Noise Aversion in Cats

Key Takeaways

Noise aversion is a phobia triggered by loud sounds, and is a common condition in dogs. In cats, it is poorly understood and its incidence is unknown. 

• Noise aversion occurs when the reaction is disproportionate to the actual danger presented by the noise

• The underlying cause of noise aversion in cats is unknown

• The fear can be triggered by a specific noise or by loud sounds in general

• The most common noise triggers are thunderstorms and fireworks

• Noise aversion is a non-life-threatening condition, however the resulting high levels of anxiety can negatively affect quality of life

• Symptoms of noise aversion range from hiding to unusual aggression

• Diagnosis of noise aversion is complex and is based on symptoms described by the pet parent

• Treatment includes environmental management and behavior modification therapy

A Closer Look: What is Noise Aversion in Cats?

Noise aversion is not life threatening. It is a poorly understood condition in cats, and its incidence of occurrence is unknown. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including aggressive behavior. In severe cases of noise aversion, it may take days for the animal to recover from exposure to the triggering sound.  The animal may also exhibit constant anxiety in anticipation of the trigger.

Risk Factors

Since the root cause and incidence of noise aversion in cats is unknown, it is not clear what predisposing factors may contribute to development of the condition. Anxiety in cats is still under investigation and is not well understood. A pre-existing traumatic event may be associated with noise aversion in cats. Medical attention is advised if cats are showing symptoms, as severe noise aversion can significantly decrease quality of life.

Possible Causes

The underlying cause of noise aversion is unknown. 

A number of factors may contribute to the pet developing the condition: 

• Traumatic experience

• Gradual build-up of anxiety, as the result of continued exposure 

• Lack of socialization or exposure to stimuli early in life

• Underlying anxiety or health concerns that make the cat feel vulnerable

Sounds that can trigger noise aversion include:

• Thunderstorms • Doorbells • Fireworks • Gunshots

Main Symptoms

Noise aversion is a complex condition that is poorly understood in cats. Symptoms in cats may include: 

• Hiding • Running away  • Vocalizing • Trembling  • Whining  • Pacing   • Circling 

• Inappropriate urination or defecation • Aggression

Testing and Diagnosis

There is no specific method to diagnose noise aversion in cats. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and by ruling out underlying conditions through a physical examination and blood work.

Steps to Recovery

The ideal treatment options for cats with noise aversion are unknown, due to limited research into this condition. Much of the information about this disease is extrapolated from canine noise aversion treatment. Potential therapeutic options include: 

• Environmental management to eliminate or reduce exposure to triggering sounds

• Behavioral modification therapy, including desensitization and counterconditioning

There are no medications for cats approved to treat noise aversion. Some practitioners may choose to trial canine medications in cats, however their efficacy is unknown. 

The goal of treating noise aversion is to reduce symptoms and anxiety to improve quality of life. Mild cases of anxiety from noise aversion are short-lived. In severe cases, the anxiety can go on for days after the noise has stopped and negatively impact quality of life. Without treatment, symptoms of noise aversion are unlikely to improve over time. Always consult a veterinarian and a certified animal behaviorist before attempting to implement behavior modification.


The best way to prevent noise aversion is the complete avoidance of noise triggers. When this is not possible, strategies for minimizing stress include:

• Soundproofing the house 

• Creating a safe space for the cat to hide

• Not punishing the cat for aggressive behavior due to noise phobia

Is Noise Aversion Common in Cats?

The incidence of noise aversion is unknown in cats. 

Noise aversion can occur all year round, but some periods of the year are more problematic than others:

• New Years eve • Public holidays  • Thunderstorm season

Typical Treatment

• Environmental management • Behavior modification therapy

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