When your cat is stressed, it’s easy to become stressed yourself. Regardless of the cause of anxiety in your cat, there are different treatments your veterinarian may suggest. One, the Thundershirt, can be very effective at helping alleviate your cat’s stress and anxiety.
How We Choose
If we recommend a product it’s because we have done the research on it and we believe it has the ability to help you and your cat. In our research, some products have been tested directly by us, while others have been researched using other methods, including reviewing comments from users online to ensure we have provided good coverage of what is working well for cats. As a team of qualified veterinarians, animal welfare experts, and cat parents, you can be assured we only choose the best products.
- Great for calming cats during vet visits, groomers, travel, or with general anxiety problems
- Easy to create a snug, comfortable fit which is essential for its effectiveness in treating anxiety
- Attractive, durable fabric that resists collecting hair. Machine washable for when necessary and it lasts at least the life of the initial user
What Is a ThunderShirt for Cats?
Thundershirts are cat anxiety vests you can put on your cat. They provide a calming effect when your cat stresses out from a storm, a car ride, fireworks, and more.
How Does the ThunderShirt Work?
Thundershirts and similar products are snug-fitting shirts or vests that gently wrap around your cat with mild pressure. It’s very similar to swaddling a baby.
The general idea behind these anti-anxiety vests is that the pressure helps calm your pet’s nervous system, thus reducing anxiety. Wearing the wrap releases a calming hormone.
Do ThunderShirts Really Work for Cats?
While there has been less research into Thundershirt usage in cats, veterinarians feel they work and have tremendous value (see the video at the end of this article). There have been numerous studies on dogs, and you can extrapolate this information as a basis for understanding in cats.
In one study, heart rates were evaluated as a marker for anxiety (higher heart rate linked to higher stress. Pets wearing the Thundershirt had lower heart rates.
Dogs wearing a Thundershirt had lower anxiety scores when wearing the anxiety vest in another study. If your cat tolerates wearing the Thundershirt, they are likely to have reduced stress levels.
Are ThunderShirts Safe for Cats?
How Long Can a Cat Wear a ThunderShirt?
Cats can wear Thundershirts for hours at a time, as long as they seem comfortable and aren’t trying to get out of the shirt. They’re designed with your cat’s comfort in mind so that they can wear the Thundershirt for extended periods, although generally, it is recommended that they only wear the Thundershirt for up to 2 hours.
It’s essential to monitor your cat while wearing the Thundershirt to ensure they are comfortable and not experiencing restricted movement. If you notice any signs of discomfort or your cat is trying to remove the Thundershirt, it may be time to remove it.
How Tight Should a ThunderShirt Be on a Cat?
Manufacturers of the Thundershirt and other cat anxiety vests design the vests to be snug when appropriately worn to give your cat the gentle feeling of being swaddled. You’ll want the shirt tight enough to exert that pressure but not too close.
Generally speaking, you need to fit 1 to 2 fingers under the shirt. If your cat seems agitated wearing a Thundershirt, check to see if an area is too tight.
How Long Does it Take for a Thundershirt to Work?
According to the company that makes Thundershirts, you could see positive changes in your cat from the very first use. Other pets need to wear or get used to the calming wrap 2 or 3 times to exhibit behavioral changes.
Make sure you give your cat time to get acclimated to wearing the Thundershirt before you call it a failed trial. Make sure you start with short stints of wearing the cat wrap and reward your cat with its favorite treat or toy to help them get used to wearing the Thundershirt, especially if they don’t usually wear clothes.
Pros and Cons of Using the Thundershirt for Cats
- Can have a positive impact on your cat’s well-being by reducing stress and anxiety
- Is considered a non-invasive way to treat stress and anxiety in cats
- Is drug-free, which can make it very helpful in cats that have pre-existing health conditions
- Easy to use
- Can be worn for an extended period, if needed
- May not work for your cat or, in certain situations
- May take time for your cat to get used to wearing the calming vest
- Can be painful if not put on appropriately
- Needs to be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for addressing your cat’s anxiety
How to Use A Thundershirt on Your Cat: Tips and Best Practices
Some definite best practices exist for using the Thundershirt or a similar product on your cat.
