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Cats and Weather—The Folklore

July 8, 2013

Credit: Source: Wikimedia commons
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You can blame this blog on my cat sprawling on my computer when I was trying to write the weather blog.

Apparently my keyboard was the only suitable place in the entire house for a catnap.

After a struggle for territory, I found myself brooding about cats and weather—specifically “raining cats and dogs.” Can you imagine anything more improbable or, for that matter, more uncomfortable? Why would anyone even imagine it in the first place?

Some authorities tie the idea to Norse mythology. Odin, the Viking god of storms, was often pictured with dogs and wolves, symbols of wind. Witches, who supposedly rode their brooms during storms, had black cats, which became signs of heavy rain. Therefore, “raining cats and dogs” referred to a storm with wind (dogs) and heavy rain (cats).

Pluie de chats. Source: French Wikipedia

While the story sounds good, the expression didn’t become popular until the 1700s, when Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) used it in a satire. He pictured snobby upper class aristocrats solemnly fretting that it would “rain cats and dogs”. Suddenly the saying caught on. Apparently, the English spent a lot of time chatting about rain and it was the latest hit phrase.

The cat/witch connection created a lot of superstitions. Many European cultures believed that cats could influence or even forecast the weather. In Britain, especially Wales, it was believed that rain was likely if a cat busily washed its ears. In Holland, cats could predict the wind by clawing at carpets and curtains. In early America, if a cat sat with its back to the fire, it was foretelling a cold snap and if it slept with all four paws tucked under, bad weather was coming.

Sailors were particularly superstitious or just so bored that they spent a lot of time watching the ship’s cat. If a cat licked its fur against the grain it meant a hailstorm was coming; if it sneezed, rain was on the way; and if it was frisky, the wind would soon blow. Some believed cats could start storms through magic, so sailors always made sure cats were content. (I’m sure the cats encouraged this belief!)

Source: Wikimedia commons

Another common legend was that when a cat stared out the window, it would rain. Since that’s where my cat stomped off to once I shoved him off the keyboard—I had better go close the car windows!

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Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, blogger, writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac, and editor of The Browning Newsletter, has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.

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Comments

I heard it this way: In the

By Rhenda

I heard it this way:

In the old days when people had daub and wattle houses with thatched roofs, many critters would live in the layer upon layer of roofing materials. Even larger animals like dogs and cats would bed down there. In very heavy rains, if you weren't diligent to keep the unwelcome residents away, they would begin to come through the thatching to the inside. If the rains were heavy enough, the roof could break under the pressure of a cat or dog, and all would fall into the house: rain, cats and dogs.

Along with that, I read that the canopy bed was invented for that reason as well. Who wants "thatch dwellers" falling out of the ceiling on you while you're sleeping?

I had always heard that

By Evelyn Browning...

I had always heard that theory as well. However,  the US Library of Congress "Everyday Mysteries" site , claimedd it was a false theory. Thatch roofs were tightly woven, water resistant, and sharply pitched. "In order to slip off the roof, the animals would have to be lying on the outside—an unlikely place for an animal to seek shelter during a storm."

Bah! I love the thought of cats and dogs bouncing around on top of a canopy bed.

What a fun tale---Agree with

By IsarahSue

What a fun tale---Agree with Evelyn---"Bah! I love the thought o cats and dogs around on top of a canopy bed !!!

Wrongly or rightly, I always

By IsarahSue

Wrongly or rightly, I always thought the phrase referred to a lot of stray cats and dogs fighting furiously---hence
the idea of furiously raining--just another conjecture !

It's as good as any that I

By Evelyn Browning...

It's as good as any that I have heard!

My cat doesn't seem to be

By Angie_stl

My cat doesn't seem to be bothered by any weather that I can think of, unless it brings more birds to his window somehow. But in the last few years we've felt aftershocks from earthquakes that were really hundreds of miles away and he did seem real fond of those. He just looked at me like what is making my feet move when I'm on the floor???

