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I've heard about the Thundershirt for cats and dogs and wanted to know how and why it works, if it actually works. And is it actually safe for my cat to wear one.

I'm interested in people's experiences with the shirt. I've seen a few (hilarious) YouTube videos of cats wearing them and just falling over repeatedly. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Is it causing those cats to experience more anxiety?

My cat gets anxious on car rides where he's locked up in a carrier for an hour at a time. Something to keep him calm would be good. Thanks!

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  • In my experience, if the humans don't freak out over thunderstorms, cats eventually figure out that the noisy thing doesn't come indoors and eat cats. They may never appreciate the show, and they may try to find a quieter spot, but a bit of controlled excitement does them no harm. All the feral cats manage, after all...
    – keshlam
    Jan 9 '15 at 3:18
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Others have already explained the theory behind why it generally works so I just wanted to add some additional info about what your expectations should be.

The Thundershirt requires at least a week or two of gradual training (if not more) to really get your cat comfortable with the idea of it. It's possible your cat will absolutely hate it at first so you should be ready with lots of patience when trying to train your cat to appreciate it. Also, some cats will just completely refuse wearing any kind of vest or harness so that is something you should be prepared for as well.

What could be easier is to train the cat not to fear car rides. This takes time as well, but could be more effective in helping your cat's anxiety. This will be easier if he's a kitten, but older cats can still be trained as well.

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Yes they have found that pressure helps calm the nervous system. Dr. Temple Grandin has written about this type of treatment for many animal species in several of her books including "Animals in translation".

I am a dog trainer and know many people who have used products like a thundershirt for their dogs and the results have been great. I don't personally know anyone who has used them for cats but the research bind why they work was done on multiple species so I would guess that cats would benefit as well.

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    I'd forgotten that this came out of Ms Grandin's work. That does make me take it more seriously. I'm just not sure cats, in particular, would find being coated less annoying tnan the storm, or that you could reliably anticipate the need and have the cat dressed in time. More plausible for other stressful situations, i think.
    – keshlam
    Jan 9 '15 at 22:48
  • I think you would want to get them accustomed to it before the storm... so to speak. Jan 9 '15 at 22:51
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My Thundershirt Experience

My cat Juliet has severe anxiety such that it gives her interstitial cystitis (it's a bladder condition that they think is caused by stress). She's pretty much afraid of everything that moves.

I bought a Thundershirt and tried it on her several times, but the process of getting her in it upset her so much that I immediately removed it each time. We eventually put her on amitryptaline for her anxiety.

Dealing with Car Anxiety

Another cat, Ginger, got really upset when we had to take her to the dermatologist (she puked in the carrier each time). We normally don't have a problem because it's normally 1 minute to the vet, but the dermatologist was over an hour away.

I didn't try the Thundershirt on Ginger (she's probably too big for the one I bought for Juliet anyway), but we put Ginger in a harness with a leash and I sat in the backseat with her in the car and she did great on her next trip to the dermatologist.

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