Can Cats Predict Weather Changes?

Photo Credit

Are Our Feline Friends Purr-fect Prognosticators?

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

What is the origin of the phrase “raining cats and dogs”? Can cats predict if a thunderstorm is on its way? How do cats seem to know about weather changes before we do? Let’s explore the wonders of our feline friends!

You can blame this article on the cat sprawling across my keyboard when I was trying to write on a rainy day. I started to think about cats and weather—specifically, the phrase “raining cats and dogs.” What do animals falling from the sky have to do with torrential downpours?

Can you imagine anything more improbable than raining cats and dogs or, for that matter, more uncomfortable? (Then again, why does a keyboard seem to be the ideal place for a catnap?)

Raining Cats and Dogs

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: 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.

Cats and Weather Folklore

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

So, Can Cats Predict Weather?

It turns out that cats are more sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure. Yes, their heightened senses can allow them to pick up hints that a storm is coming. Cats’ inner ears may detect the sudden fall in atmospheric pressure.

A cat is also more sensitive to sounds and smells. Therefore, your cat will hear the rumble of a thunderstorm before you do. Likewise, your cat is more likely to smell the incoming rain or that metallic odor of lightning in the air. 

In truth, cats aren’t the only animals who are attuned to nature and weather, but we’ll give our feline friends some credit; after all, they already know they’re superior to us humans, right?

Learn More

Discover more animals that can predict the weather!

Ever head of the annual Cat Nights, which occur in August? This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, “A cat has nine lives.” Learn more about Cat Nights.

About The Author

James J. Garriss

With an academic background in international business, James is a writer, editor and researcher for Browning Media LLC, helping to present accurate climatological projections. Read More from James J. Garriss

No content available.