And I'm convinced the thing about not letting us use computers is pretty much a species wide thing. My mom has broke her cat of it, but he's the only one! My big guy gets so he has his head either on the keys of the laptop or in the corner toward the front where the keyboard is done and the fingerpad doesn't need the space. That's kitty territory!! Except it seems like his head all of a sudden weighs 20 pounds or he's actually pulling on the corner, trying to get the computer to become unbalanced so he can have that however many inch spot that has now probably been preheated by the laptop, all to himself!! If he sees you know what he's up to he just takes a nap on that corner, drooling the whole time, hoping the computer will explode or short out or something.

Both Japan and China have

By Evelyn Browning...

Both Japan and China have studied the sensitivity of animals to pre-earthquake conditions and found positive results.

Your big guy sounds like my cat's brother from another mother. If I get my cat off the keyboard, he lurks behind the monitor. When he gets bored, a grey paw snakes out and swats my hands as they type.

I heard from my grandmother

By ~ Sil in Corea

I heard from my grandmother that the cats and dogs were trying to get inside to escape the rain, so that's where that saying came from.

That makes as much sense as

By Evelyn Browning...

That makes as much sense as any other explanation that I've heard. It certainly might explain why the saying has lasted for centuries.

Evelyn, I have 2 dogs and 2

By Lynetta

Evelyn, I have 2 dogs and 2 cats and 1 kitten and when a thunder storm comes up, one cat and one dog are at my feet or in my lap. The outside dog begs to come inside and sometimes I let her because I feel sorry for her. Animals are funny about weather.

It's funny how some animals

By Evelyn Browning...

It's funny how some animals are very sensitive to storms and others ignore it. My beagle is so laid back, she ignores thunder and plays catch with the hail.

I wrap him in old t shirt

By Annie Wilhelm

I wrap him in old t shirt much like you wrap a baby and that calms him. Yes he gets lots of hugs!!

Interesting! I hope that

By potsonna2

Interesting! I hope that everyone had a great and safe weekend,having a good week and has another good weekend! I also hope that they had a happy Parent's Day. That goes for last year and all the other years that I've missed.

My cat is a better

By Barb LaPierre

My cat is a better prognosticator than any of our local weather folks. When she gets very vocal and starts doing broad jumps that would qualify her for the kitty Olympics, I know that storms are on the way. And she loves my computer keyboard - especially the mute switch for the speakers and the number lock key.

Scientists have noted that

By Evelyn Browning...

Scientists have noted that many animals are very sensitive to the changes in air pressure before a storm. Birds typically land when the air pressure drops.

Your cat may be feeling the same thing and doing an air pressure dance!

If you are outside when it is

By TimCAD

If you are outside when it is “raining cats and dogs”, be careful not to step in a poodle.

My cat is always staring at

By Brenda Lynn

My cat is always staring at the window while its raining so it seems to match the folklore. I wonder what would happen if I closed my curtains, that way he cant look out the window! LOL. We have had too much rain in my neck of the woods. The flooding rains need to go. This madness has got to stop in the southeast!
My cat also likes to step all over my keyboard. He takes a cat nap on top of my computer. I guess the computer is a much more comfortable place than the couch, chairs, beds, etc.. I like to bribe my cat with canned tuna (he LOVES tuna) to give me a little space when I need it. He just likes to follow me around. I never knew what it was about him staring outside the window when it rains. So if this is true, I better start closing some curtains until it stops raining! Thanks Evelyn

Thanks for the comment. Now

By Evelyn Browning...

Thanks for the comment.
Now my dog is jealous but I've found some dog/weather folklore as well.

I have a dog that always lets

By Annie Wilhelm

I have a dog that always lets me know when a storm is brewing, he quickly becomes my shadow and shakes when it thunders.

Poor puppy! I hope he gets

By Evelyn Browning...

Poor puppy! I hope he gets some hugs.

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