Helping Your Cat Deal with Household Noises

(guest article by Jocelyn Anne)

Within a home are countless noises that are all unknown and unfamiliar to a cat and can often become major sources of stress and anxiety in their life.  Whether it's the hair dryer, the vacuum, the air conditioner, the blender or the mixer, the culprit doesn't matter.  What matters is how quickly you can determine what's causing the anxiety and what you can do to relieve it as soon as possible.  If left as is, prolonged stress over long periods of time (think daily use of your blow-dryer or constant use of your AC), your cat can suffer extreme anxiety that is both unnecessary and heart-breaking.

The first step to prevent more anxiety is to learn and become aware of the signs of cat-anxiety.  If it's something like lightning or thunder, you will likely have already made the connection instantly.  It is often the common noises that you don't even think of that can have the most harm.  Some of the most typical signs of cat anxiety include: pacing, trembling, shyness, loss of interest in you or affection towards you, meowing, excessive/paranoid grooming, disinterest in food and even vomiting.  If your cat is severely disturbed, he may run and hide in dark secluded places like under you couches or beds. 

If you feel that your cat is suffering from anxiety, check to see what kinds of noises might be triggering it.  Does your heater blow loudly?  Do certain kitchen noises trigger the anxiety?  While we often find noises such as fans and air conditioning systems to be a gentle, white noise in the background, you should always ensure that your cats are not being disturbed, especially if you're bringing a new system into the house for the first time.

After finding the culprit, your options are varied.  If it's something you can live without (maybe no more morning smoothies from the blender), then your easiest bet is simply to do away with the source of stress.  If it's something more permanent like the dishwasher or clothes dryer, then you will need to work with your cats to help them adjust properly.

The most important step is to adjust your behavior and feelings first.  Your cat is constantly picking up on how you feel: tired, stressed, calm, angry, happy, etc.  When beginning to work with your cat on dealing with a particular noise, you must be in a calm mood.  If you are upset or anxious yourself, you will make the situation that much worse and have an even harder time getting your cat to accept the noise in the future. 

The second step is to begin to acclimate your pet to the noise in small, consistent doses.  Do something comforting with your cat, whether that's playing or curling up on the couch (only you know what your cat likes best) and turn the noise on for just a few moments.  Maintain a calm, peaceful attitude throughout the whole time, showing your cat that there is nothing to be afraid of.  You calm = It's okay for him to be calm.  Repeat this often until you find your cat relaxing. 

It shouldn't take long for your cat to be a happy cat once again.  It's usually simply a matter of conveying safety in the midst of their distress and allowing them the time to get comfortable with a certain noise with you by their side.  If the anxiety does not improve or worsens with time, you should consult your vet for the next course of action.

Freelance writer Jocelyn Anne is currently researching the effects of portable air conditioners on pets and the best ways to use them without needlessly stressing the furry household members.

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