February 2008 Issue

Is Your Cat Afraid of Noise?

Here are the best ways to handle your cat's fear — and even a method to use it to curb bad behavior.

Whenever cat owner Gina turns on her printer, her cat Leon dashes over to sit on it, lie on it and watch in earnest as the paper comes out. But when Gina’s friend Diane turns on her printer, her cat, Petunia, flees in terror. Cats respond differently to noise depending on their personalities and experiences — and even their genetics. When cats get scared of noise, we often feel the need to protect them. Most of the time, that’s not necessary. But here’s how you can help your cat cope naturally with noise. Cats differ from dogs when it comes to being frightened by noise. Dogs are notoriously afraid of thunder and fireworks, and will often try to escape from the house in a panic. Cats are more likely to be scared of unexpected noises around the house, such as the vacuum cleaner, construction work or a hair dryer. "But thunder and fireworks don’t seem to bother cats," says Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, PhD, the James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. "I have never seen fireworks or thunder phobia in cats," she says.

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