Ask me how much I hate thunder…

By Dr. Parker T. Barker and Prof. Percy Pussycat

I admit it. As I get older I get more and more afraid of thunderstorms and I really, really hate fireworks. For some reason, gun shots don’t bother me. Prof. Percy tells me I am just a “little doggie” (there is a cat equivalent I won’t repeat here) but the fact remains. I hate thunder.

The original Thundershirt™ can be purchased at many fine stores like PetSmart and Petco. Photo courtesy of Kate Ter Haar.
The original Thundershirt™ can be purchased at many fine stores like PetSmart and Petco. Photo courtesy of Kate Ter Haar.

I have heard about dogs that jump through screen doors or hide under the bed during a storm. Normally cats aren’t afraid of storms but Percy has a friend who actually managed to climb in the dryer. Not a good idea on so many levels. But there are some things that can make it better for you if you are one of the “fraidy cats”. Sorry Percy ol’ man. Just couldn’t resist.

Here are some ideas your Mom or Dad could try:

1. Stay Calm and Carry On! One of Percy’s English phrases but it hits the mark here. If I am getting antsy, then my family needs to stay very calm. They need to use a very matter-of-fact attitude and pretend that nothing is wrong. Which honestly, there probably isn’t anything wrong but in the moment, you can’t convince me of that.

2. Much as I want to curl up right on top of Mom, or under Mom, she shouldn’t comfort or coddle me. She should just go on like nothing is happening. Just another ho-hum afternoon. Then hopefully I can pick up her “calm” and convince myself I am safe as a bug-in-a-rug. The behaviorists say don’t talk to me or look me in the eyes, because I can tell when you are fibbing and the whole house is about to vanish in a tornado. I get that “disaster” vibe right from you.

3. Sometimes, owners keep their pets outside all the time. I won’t tell you what I really think about that, but if you do, please make sure your pet – dog or cat- can get inside someplace safe during a storm. Under the front porch does not count. Get a heart man. Your poor pet is terrified and you are inside, nice and dry, drinking a brewski while watching golf on TV.

4. Wacky as it sounds, you can buy a CD of thunderstorm sounds and if you play it a lot around me, I’ll start to be immune to the sounds when they come from the outside rather than through the speakers in the den. I like Abba better but, give it a try.

5. I am not a big proponent of medication. Usually it means I have to be shot with it or it has to be shoved down my throat. Yuck to both. However, some people recommend using Melatonin, an over-the-counter hormone that has been shown to calm some pups. They remain alert, not sleepy, but thunder just doesn’t bother them anymore. You need to talk to your vet about this before you try it as they need to tell you about different manufacturers (they all aren’t the same) and dosage. There are also other types of calming holistic remedies that are available as well.

6. And lastly, there is the “Thundershirt”. Personally, at first I thought it was just another outfit that Mom wanted me to wear, but it really does work. At least for me. It doesn’t help every pet, but it might be worth trying. And it comes with a money back guarantee so you can try it at pretty low risk. When mine came, I read the box thoroughly and it says the shirt can also help with my separation anxiety. Since I am usually velcro’d to Mom, this isn’t much of an issue for me anymore but it certainly can be for others. Or it can be used to help dogs that area afraid of riding in cars. Perfectly ridiculous but I hear some pups hate going for a ride. Percy and I love it because it usually means one of two things: playtime someplace or McDonalds…

So that’s it folks. It sure storms a lot more down here than it did in Connecticut. But I’ll get used to it. I hope. And I hope you do too.

Dr. Parker T. Barker received his doctorate in Squirrel Chasing and Hoovering from the University of Hartford, CT Rescue Center. He lives on Lady’s Island with his sister, Peanut and their great Mom. Prof. Percy Pussycat is a trained animal behaviourist and received his degree from the Canine and Cat Institute in London. He lives in Shell Point with his brother, Harley and devoted human family.

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