sounds of the rain outside is helpful in calming your cat. Another treatment is counter-conditioning: Get your kitty’s mind away from the scary weather conditions by getting her focused on things she likes to do, like playing with a toy — maybe she will soon associate rain with fun times inside. Also, just as with humans, the way to a cat’s heart is through her stomach, so offer her some “comfort” treats.
There are several medications available to reduce anxiety — Clomicalm, Prozac, Buspar and Inderal, to name a few. Your veterinarian can help you decide if your cat will benefit from one of these prescribed medicines. Some pet owners swear by herbal remedies for cat anxiety.