Can Cats Predict Weather Changes?

November 19, 2020
Cat Nap
Source: Wikimedia commons

What is the origin of the phrase, “raining cats and dogs”? Can cats predict if 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 article on my cat sprawling on my computer 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 then raining cats and dogs or, for that matter, more uncomfortable? (Then again, why is a keyboard a comfy 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: 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.

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. Cat’s 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 thunderstorm before you do. Likewise, your cat is more likely to smell the incoming rain of that metallic odor of lightning in the air. 

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

Related Content

Discover more animals that can predict the weather!

Ever head of Cat Nights (which occurs in August)? This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, “A cat has nine lives.” Find out about Cat Nights.

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

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