Cats, dogs and thunderstorm phobia

So far this summer (as I write this a week before publication), we haven’t had any spectacular displays of thunder and lightning; however, in past years on many occasions, a storm cell was directly over my house, and the elapsed time between a bright flash of light and a sound so loud that dishes rattled in the cupboard was mere seconds. To many cats and dogs, thunder and lightning cause thunderstorm phobia, which gives rise to anxiety or fear — from mild to severe. Dogs, especially, may hide, tremble, whine, drool and pace. In severe cases, some dogs may chew furniture, tear drapes and break windows. Mild phobia or severe, what you have is a terrified, unhappy dog.

I’ve shared my life mostly with cats; some paid no attention to storms, whereas others immediately fled to hide in a closet or under a bed. Getting to them (even if I could), to provide comfort, was always impossible.

One of these feline friends, a small adult cat who weighed around six pounds, always hunkered down under my desk when a storm rolled in. Though he was a kitty who loved to be held, petted and talked to, he resisted mightily to being picked up and comforted. It was as if he had suddenly turned into a heavy hunk of iron and the floor was a magnet.

Then there was Lucy, my late canine buddy, who always frantically paced, shook and whimpered during storms. I often sat with her, petting and talking softly all the while, and this sometimes helped but mostly not. I’ve since learned that this is counterproductive because it may confirm a dog’s phobic reactions to storms.

The cause of storm phobias, a very common behavioral problem that dog owners face, is not clear. Animal behaviorists don’t know exactly what or how many parts of the storm frighten dogs. The sound of thunder is most certainly a factor; many dogs react the same way to the sounds of repeated fireworks and gunshots. Other triggers may be the sounds of hard-blowing wind and rain on the roof, lightning flashes and physiological reactions to a sudden drop in air pressure or the electrically charged air.

So what can we do to help our furry kids conquer this phobia? That will be the topic of next week’s article, so be sure to “tune in.” I must admit that I cut this topic short because we want to get the word out about how you can support CAPS if you shop at Amazon. The following is what Amazon says about their new program.

“AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on The difference is that when customers shop on AmazonSmile (, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organizations selected by customers.”

I buy local as much as I can but still depend on Amazon for a lot of things, to avoid the time and cost (gas!) of going to Reno or Carson City. I don’t know, however, what qualifies as an “eligible” purchase but will find out when placing my next order in a couple of weeks.

Easy links to the Smile site are at our website at the bottom of the homepage ( and on our Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society). Please join us and sign up to help bring in more revenue, for which we constantly fundraise.

Another fundraiser in the works is a garage sale to be held on Sept. 19–20. But to hold such a sale, we need your help, so we’re sending a large plea for donations of gently used household, garage, yard and whatever-else items (no clothing, please). Like last year, Spring Valley Rentals has donated a storage unit at Taylor Place Storage to hold goods.

Also like last year, CAPS volunteers will be at the unit on Saturdays waiting for your donated items. Next week’s article will list the dates we’ll be there. As a final note, please come see us at Walmart on July 19.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment