Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thundershirt: Anxiety Treatment for Pets Giveaway and Review~ 11/28

Pets, much like small children, experience anxiety as a result of several, often inconspicuous triggers. While many of the minor attacks are virtually unnoticeable to the owner, severe cases can present themselves in the form of excessive grooming, trembling, and even aggression. One common trigger for canines is the sound of celebratory poppers and fireworks, during holidays. More universal is the fear of a vet visit, pet carrier transit, or simple car ride; which typically becomes traumatic for both pet and owner. While most cases of anxiety are a result of exaggerated fears, and necessary nerves, we cannot verbally rationalize with our pets, as we might with our children. This leaves many pet owners frustrated and anxious themselves. Nobody wants to watch a member of their family terrified, hostile, and confused.
We have 3 pets in our family, 2 cats and a dog, all around the same size, yet all vastly different in personality. Truffles, the 'first born' of our clan spent the majority of the first half of her life by my side at all times. Not only did she become attached, to the point of exhibiting nerves when doors are closed, or she is left alone for a period of time- but she does not respond well to new people. Frankie, adopted as an adult cat with little personal background has an immune disease which causes excessive 'self soothing' grooming, difficulty digesting, and constant sneezing. He is great with strangers, and loves attention, but grooms to the point of licking furniture and his humans. And Nora, the youngest, our 4lb Morkie, has exhibited her own signs of separation anxiety. As I am home during the majority of the day, all week, she is having trouble coping with crate time when we leave.
Recently I began seeing displays for a product called Thundershirt (more of a vest), which claims to help soothe common anxiety triggers through a non evasive training approach. With 2 varieties, canine and feline, both products are virtually identical save a more narrow chest band for cats, and longer length for dogs. Thundershirts are made from a very durable, yet slightly stretchy, gray fabric that 'wrap' your pet to produce a gentle sensation of pressure (much like a steady hug). The gentle, yet constant, pressure is thought to naturally calm pets in stressful situations. While some are skeptical of this theory, and cats seem to respond more sporadically than easily adapting dogs, I had reason to believe the product would work in our home. I have long applied the notion of pressure therapy to Truffles during grooming and introductory (new people) situations. When she was a kitten I would swaddle her, just like an infant, post baths, which were particularly distressing for her. Almost from that very first, tight, but safe, wrap, Truffles was instantly eased- to the point of falling asleep! Some of you may have seen my nail care photos, with her swaddled, and asleep- it is the most peaceful time for her.
Through the past few years I have also found this technique to work when introducing Frankie, then Nora, and new guests in our home. During particularly distressful events this would result in a 'freeze' reaction, where Truffles would become submissive, with an occasional audible grumble. We could tell she was unhappy with the terms, but she would never express aggression over it. Of course I can't have my cat swaddled in towels and blankets every time I need to groom her nails, or have guests over- so the Thundershirt seemed like the perfect solution. And, while many may think of the Thundershirt as a correctional aid, it is actually a therapeutic tool intended to be worn for short periods of time. When your pet is experiencing, or likely to experience, anxiety simply place the Thundershirt on them for 30-40 minutes. While some may be frustrated at a seeming lack of effect immediately, this is therapy, and will work best (even for those who respond quickly) over several treatments. The intent is for your pet to experience security, and the calming embrace, while in stressful situations. Then, hopefully, with or without the Thundershirt, recall those soothing associations when they experience those situations in the future.
We received a Small Cat Thundershirt for experimenting in our home. The Thundershirt wraps around your pet beneath the front arms, and across the chest beneath the neck. There is a well designed flap to cover any excess Velcro, and smooth the appearance of the vest (Thundershirt). For reference Frankie is approximately 9.5lbs, Truffles is 7lbs, and Nora is 4.5lbs. This Thundershirt fit Nora perfectly, despite being the Cat version, as it was just the right length, and fit without any creasing. On Frankie this size was a little snug, only due to the fact he has so many folds of fur. It also seemed a little short, making him a better candidate for the Medium, though it did fasten on both ends. Truffles was a trickier case, as she is quite the smarty cat and will 'scrunch' her body to make herself wider and stouter all around. This is a defense tactic meant to limit my grip, and the number of places I can effectively manage her when she feels threatened. She commonly does this when she has done something she knows is wrong, and I can often hear the growling before I've even discovered what she's done!
Truffles is a classic 'Freeze and Flop' kitty. The Thundershirt effectively immobilizes her, not because she cannot freely move, but because she has been conditioned that the pressure means it's time to be submissive for mom. With the Thundershirt on I can literally position my cat however I want without any resistance, or attempt to flee. In honesty, there was some growling as I first put the Thundershirt on, again because this size is just a little smaller than we likely should have gone with (for the cats), and she was growing anxious of the activity. However, once both snaps were secured, and I was done handling her, she even began to break out into a light purr and drift off (much like post bath time). For maintenance grooming and medical purposes, I would consider the Thundershirt a real aid for pet and parent. The first time I received a few annoyed glances when handling post Thundershirt application- though the following uses have been very mellow, and easier on than the first.
Now Frankie, who we consider a very mellow cat to begin with, seemed more confused than annoyed, at first application. There were a few times where it seemed like he was testing whether he could get up and move- but would instead lay backwards and stretch with a purr. He seemed to really enjoy the Thundershirt most. His first application resulted in 30 minutes of solid purring (without human interaction), and no visible grooming; which is a real triumph for us.  He also, unlike Truffles, was mobile in the Thundershirt, eventually getting up to resume his daily activities around the house. We have been utilizing the Thundershirt as a daily therapy, and noticed a marked cut in the amount of self soothing/grooming; though we are still having issues with his sneezing.food sensitivity (I fear we will be battling that his entire life). 
As the Thundershirt fits Nora perfectly, I've had some time to experiment with her as well. Since the concept for Thundershirt anxiety treatment for pets is not based on a formula, it is possible to cross treat your own pets, so long as the fit is snug and secure. However, it is likely best to have one for each of your pets, specially sized and designed to their anatomical needs. You see, I didn't originally intend on using the Thundershirt with Nora, until we had our first (and likely only) Thunderstorm of the year. She is sufficiently terrified of loud, unexpected, noises, and will tremble during them. With no sign of a letup in the storm I exercised some quick thinking and grabbed the Thundershirt. Nora, as a small dog, is used to being dressed up, but never in anything so secure and form fitting. She seemed to be calmer, even as I was applying the Thundershirt, and within 5 minutes had calmed enough to fall asleep, fully stretched, on her bed. I'd like to continue playing with the effects, in an effort to ease some of her anxiousness over being left alone, and intend on making this Thundershirt hers, and investing in a Medium Cat for Truffles and Frankie. While I frequently find amazing products for my pets, it is a rare case I find something so universal to improve the quality of their lives, all around; and even rarer I will shell out my money to buy duplicates!

