Q: My neighbor had a gray vest-like cover around the chest and body of her dog last week. I asked about his new wardrobe and she called it a “Thundershirt.” She said it was supposed to help with his anxiety and fear of storms. Do they have one for cats also? My cat all but flips out if I try to take her anywhere with me especially to the vet. I would like to take her on short trips with me but I worry about her excessive stress level, panting, yowling, etc.
A: Yes, they do make the “Thundershirt” for cats. You might talk with your veterinarian and see if he/she can order one for you if they do not already carry them. They come in a small, medium and large and you can take measurements around her body just behind her front legs to get her size. The results have been very good with 80-90 percent of pets responding positively to wearing the wrap and showing greatly reduced stress levels. You also can go online at www.Thundershirtforcats.com and get additional information about the use and sizing for your cat.
Our cats in this country outnumber dogs two to one as pets, but less than half of them make the annual wellness visit to their veterinarian. Stress for both the cat and the owner top the list of reasons for not regularly visiting.
The premise behind the Thundershirt is that it provides a constant pressure around the torso of the cat, which has a tremendous calming effect. This phenomenon has been used for many years in similar forms such as the papoose wrap for Native American babies, the swaddling wrap we use for newborns and a form of therapy called the Tellington Touch.
One other item that could compliment the Thundershirt is the cat pheromone Feliway. This pheromone comes in a spray or wipe that could be applied inside the carrier before placing the cat inside it.
It certainly will complement the effects of the shirt. A brief training session before the real trip will be helpful. Set your carrier out in a bedroom or other room where kitty hangs out. Spray or wipe the pheromone inside it daily. Place treats or catnip inside the carrier and either take the door off, or tie it open so kitty can come and go at will.
Also, place the Thundershirt on kitty for short periods each day to help her become at ease wearing it. You might even begin to take her on short rides around the block initially, and gradually increase the distance traveled and the length of time she wears the shirt and spends in the carrier.
It is so very important that she sees her veterinarian every year so if health issues are quietly starting, you get a treatment, a diet or environmental changes started early. A little time and dedication can remove the No. 1 reason for not taking kitty to the vet — stress.
DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to email@example.com.