Hello, Cat Enthusiasts!
It’s an understandable reaction for a cat to be terrified of thunderstorms or a vacuum cleaner. But what to do if your cat jumps out of its skin every time your phone receives a message or disappears whenever you turn on the TV?
Cats have a very sensitive nervous system. They can easily get startled by loud, unexpected or unusual sounds. Usually, this reaction is natural and an animal quickly recovers from stress.
However, some cats develop extreme reaction to sounds, or noise sensitivity, which leads to fear, avoidance and anxiety. Often, sensitivity has more to do with how the cat perceives sounds, rather than how it hears them.
If overlooked, this condition can progress to severe levels or to generalized anxiety as sometimes cats get spooked by a sudden sound and then their fear expands to other things.
For cats with noise sensitivity, it’s difficult to tolerate normal ambient sounds, such as noise from running electrical devices or traffic and car alarms outside. They live with anxiety as they are constantly anticipating the next fearful sound.
Unsurprisingly, stress associated with noise sensitivity can have negative impacts on overall quality of life, health and behaviour.
But fortunately, there are ways to help a cat overcome noise sensitivity and train its mind to ignore everyday sounds. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Improve Your Cat’s Environment
One way to help a cat with noise sensitivity is to create a safe, predictable and stimulating environment. This will reduce underlying anxiety and provide it with coping tools.
When a cat gets startled, the feeling of exposure or entrapment can increase fear and anxiety. Therefore, a nervous cat can benefit from having additional private space where nobody will disturb it.
Ideally, set up a small, quiet and cozy “sanctuary room” just for your cat. Put in this room all key resources, such as food, water, a litter box, places to sleep and hide, a scratching post and a high up place. Make sure your cat has constant access to its sanctuary room.
If space is an issue, provide as many places to hide (including elevated places) as you can in different corners of the house so that your cat can always easily reach a secure spot to relax and collect its nerve.
Having multiple safe places gives cats sense of security, more control and confidence. In addition, it allows them improve their natural coping skills and calm down more quickly.
From a cat’s point of view, predictability means certainty and safety. Establishing reliable routines can dramatically increase your cat’s confidence and reduce underlying stress. For example, routine play followed by mealtime and bedtime routine allow a cat to get attention, physical exercise, better sleep which helps to improve mood and avoid frustration.
Environmental enrichment also helps to reduce sensitivity. Providing different distractions, such as interactive toys or opportunities to explore helps to shift a cat’s focus from expecting fear-eliciting sounds to more interesting activities. This is especially important if your cat spends much time alone as noise sensitivity is often related to separation anxiety.
Try Sound Therapy
Another way to fight noise sensitivity is adding some auditory enrichment.
Suitable music can work wonders for your cat. This can be instrumental music, Tibetan singing bowls or nature sounds played in low volume.
There is an even better option, though – species-specific music. Research shows that music designed for cats positively influence their mood and behaviour.
Sound therapy helps them relax and heals their nervous system. In addition, soothing background sounds drown potentially frightening environmental sounds and allow cats easily desensitize to them.
Music is particularly beneficial for lonely cats as it removes the tension of empty spaces and keep them grounded.