If Fluffy dashes under the bed and seems generally terrified for no apparent reason, it's possible an earthquake could be coming to your area. While our feline friends don't have magical psychic abilities to predict such disasters, they may sense these seismic shifts in a way we humans can't.
Sensing the Quake
While further scientific studies are needed to determine exactly if or how our feline friends can sense an impending earthquake, anecdotal evidence of bizarre behavior of animals prior to a quake dates back to 373 BCE, according to the US Geological Survey. According to Animal Planet, theories about how kitties might sense these impending seismic shifts include the ability to detect the vibrations that occur before an earthquake, known as primary waves, or earthquake-related electromagnetic field variations. Your feline friend may start exhibiting odd behaviors anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake hits. These behaviors are fear-driven and part of your kitty's survival instincts.
Behavior to Look For
Lots of kitties do some strange things—some even like to swim—but if your kitty is doing something out of the ordinary for him, he could be sensing an earthquake. Because this is a fear-related behavior, many cats will either attempt to escape outdoors or hide under furniture for safety, according to National Geographic. Your kitty is just trying to protect himself from the possible effects of the frightening event that he senses. Other signs of anxiety over such an event include increased vocalization, pacing around, panting, loose stools and an increase in destructive behaviors like scratching, according to petMD. You may even notice your fearful feline clinging to your side more than usual.
Your kitty's behaviors prior to an earthquake may become increasingly fearful for each quake. This is because once the earthquake hits, lots of scary rumblings, shaking and crashes occur around him. Eventually your kitty will associate the pre-earthquake changes he senses with this disaster. Because of this, you'll have to be very vigilant if your cat begins acting scared and skittish; he could try to escape from your home, easily becoming lost. If you live in an area with lots of seismic activity, this could quickly result in your kitty becoming fearful and even phobic most of the time. Counteract your kitty's fears during such times by distracting him with something pleasant, like a delicious meal or a game, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Cats react with fear to an impending earthquake, but they also react with strange behaviors to a variety of events and illnesses, so it's best not to assume that disaster is imminent when this happens. Consult with your vet about any strange or fear-related behaviors your kitty exhibits to rule out an illness. Don't assume that your kitty is a walking earthquake detector. Even if she does sense an earthquake, keep in mind that 500,000 detectable earthquakes occur around the world each year, 20 percent of which can be felt and very few of which cause any damage, according to the USGS. If your kitty feels even a fraction of the ones that occur near you, he might act fearfully with nothing to really worry about. For his own safety, though, keep him indoors to prevent him from running away, especially during a natural disaster.
- petMD: Extreme Fear and Anxiety in Cats
- National Geographic: Can Animals Sense Earthquakes?
- Animal Planet: Can Animals Sense Earthquakes and Tsunamis?
- US Geological Survey: Animals & Earthquake Prediction
- CBS Baltimore: Strange Behavior Detected in Animals Before Earthquake
- U.S. Geological Survey—Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: Of Animals and Earthquakes (My Cat Felt That)
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images