First, you need to introduce the Thundershirt gradually. Ideally, the first time or two your cat sees and wears the shirt should be periods of low stress.
Start by letting your cat see the calming shirt, allowing them to sniff it and investigate.
Then, it is time to put the shirt on your kitty. Use it for short periods under careful supervision.
Praise your cat often while they wear the shirt. You can also offer treats or playtime as a way to associate the Thundershirt with good, comfortable feelings.
Consider using the Thundershirt or a similar cat wrap with a pheromone product like Feliway. (Other pheromone products include Comfort Zone.)
Be sure to work with your veterinarian to devise other ways to reduce your cat’s stress or anxiety. A comprehensive behavior plan may include medicating your cat, adding environmental enrichment, using pheromones, and more.
You should monitor your cat while they wear the Thundershirt, especially when they are first getting used to the calming vest.
You should also put the Thundershirt on as soon as you determine your cat is stressed or if you know a potential trigger is coming, such as a storm. The Thundershirt will be more effective if used before your cat is anxious.
The Thundershirt is just one tool in your toolbox to manage your cat’s anxiety. If your cat is regularly stressed, you should work with a veterinarian and/or an animal behaviorist to help get to the root of the problem.
Alternatives to The Thundershirt for Cats
The Thundershirt is not the only game in town. Other companies make calming clothes for cats, or you could use a calming shirt designed for dogs. Just make sure that you pick an appropriate size. Examples include:
- Zen Pet’s ZenDog+
- American Kennel Club Anxiety Jacket
- Cattamao Comfort Anxiety Relief Coat
- The kindest way to ease your dog's fears
- Easy to put on and take off
- Machine washable
- REDUCE ANXIETY AND KEEP CALM: This dog anxiety vests will be effectively helpful to reduce your dog's anxiety during thunderstorm, loud noises, travel, fireworks, flames, strangers, separation, vet visits and many other anxieties situations.Dog anxiety vest has already recommended by thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers.
- WORKS WITHOUT MEDICATION:Each cattamao shirt made of durable, breathable, comfortable and lightweight fabric, it soft like mother's hug, will keep dog calm.When the dog is restless, the massage part on the back of this anxiety coat are like our hands massage on them, it makes dogs relaxed and happy. No need for training or medication ,dog anxiety jacket is a safe and effective way to help your dog stay stress-free.
- EASY TO WEAR & CLEAN:Without any complicated straps, this anxiety vest can be applied in minutes.Each anxiety body wrap has adjustable design on the neck and back will fit your dog better.This anxiety jacket can be worn in any situation, it can be clean by machine or hand, easy to carry.
Some cats do very well with just snug-fitting clothes to give them the feeling of being swaddled or cuddled closely. Another possibility is a bodysuit designed for cats to wear post-op to keep them from licking, chewing, or rubbing along their incision.
You can take other steps to reduce your cat’s stress levels.
- Environmental enrichment – Provide plenty of mental stimulation. You can use toys with your cat and get a puzzle toy to dispense their food. Perches and “obstacle courses” can also help.
- Behavior modification – Work with your vet or a behaviorist to identify underlying causes for your cat’s behavior. If you can identify a trigger, you might be able to prevent your cat from being exposed to it in the first place.
- Natural remedies – Your cat may benefit from herbal supplements or pheromone products. Discuss options with your veterinarian to ensure the product is safe and effective (and won’t interfere with any medications your cat is already on). Consider Purina’s Calming Care probiotic as one option.
- Prescription medications – Your veterinarian may recommend prescription products for your cat. Common medications include fluoxetine and gabapentin if your cat suffers from anxiety.
- Sound therapy – You can try playing calming music or sounds for your cat. Even something as simple as playing a repeating video of birds on your TV when you’re not home may help your cat.
Every cat is unique, so what works for one fur friend may not work for another. Work closely with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist to determine what works best for your kitty.
Thundershirts can be a beneficial tool to assist you in managing your cat’s stress levels or anxiety. The gentle pressure it applies can reassure your cat, especially in conjunction with other methods.