When I reviewed the Thundershirt for Dogs a few months ago, I was very skeptical that it could live up to its claims. The garment is supposed to calm down nervous canines because of its swaddling effect.
Amazingly, the Thundershirt worked on my neighbor's dog, soothing him when he was left at home and reducing his anxiety during car rides. Because of this unexpected success, I was quite excited when Thundershirt released a version for cats.
Calming Nervous Cats
Out of my four indoor cats, two have anxiety problems. Fortunately, they're all very good about using the litter box, and three of them are great about being handled. However, Farquaad hates being crated to go in the car. He drools and gets wide-eyed and crazy as soon as he sees the cat carrier.
Tooncinator, my elderly cat, has never been easy to handle. He was born to a feral mom, and he retains a lot of her wildness. He's mellowed a bit in his old age, but he still gets nasty and tries to bite when I attempt to cut off his mats. He doesn't groom himself anymore, but he doesn't want me to do it for him, either.
These quirks made Farquaad and Tooncinator prime subjects to test the Thundershirt for Cats. The shirt comes in multiple sizes, and large was just right for my two beefy boys.
I decided to tackle Tooncinator first. I know you can buy Halloween costumes for cats, or even make your own, but I've never even attempted to dress Tooncinator up in the 16 years I've owned him. Surprisingly, he accepted the Thundershirt for Cats with only some token resistance.
The Swaddling Effect
At first, Tooncinator didn't seem to know what to make of the snug-fitting shirt. He already walks very stiffly due to arthritis, and he moved even more gingerly once he was clothed.
Fortunately, he quickly got used to the shirt, so I decided to try some mat trimming. He hates it when I do the area around his back legs and tail, which always gets soiled and nasty when he uses the litter box. The only way to fight that is to keep the hair short, but he doesn't appreciate my trimming efforts.
My cranky old boy was much more cooperative when I handled him while he was wearing the Thundershirt. He still wasn't thrilled with the idea, but I was able to get a lot more trim work done than usual before he decided he'd had enough and gave me his patented "Okay, you're done here" look.
Next up was Farquaad. I didn't expect any complications, since he's normally a very laid-back cat when it comes to human handling. Unfortunately, for some reason the idea of having a shirt put on terrified him to no end.
The Thundershirt for Cats fastens around the chest and belly, and I got the Velcro on the chest fastened just fine. Then I went for the belly band, and Quaad decided he didn't want to play along. He managed to claw my thumb pretty deeply before I realized that he wasn't going to cooperate.
I decided to resort to bribery. One of Quaad's favorite treats is milk, but it's a rare treat for him because it upsets his tummy. I poured some milk in his bowl and got him into the Thundershirt for Cats while he was busy lapping.
Freeze And Flop
Unlike Tooncinator, for whom the positive effect was instantaneous, Farquaad exhibited the classic "freeze and flop" response. This is common with many cats the first time they wear the Thundershirt, as opposed to the usual fast acceptance by dogs.
Eventually Quaad realized that he could move around in his Thundershirt. He resumed his normal activities around the house, giving me an occasional baleful stare. I let him wear it for an hour, then removed it.
If you have a "freeze and flop" cat, the trick is to get him used to the Thundershirt by putting it on for a little while every day, or at least every few days. That's what I'm doing with Farquaad, and I expect him to be ready by the time of his next vet visit. It will be a big relief not to have him panic at the mere sight of a carrier.
It's almost impossible to predict whether your cat will immediately like the Thundershirt or whether he'll need an adjustment period. Personally, I thought Farquuad would be fine with it and Tooncintor would hate it, and it worked out just the opposite.
For this reason, I recommend buying it well in advance of whatever stressful event you want to combat. The Thundershirt also works for general anxiety, so if you have a nervous cat, you might need to be patient to see the full results.
Adjust Your Expectations
The only reason I dinged the Thundershirt for Cats by half a star, as opposed to a five star rating for the Thundershirt for Dogs, is because it doesn't have an immediate effect on some felines. I know that's due to kitty nature, but I imagine some people who know how quickly the Thundershirt for Dogs works on canines might buy the feline version and be disappointed.
Hopefully, those who buy it will read the instructions carefully and purchase it before it's needed, rather than the day before a long car ride or other anxiety-inducing event. Cats are fickle creatures, and they need to accept a Thundershirt on their own schedule.
There are likely some cats for whom the Thundershirt won't work at all, despite a training period. The shirt is guaranteed to work, so if you have one of those resistant kitties, you can get a full refund.
Expect to pay around $40 for this product. It's very durable, so you won't have to worry about replacing it for a long while.