I want to begin this article with a story about my son. As a baby, he cried A LOT, even after seeing to all his needs and cradling him in my arms as I paced back and forth. A cousin of mine who happens to be a nurse suggested swaddling him, an age-old method of calming a crying baby that even today is used in hospitals. Willing to try anything at this point, I wrapped him in a blanket secure enough that it felt as though he was being hugged. It worked! And I was able to catch up a bit on much needed sleep.
Temple Grandin, associate professor at Colorado State University with a PhD in animal service from the University of Illinois and a much respected authority on animal behavior, created her own “hug machine”, famous the world over, to calm her own anxieties. This led her to use similar pressure therapies for autistic people.
The “Thundershirt” is based in part on Dr. Grandin’s “hug machine.” Worn at times of stress or anxiety, it exerts gentle pressure like a hug and works to calm the pet. Dogs and cats who are fearful of loud noises (thunder, firecrackers, honking horns and so on)appear to get relief from their fears when wearing the shirt. People have even used the Thundershirt successfully to quiet excessive barkers. The manufacturer states that the Thundershirt is safe to leave on the pet for extended periods of time when necessary. They recommend that if the pet wears the shirt for more than 2 hours at a time, it should be removed every 1-2 hours initially to check for any signs of irritation. The shirt should fit properly, comfortably snug.
The Anxiety Wrap, developed in 2001, works similarly. Made of stretchy, thin, breathable material, it has elasticized sections which sit on pressure points. It is advertised as safe to leave on in the owner’s absence.
The Storm Defender is a cape-like product designed in 2004 to protect the animal from static electricity present before and after thunderstorms.
There are many success stories using these products. One of main pros is that medications to relieve anxiety can be cut back or eliminated.
Do your research to discover which product best meets your needs.