Can Your Cat Predict the Weather?
Listen to Your Pets
Anyone who owns a cat can tell you that they are peculiar animals.They can have psychotic mood swings, often for no reason. But we also know that cats are very sensitive to things that cannot be seen and heard, such as illness.
People have looked to animals for centuries for predictions about weather. Is an animal's ability to forecast a storm or temperature change real or folklore? Well, if you live on a farm, and you are very in tune with both your climate and your livestock, you will notice that some animals routinely behave in certain ways whenever there is a change in the weather.
- Roosters will crow in the afternoon before rain.
- Cows and other animals will start grazing towards shelter before rain or a temperature change.
- Herd animals will sometimes stampede towards shelter if a storm is on the way.
- Cows may lie down if there is going to be rain.
- Pigs will "keen" a low song when a storm is likely.
And turkeys will of course, just sort of stand there in the rain. We learned to never depend on turkeys.
Almost all animals, aside from turkeys, will exhibit a change in behavior to alert you. But one of the handiest animals to have on hand, if you live in a climate with persnickety weather, is a cat. Without a doubt, a cat can consistently peg something fishy in the atmosphere.
Animals and the Weather
Nearly all animals will display a change in behavior before weather events. All you have to do is pay attention to the signs.
Cats or Dogs? Who Is More in Tune?
Are cats better than dogs when it comes to sensing a change in the forecast? Dogs are also good pets for predicting the weather. Some dogs, that is. You will always have that one dog that is more interested in his food bowl than in that approaching tornado.
I've yet to meet a cat that didn't act strangely before a storm or other type of bad weather, though. The only trick is knowing which behavior is odd for a cat.
With dogs, it is pretty obvious that they are upset about something. They either hide or whine to get your attention. Maybe even bark.
The difference is that dogs are more people-oriented than cats. If a dog thinks he might get a bite of your sandwich or that you might be about to go outside for a walk, he may get distracted.
Cats tend to be more aloof, and if they are agitated, they act out of the ordinary (for them). A docile cat may become hyper, a hyper cat may mellow out, a hands-off cat may suddenly want to snuggle, a social cat may hide or scratch, or an indoor cat may suddenly want to bolt out the door.
For example, if there is a storm of any type on the way, our lady cat tends to yowl like a tomcat. She will pace up and down the hall, and if we tell her to shush, she will step up the game and start doing things she normally wouldn't, like jumping on counters or clawing furniture. If it is a climate change, she will do the same, as well as climb into our laps and stare us right in the eye.
Cats and Folklore
Today we expect science to step in and help solve our problems, and we like to stick our noses up at old wives tales and folk superstitions. But back in the day before Doppler Radar, people were happy to look to their feline companions for a little heads up.
Except for the people who thought cats were evil, of course. In some time periods and regions, cats weren't thought to be just predicting the weather, they were accused of causing it, along with any other trouble that afflicted humans.
For example, one superstition states that cats carried storm magic in their tails. To prevent storms, a cat had to be kept content. I'm sure that the cats did little to squelch that rumor!
Here are some superstitions about cats and weather that are probably not accurate:
- If a cat plays with an article of your clothing (sock!), then a heavy storm will ensue.
- If you are cruel to a cat, there will be rain at your funeral.
- Baptizing a cat in mineral water will end a drought.
- A cat's tail always points in the direction of the wind.
- If a cat sneezes once, rain is on the way.
The Most Accurate Weather Prediction
- If a cat sleeps with her back to the fire, there will be either cold weather, a bad storm, or snow.
I've never seen this be wrong. In fact, if the weather service predicts snow, I will look at the cat to see where she is laying.
Some Weather Predictions Your Cat May Display
A cat's tail probably doesn't point to the wind, but there are some signs to look for when watching your furry friend.
- If your cat becomes antsy or even hisses at you, it could indicate an earthquake.
- When a cat washes over both ears, there will be rain.
- A cat that is suddenly very frisky means a thunderstorm.
- When a cat licks its fur against the grain, expect hail.
- A cat sleeping with all four paws tucked under means cold weather.
- A cat that yawns and stretches out is predicting fair weather.
- When a cat's pupils widen suddenly, there could be a weather change.
- When a cat stares out of the window for a long time, it means rain.
- If a cat starts scratching more than usual, it could mean warm weather coming.
- If a cat sniffs the air obsessively (not at dinnertime) expect rain or snow.
- A frisky cat means the wind will pick up.
- If a lovable cat suddenly bites or hisses at you, it could mean a bad storm.
- If a cat seems to be listening to something far off, they may be hearing approaching rain or wind.
Cats and Weather Prediction
Do you believe that cats can sense changes in weather?
Explanations Behind Cat's Behavior
Two behaviors that cats display during weather changes are explained by science:
- Cats groom their ears more frequently because of pressure changes that effect their sensitive inner ear. (the same part of a cat that makes their balance (almost) perfect.
- Cats lick their fur more because of humidity changes when storms approach. Low humidity causes static, and wetting the fur keeps it under control.
Animals, Weather Prediction, and Science
So, is there any scientific proof that animals have a sixth sense about meteorological conditions? Not yet, although researchers are determined to make a connection.
According to this article about pets and weather in National Geographic, the problem lies in forming a control group for study. Even though there are claims that animals behave a certain way, there isn't much proof on a large enough scale. These experts also say that people only took note of the animal's behavior after storm or natural disaster.
Scientists just love to rain (cats and dogs) on our parade, huh? Not all of them. Others claim that animals are more in tune than humans. Whereas they don't think there is anything psychic about an animal's ability to foretell a weather event, they do say it is a mystery as to how the animals know so far in advance.
The theory is that cats (and other animals) use their superior senses to predict a weather change. They can smell incoming rain, feel trembles in the earth, hear thunder and wind, and sense pressure changes long before their human counterparts. What confuses scientists is how they can sense it before all that pricey, technological equipment can.
Examples of animal instinct were noted:
- When the 2005 tsunami struck the coast of Sri Lanka. Over 100,000 people were killed, but only a handful of animals, despite the wave devastating the wildlife reserve.
- During the Haicheng earthquake in the 1970s, animals were noted to behave strangely. Snakes woke from hibernation and evacuated their burrows, only to freeze as they tried to escape.
- Before major hurricanes. Land animals move inland and insects hide in trees and under rocks.
Is Your Cat a Meteorologist?
In Oklahoma, our major weather issue is tornado activity. In 2013, when we experienced a wave of tornadoes and other storms, we looked to our feline meteorologist for advice.
Sally's normal play-time is around midnight. During the day, she likes to nap, eat, and groom. So when she started going bonkers on a sunny day, pacing the halls and crying like she was lost, we suspected that something was up. A quick check of the forecast (haha, radar!) said that the line of storms was to the north of us.
When we didn't pay attention, Sally jumped on the sink and tried to claw her way out of the kitchen window: something she never does. (cats on counters is a big no-no in this house.) She tried to escape whenever the doors were opened, hid under the bed, cried some more, and would hiss at us if we tried to pet her.
Despite the predictions made by the weather experts, a tornado did set down a few miles from our house. We received some major backlash and a violent downpour. We heeded Sally's warning. We secured the plants, put up our gardening tools, and moved the trucks from under the trees. We also made sure our storm gear was in the hallway and ready to go.
Listen to your pets when it comes to the weather. They have better senses than you do, and their early warning could just save your life.
How do your animals react to bad weather? Do they alert you to possible changes, or do they sleep soundly until the actual event is taking place? Feel free to share your weather and animal anecdotes in the comments below!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.