For many years stories of cats with strange abilities to foretell natural disaster or weather changes have abounded. Most reports concern cats showing strange behaviors before storms, volcano eruptions, earthquake or even before less natural phenomena such as air raids. (Many households with a cat in World War II soon realized they could regard puss as a reliable early-warning system as it became agitated before sirens went off) Often stories involve a mother cat moving her kittens from an area or house which later is devastated by flood, landslide or lava to a safer refuge; or a cat trapped within four walls desperately to get out. Reports of such instances of forewarning, as displayed by many cats before the 1979 California earthquake, are now taken so seriously in America that scientists in seismology there are studying the behavior of over 200 species of animals with the help of 10,000 volunteer observers. If these observers notice anything peculiar in the animal's behavior, they have to dial a hotline to ythe earthquake scientists. This is also done in China and in 1975, acting on the behavior of cats and other animals, Haicheng was evacuated twenty-four hours before a huge earthquake devastated the area. No doubt the cats had already taken to the hills. And, let's face it, if you live in a region likely to suffer from quakes, all forewarnings are greatly received.
There are several theories as to how cats seem to be able to predict these happenings. During rainstorms, enormous amounts of electricity are discharged into the clouds and create electromagnetic waves that spread through the atmosphere for hundreds of miles. The air becomes charged with positive ions which thought to influence the concentration of certain chemicals in the brain. As a result some people suffer headache before thunder. The cats may be many times sensitive to these ions, and the changes within its brain cause its mood and behavior to alter dramatically. They may also have the ability to use the Jacobson's organ to sample molecules in very dilute concentrations in the air and get a forewarning of more violent changes to come - such as when a volcano has begun to smoke, and so releases the gases within it, but has given no great outward sign of eruption. Some cats are said to rub their ears before heavy rain, responding, perhaps, to pressure changes that agitate the sensitive inner ear.
The sensitivity of the cat's feet and whiskers to vibration may mean that it can sense the tiny tremors which precede an earthquake. If we take into account this awareness of vibrations, the ability of the cat to hear ultrasonic sounds to detect magnetic changes, then a storm or earthquake may be as obvious to a cat as an air-raid siren is to us, and might well be detected hours before we humans become aware of it in its much less subtle form.
While prediction of earthquakes or other physical phenomena can perhaps be explained by modern science, there remain several vexed questions concerning a 'sixth sense' in cats. There are many reports of cats that anticipate the return of their owners after a long absence and without obvious warnings. There are also many, many stories, some corroborated by evidence rather than just anecdotal accounts, of cats traveling hundreds of miles after being left behind on holiday on holiday or returning to their old home after a move. Cats do appear to have remarkable navigational powers, perhaps thanks to an in-built magnetic sensitivity which gives them the same homing ability as is found in pigeons. They also have an amazingly accurate 'internal clock' and will welcome the kids home from school at the same time each day or wait by the wait by the food bowl at the right hour every evening.
Stranger still are tales of cats which have left home to find their owners at great distances away, in places that they have never been to before. One such story is of a cat whose owners were due to more to a new house 200 miles away. On the day of the move the cat somehow got left behind, but it turned up later at the new house! How these cats can even begin to figure out the right direction to take, let alone pinpoint the location of a house so very far away is a complete mystery. But this is by no means a unique story. There are sufficient reports of similar strange happenings to make us want to find out more about just how these cats are able to do it.
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