Have you ever wished you could ease your cat's anxiety during fireworks season and the end-of-year festivities? We review three products that promise to help you do just that.
1The Thundershirt, £35 from thundershirt.co.uk
The Thundershirt applies gentle, constant pressure, which is said to relieve your cat’s anxiety. Many owners report that it has reduced or eliminated their cat’s fear-induced scratching, biting, soiling and meowing. It’s said to work for all types of anxiety – whether caused by fireworks, travelling or a visit to the vet. Made from durable material, the Thundershirt is easy to use and is fully adjustable to your cat’s size. As an added bonus, if you find the product doesn’t work for your cat, Thundershirt offers a full money-back guarantee.
Reviewed by: Sian Byrne and her four-year-old domestic shorthair cat, Sassy
Sian says: ‘The Thundershirt is well made, and I really liked its design, material and colour. It comes with lots of Velcro straps and clear instructions, which made it super easy to fit it onto Sassy, and it looked snug and cosy.
‘Unfortunately, Sassy didn’t like me putting it on her, and protested a little at first. I made sure not to force her into it and instead waited for times when she seemed happier to put it on, as otherwise I was sure it would just increase any anxiety she had. But even after just a short while of using it, I found that she seemed to “freeze” as soon as she was wrapped up, and would lie down until it was taken off.
‘Sassy usually dreads the tumble dryer’s loud humming noise, but with the Thundershirt on I noticed that she kept still instead of dashing away as she normally would. This product would probably work well for cats that are very frightened of fireworks, as it seems to calm them and keep them in one place. I’d recommend that owners try it on their cats for a few weeks before Bonfire Night. It might be worth initially using it for only a few minutes at a time, and then building up to longer periods, to help your cat become accustomed to the pressure.’
2The Sounds Scary sound therapy programme for pets, free from dogstrust.org.uk
Developed by two vets who specialise in pet behaviour, this sound therapy programme works by playing loud noises (such as fireworks) at a low volume, and then slowly increasing the sound. Many owners have found it effective in helping their pet become accustomed to, and eventually completely comfortable with, loud noises. For best results, the experts recommend you read the easy-to-follow instructions thoroughly, and keep up with daily sessions of sound therapy in the weeks before Bonfire Night. (Please note, while the programme was initially designed for dogs, animal behaviour experts advise that the same principles of sound therapy apply to cats.)
Reviewed by: Marlene Stewart and her eight-year-old cat, Hennessy
Marlene says: ‘Hennessy is terrified by loud noises like the hoover, and she hides at the first sign of fireworks. When we started the programme, she seemed a little confused by the sounds and I could see her ears twitching in response. But she was calm throughout and wasn’t upset in the slightest.
‘As we progressed through the tracks, Hennessy became more and more used to the different noises, and stopped reacting to them in any way. We’re in the process of completing a full month of the therapy and, while she’s still frightened of the hoover, I’ve noticed that she’s generally calmer around loud noises. This treatment takes a little time and effort, but it’s worth starting it with your cat in the run-up to Bonfire Night. It’s a great way to help reassure your pets that they have nothing to fear from these kinds of sounds.’
3Feliway Classic pheromone diffuser
(recommended retail price: £25 to £30)
Feliway diffusers release a synthetic copy of a naturally occurring pheromone to help calm and comfort your pet. (Pheromones are chemical messages produced by an animal, which can affect their behaviour.) The pheromone in Feliway Classic is a copy of the feline facial pheromone that cats use to mark their territory. When your cat rubs her face on objects in your home, she releases this pheromone to make her environment feel familiar. The Feliway diffuser mimics this natural instinct, and helps to reassure your cat that her space is safe.
Reviewed by: Gill Tait and her 15-year-old rescue cat, Ed
Gill says: ‘Ed was originally a stray that we adopted from a rescue centre seven years ago. While he now loves his home comforts (including sleeping on the sofa!), he’s never really lost his feistiness and is also naturally a little skittish.
‘I decided to try out the Feliway Classic diffuser just as we moved into a new house, because Ed had found our previous moves quite stressful. The instructions were really easy to follow and recommended that the diffuser be plugged in, and left, in a room of the house. I chose the kitchen, and noticed a marked difference in Ed when he was in this area – he was happy to lie down calmly, and wasn’t at all bothered by the loud noises that go along with moving in.
‘I’d definitely recommend Feliway Classic for events that upset your cat’s familiar environment, such as moving house, fireworks or the turmoil that comes with the festive season. It’s extremely easy to use and had a noticeable calming effect. As an added bonus, it was also completely unobtrusive and didn’t leave a smell or make any kind of noise.’