Tootsie my Maine coon is afraid of thunder

There was a huge thunder storm here the other evening. Poor Tootsie. It really freaked her out in way that I've not see before. She bolted to some hidey hole, but then I tried to comfort her. I called her, and she emerged, but she came to me in a manner of "walking" that was something I'd only seen a cat do once before.

Yes, she came to me. But, the way she moved- every part of her was as close to the floor as possible. Her front part was so hunkered down that her shoulder blades were above her spine. Almost the same for her hind parts. Her belly and her tail were wiping the dust off the floor.

Of course, I couldn't get a picture. I tried to find a picture online that showed this stance, without success. I tried every sort of google search term. She wasn't stalking. She wasn't creeping. She wasn't sneaking. She was doing something else more intense. Here are two images I found, which are the closest I could get to describing her stance. But, really, they aren't even close. They are, oddly enough, from the Royal Copenhagen site, which has some lovely porcelain figurines of cats. I'm reconnecting with my Danish heritage in an unexpected way.



And, in addition to looking for pictures, I also did teh google, to find out about cats and thunder. All of the links I found gave pretty much the same information, so I'm not going to link to any, because I can't tell who or which is the primary source. But what I learned was that my instinctive cat mom response was exactly wrong. I tried to comfort Tootsie. Bad idea, it seems- a sample of comments from teh google-

~~Also during storms, resist the urge to cuddle or comfort the cat because this just reinforces the fear. Instead, keep your mood light and casual. Letting the cat know there's nothing to worry about helps tremendously.~~

~~Similarly, if the owner attempts to comfort the animal, the animal interprets it as confirming there really is something to be afraid of. The petting or comforting is really positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior.~~

My google adventures gave me a lot of information that I'll wrap up in a later post. But, for now, I found this comparison interesting. How loud IS thunder? Look and see:



And, don't be misled. 120 db is way louder than +20% of 100 db. The decibel scale works logarithmically. When a sound increases by 10 decibels, it is 10 times louder.

Comments

  1. Poor Tootsie. There's really no understanding what will frighten them. I had a kitteh named Pita who sailed through thunderstorms but was terrified of the sound of fireworks.

    I don't know if the technique would transfer from humans to kittehs, but it might be worth a try... When I was little I was scared of thunder and my mother turned it into sort of a game. When there was a thunderstorm she'd pick me up and stand by the window. When the thunder boomed she'd say "Boom!" in a happy, excited voice, with a big smile. (I have vague memories of this too.) I don't know how many storms it took, but to this day I love thunderstorms.

    Maybe for Tootsie you could do the "Boom!" thing in the tone of voice she's used to hearing during play or cuddle times, and perhaps toss her a kitteh treat. As I said, I don't know if it would work, but it couldn't hurt. (Oh, the technique worked for my cousin's baby too.)

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  2. My cats are frightened of thunder too. I think this is very common. Thunder frightens humans too! (not me though!). Thunder is relatively rare (so cats can't get accustomed to it) and as you say, very loud. This tells us how sensitive to noise cats are. They have fantastic hearing.

    Michael

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  3. Don't think me cats have experienced thunder yet. When my dog hears thunder / fireworks he goes crazy, want to be picked up and cuddled, he's a big dog as well. Its hard work cuddling him.

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  4. Hi Matt-

    When I was reading up about pets and thunder, I learned some interesting factoids.

    Apparently a lot of dogs run off on 4th of July here (big fireworks day) and end up in animal shelters. They're called "4th of July dogs"

    What would the equivalent be in the UK? "Guy Fawkes Night dogs?"

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  5. We have the word! It's "slinking" and our cat does it too!

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  6. Anonymous! Thank you! That is a exactly right!

    We've had a bunch of thunder storms here this month, and that made me remember that I need to do my part two for the thunder post- got a whole lot more about cat hearing that has been on the back burner for quite a while!

    Thanks!

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