Does your feline pal shy away from loud noises? Do you often find them hiding under your bed after the doorbell rings or when you vacuum? Or maybe they pant or start to growl at you during thunderstorms or fireworks. Lots of cats are afraid of loud noises, but you can help your furry pal learn to cope with their fear, and even to ignore those scary sounds.
If you suspect your cat is afraid of loud noises, you may see signs of anxiety or fear when they hear them. A scared cat can exhibit specific body signs or many different behaviors, such as hiding, freezing in place, panting, scratching, or becoming aggressive with family members or other pets. It’s important to identify which noises are causing your cat to become anxious, so keep a keep eye on what particular sounds cause their fearful reactions.
Next, you’ll need to help your cat get used to those sounds with desensitization, a technique that exposes your cat to their fear gradually to help them feel more comfortable with it on their own terms. This process can be short or quite lengthy, depending on the cat, and relies on your persistence, patience and love throughout to reassure your cat and help build their confidence.
Often, desensitization techniques are paired with counter-conditioning, a technique that replaces your cat’s fearful association with the sound to a positive one, usually by way of delicious, high value treats. Together, these two methods can gradually replace your cat’s fear with indifference, and sometimes even curiosity.
It’s important to never use punishment while helping your cat overcome their fears. To do so runs the risk of the fear becoming worse, and could even cause your cat to fear you.
Kittens who grow up in a noisy household get lots of early exposure to loud noises, and are less likely to become fearful of them as they grow older. If you’ve been raising a batch of kittens, it helps to expose them to those loud sounds right away. Most of us, however, get our felines when they are over 8 weeks of age, or as adults, and don’t have any control over their early exposure. In these cases, following the methods listed below can be highly successful, as long as you go at your cat’s own pace.
Before you start the following techniques, however, you’ll need to create several safe places for your cat to go when they are getting too stressed. These can be in a quiet bedroom, safely above on cat trees or shelves, a cat carrier or crate, or even under furniture. Wherever your cat feels safe, be sure they have a clear path to it before you begin. If they have their own quiet room, it can help to put their food and water dishes, and litter box in there too. During the entire training process, be sure to always let your cat escape to a safe place when they feel overwhelmed.