One Time Out For Truffles follower will win a Thundershirt for their cat or dog!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. actually my moms dog eli really needs this!!!!!! he hates thunder!

  2. I've seen my parents' chihuahua dog get really scared during big celebrations where fireworks are used, those dogs are already the nervous type, so I think he would use this the most to calm him down.

  3. My dog Shiner has some anxiety around people she doesn't know.

  4. I have a neurotic little Havana Brown who is very shy and nervous around strangers (well... around most things except me!)

  5. This sounds like a wonderful product and I loved reading about it. We just lost our dog from old age on Easter but she was nervous and probably would have found this beneficial.

  6. My cat is pretty calm but my mom did buy one of these for her little dog when she moved because she was driving him about 1,000 miles to their new home. He braks at everyone and she said this thing really helped calm him down.

  7. I don't have any pets but I think this would be very useful for my sisters! Thanks so much!

    1. I could use one of these for my little puppy! We bought one for my mom's dog and he loves it, he used to freak out when it was kennel time and now he is so much better!

  8. Our Basset, Ava, has some serious stress problems...breakfast is late, bedtime is late, a strange noise. Anything can set her off. She could really use one of these.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  9. Jennifer Boehme
    My puppy-mill survivor Pug has so many issues with anxiety this would help her relax I hope. She is scared of everything, and thinks anything is going to hurt her. Loud noises, and she is hiding in bedroom for hours shaking if I don't go calm her. At the rescue they use these shirts and they do work.

  10. Llia, my cat. She is wonderful, but sometimes she is just such a nervous wreck.

  11. my dog king hate when it storm here is pom and we have stor a lot that scare him ad it wuld be good for him

  12. My cat Lillia, she has occular siezures and get scared and confused sometimes, especially when someone is visiting she doesn't know, or when we do nails, ears & other grooming. I think this would be amazing for her! (Raine on the rafflecopter)

  13. My cat who jumps when I sniffle.

  14. Our rescue dog gets a lot of anxiety in certain situations.

  15. Anti anxiety, wish we I had one for myself as well!
    ashley lowens at yahoo dot