Your cat probably wanders around the house like he’s better than you. Well, in this case, he just might be – at predicting earthquakes, that is.
Animals Predicting Earthquakes Throughout History
There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence that suggests that animals, most notably your common house cat, can predict earthquakes and other natural disasters. Observations supporting the prediction theory date all the way back to written accounts by Roman historian Aelian around 373 BC. In his writings, Aelian noted that five days before the devastating earthquake that ravaged the city of Helike, a diverse assortment of animals including rats, snakes, centipedes and even weasels, emerged from their underground domiciles only to flee the city – seemingly for safety. Perhaps the most notable report of animal earthquake prediction was that of the 1975 Haicheng earthquake. It is known primarily for being the only successful evacuation before a devastating earthquake, and the events leading up to the earthquake included reports of strange animal behavior. It’s really no wonder that China and Japan are the leading geographic regions for animal earthquake prediction research. It was later discovered, however, that a rare series of small tremors, or foreshocks, occurred before the earthquake aiding in its prediction.
So were these animals, cats included, actually predicting the imminent earthquakes?
Can Animals Predict Earthquakes?
It’s no secret that animals, wild animals in particular, rely on excellent senses of smell, sight, and hearing to help them survive. Many animals also have other known special or unique abilities that aid in their survival from sonar to stinky spray. Anecdotes from throughout history suggest that the theory that cats can predict earthquakes may have some truth, but science has yet to follow suit. This may be in part due to the difficulty in executing a legitimate experiment, let alone repeating or recreating one. That being said, there are numerous theories about cats’ ability to predict earthquakes.
The Theories Behind Cat’s Earthquake Predictions
Among those less scientifically inclined, a sixth sense or psychic ability of sorts has been attributed to cats, not simply in the realm of earthquake predication, but in everyday life. But while your cat may seem to know that this next trip to the kitchen is the one during which you’ll fill up the food bowl, animal behavioral scientists suggest that cats may simply have a better read on their human’s body language. The weasel doubts that a cat’s ability to predict earthquakes is a supernatural phenomenon, but there are certainly proponents of the theory.
Perhaps a more convincing theory proposes that cats and other animals can pick up on the infrasonic sound pulses that are created by earthquakes and storms. These low frequency sound pulses are out of the human limits of hearing. Either by instinct or from experience, such sound could act as a warning signal to your feline friend cautioning them to take cover.
Electrical Charges and Ions
Another theory suggests that cats and other animals may be able to detect or simply better detect electrical charges in the air. It has been theorized that a flow of ions, or electrically charged air, is created by the friction of the Earth’s tectonic plates rubbing together prior to an earthquake. The electrostatic charges preceding an earthquake may serve as a warning to an animal with a heightened sensitivity.
Even others think it’s much simpler than that. In general, cats may have a heightened sensitivity that allows them to feel the small tremors of an earthquake before their human friends. If that is so, it is suggested that they are responding to the P-waves of an earthquake – the waves and vibrations that travel twice as fast as the S-waves that are attributed to the real earthquake shaking.
Perhaps Less Prediction as Reaction
No matter the theory (excluding the sixth sense, of course), the common thread appears to be that there is less predicting involved as there is early detection. For instance, in the case that your house pet is sensing the P-wave of an earthquake, their reaction would not be considered a prediction, as the earthquake has already occurred. The more destructive S-waves that we humans associate with an earthquake are simply lagging behind.
Rather than assuming that cats can predict earthquakes, it may be more reasonable to to assume that animals react to changes in their environment caused by an earthquake or tectonic movement that humans simply cannot detect. Our cats may simply be more attuned to their surroundings than we give them credit for. So while the weasel doesn’t believe in a cat’s sixth sense to predict earthquakes, the next time the cat starts acting strangely, we might just heed the warning and take cover.
Want to keep up with the latest earthquake news? It won’t help you predict earthquakes, but it’s still pretty fascinating.