My Cat Is Afraid of the Hair Dryer
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It is common for cats to become scared at a loud noise, especially if they are not expecting it. For some, this may mean climbing up the curtains or retreating to their safest hiding spot. The hair dryer provides a particularly fearful stimuli since its noise can fill up a room. Some cats will have no problem with it at all, but why will depend not only on the cat's character, but also on how their guardian introduces them to the blow dryer. Since using a hair dryer on cats can be very helpful when bathing, it is important for you to know why my cat is afraid of the hair dyer.
At AnimalWised, we explain how to blow dry a cat. We explain what to do if they are resistant to the object, as well as what alternatives there might be.
Why is my cat afraid of the dryer?
Before learning how to blow dry a cat, we should know why they may be scared in the first place. Although domesticated a few millennia ago, cats still maintain a lot of their wild nature. They need to feel secure in their environment and they are particularly sensitive to potential threats. In the wild, anything that can seem like a potential predator, dangerous situation or even bad weather is something the cat will want to avoid.
To the feline perspective, a hair dryer can represent any number of potential threats. With its long cord and shrieking sound, it can seem like a sort of serpent creature. The noise can make a cat feel as if it is alive. It also could sound like there is an environmental threat such as a landslide due to its disruptive noise. Similarly it could sound like an extreme weather event such as a hurricane.
When we use a blow dryer on ourselves, we may not think twice when the cat is in the room. It is only when we notice them run away there is a problem. However, it is also possible the cat will not care. This may be because they have already assessed the potential problem and know it will cause them no harm. This is less likely to happen to other cats for the following reasons:
- Socialization: certain cats may have been poorly socialized, so they do not know how to act in many situations and will become insecure. This can lead to agitation, a desire to escape or even aggression when they hear a hair dryer.
- Stress: if the cat is already stressed in their environment, they may become more easily reactive to objects or situations. Some cats may normally be fine with a noise like a hair dryer, but during periods of stress will behave differently.
- Trauma: if the cat has experienced neglect or abuse in the past, it may make them more reactive to stimuli such as blow dryers. An abused cat knows that violent sounds can be the precursor of harm to themselves, so hair dryers can be particularly threatening.
- Education: too many cat guardians think cats do not need education or training. They may complete litter training and think their job is done. On the contrary, cats need to learn boundaries and behaviors within the environment. If they have a poor education they are more likely to be reactive to sounds like a hair dryer.
Cats do not need to climb the walls or wail loudly to show they are frightened of a hair dryer. We need to look at their body language to see their reaction. Some may not move their position, but their posture can be radically different. They may set their ears flat to their head, hair their hair stand on end or flick their tail violently. For us to teach them to accept a hair dryer, we need to be cognizant of the cat's body language and calming signals.
Do I need to use a hair dryer on my cat?
Many of us have cats that do not like hair dryers. Even when we pick up the appliance, but have yet to turn them on, some cats may make a hasty escape. Once we finish drying our hair, the cat may return. In these cases, it may not be necessary to get the cat used to the hair dryer. If they don't like the sound and they have the ability to leave the room, it won't necessarily cause them any harm.
The main reason many people want help they cat become accustomed to the hair dryer is bathing. Especially with longhaired cats, using a blow dryer can make the bathing process go more quickly and helps to avoid the cat becoming to cold.
However, cats do not necessarily need to be blow dried. You may need to get a dog used to a hair dryer because they are often larger than cats and will need more regular bathing. Cats are better able to take care of their own hygiene, so we do not usually need to bathe a cat. Veterinarians agree that cats do not need bathed if they look clean and healthy. There are also alternative drying options which we explain in the last section.
With this in mind, we do not necessarily need to learn how to blow dry a cat. Since the hair dryer can represent a very stressful situation for felines, it might be best to avoid using it on them. If you think it is necessary, then keep reading the following section.
How to blow dry a cat
The main objective of this procedure is to prevent the animal from associating the dryer with a traumatic experience. We do this by breaking the association between the dryer and a negative situation the animal has experienced previously. The steps to follow are:
- Leave the hair dryer beside the cat unplugged, but within their reach. If the cat has never seen one before, they should not react suspiciously. However, we need to avoid sudden movements, being overly fearful ourselves or in anyway making the situation appear stressful. Let the cat interact with the hair dryer however they like, maintain a positive demeanor and provide some positive reinforcement.
- Eventually, you can start moving the hair dryer around. Be very attentive to their body language and do not make threatening gestures. This will help the cat to think of it similarly to other objects and appliances you use in the home.
- Once your cat is comfortable with the presence of the new device and its movement, you can move on to the second step. This is to introduce the hair dryer while it is in use. This is the most difficult part. With the hair dryer away from the cat themselves, turn the hair dryer on to its lowest setting. Do not use it on the cat or yourself, but let them become used to the sound for a couple of minutes. Give the cat a treat, such as food they enjoy, as a form of positive reinforcement. This will help them become associate the hair dryer with a positive and rewarding experience. Stop after a few minutes and repeat over a couple of days.
- Repeat the previous step, but this time use movement with the hair dryer turned on. This way they will not be as scared when you move it around their body to dry them.
- Even if the cat has been fine up to this point, the next step might be too much for them. This is when we need to use the blow dryer on the cat. To do this, we need to follow the previous steps again, but this time move the hair dryer close to the cat and gently blow on the side of their body. Do not blow on their face or other sensitive areas as it can shock them. You need to ensure you use more positive reinforcement. The best way is to feed them something they really enjoy such as wet food or a cat treat.
- How much you need to repeat any of these steps depends on the individual cat. Keep checking their responses and move slowly. Gradually building up their confidence is the best way to stop a cat being scared of anything.
We should also assess the cat for any of the issues raised in the previous section. If your cat has experienced trauma or is in a stressful situation, you will need to support them through these issues. This is often not easy to do. For this reason, you can consider speaking to a feline ethologist who can assess their wellbeing and provide a behavioral training approach catered to their individual needs.
How to dry a cat without a hair dryer
Although it can be convenient, it is rarely necessary to blow dry a cat. Even if there are occasions when you think it necessary to bathe a cat, using a blow dryer is not necessarily required. If your cat is wet and you want to try them, you can use the following alternatives:
- Dry with a towel: towel drying a cat is a great way to remove excess water. As soon as the cat gets out of the bathtub, wrap their body, but not their head in the towel. Do not restrict their movement excessively and use the help of a partner if they are particularly resistant. Since cats often do not like water, they will want to be dry and they should see the benefit of the towel. Do not rub too hard and remember that the towel will not dry them completely, so make sure the home is warm until their coat has dried.
- Drying in a carrier: if the cat is afraid that you direct the dryer towards it, but tolerates the noise, you have the option of putting them to dry them. Carriers have holes in the top and sides, so they might feel more protected. Do not persevere if they become very agitated and/or aggressive.
If our cat still will not tolerate bathing, we should take them to a professional groomer. Not only will they have the equipment to carry out this process properly, but they will have the training and experience to deal with a problem cat.
Learn more about grooming a cat with our article on whether cat haircuts are a good idea.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Is Afraid of the Hair Dryer, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
- Morris, D.. (1988). Observe Your Cat. Barcelona, Plaza Janés.