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Are cats afraid of rain?

Community cat disaster preparedness

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A cute cat walking outdoors


Although community cats are resourceful and instinctively seek out safe places in times of danger, extreme weather may pose a threat to them. If you take care of a colony of cats, there are many things you can do to increase their chances of coming through the storm safe and sound.

What to do right now

  • Create (and update) a list—complete with detailed descriptions and photos—of all the cats in the colony you care for. After a storm, this list may help you locate displaced cats and recover those being cared for by shelters or other rescue groups.
  • Gather veterinary records for the cats (including microchip numbers if the cats are chipped) and store them in a safe place.
  • Make sure you have cell phone numbers for other neighbors who may also feed the cats so you can connect with them to locate lost cats or make sure those remaining are cared for.
  • Find someone who will commit to being a back-up caretaker in your absence.
  • Carry the contact information for your secondary caretaker in your wallet. Also post the information on your refrigerator or some other visible place in your home.
  • Collect contact information for local shelters and rescue groups. They may be able to help you locate cats who have gone missing.
  • For extra security, save digital copies of all gathered information.

What to do when bad weather threatens community cats

Consider what type of natural disaster you are dealing with and what kind of havoc it will wreak on your neighborhood. Will there be high winds, flooding or fire?

  • Post laminated signs on or near cat shelters and feeding stations alerting any emergency responders that this is a managed group of cats and include contact information.
  • Secure or remove objects (such as chairs, potted plants or garden utensils) in and near the colony that could become airborne during high winds or get washed away.
  • Move shelters and feeding stations to higher ground in areas that may flood. Raise shelters and feeding stations to keep them dry. You’ll find wooden shipping pallets, available at some lumber yards, are ideal for this purpose.
  • Tie shelters and feeders to permanent structures (like a fence or a sturdy tree) to anchor them or wedge them tightly into a secure space. Be careful about placing heavy objects (e.g., bricks, boards or rocks) on top of shelters to keep them in place, as these may pose a danger in high winds.
  • Keep rain out by positioning shelters so their openings face a wall or so that the entrances of two shelters face each other, no more than a foot apart.
  • Cover shelters and feeding stations with heavy tarps to keep out driving rain. Tie tarps at an angle and extend any overhang over shelter doors so water can run off and away from shelter doors. Hammer stakes securely and/or tie the tarps to a permanent structure.
  • Leave extra dry food in covered feeding stations in case you can’t return soon and place extra kibble inside the cats’ shelter, as far from the openings as possible. Don’t put water in the shelter—it’s important that the shelter and cats remain warm and dry.
  • Leave out several bowls of water, particularly if your concern is fire rather than a storm.
  • Lay Mylar blankets inside the shelters for extra warmth.
  • Put portable shelters, litter boxes, food and water in an accessible shed or garage during the storm.
  • Stockpile adequate cat food, bottled water, extra batteries and flashlights and store them in a place that will be safe from the disaster.
  • If possible, trap the friendly cats and kittens young enough to be socialized prior to the storm and take them to a safe place. Don’t fret over leaving the unsocial and feral ones, as they have excellent survival instincts.

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Can Cats Predict Weather Changes?

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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

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.

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