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Ask A Vet: Does My Cat Know That Bad Weather Is Coming?

Animals are certainly very tuned in to their environments and other subtle clues that humans might miss. People say that they notice behavior changes in their cats before a storm and we are left to wonder if our cats can help us to anticipate and plan for severe weather.

 

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We know that atmospheric pressure drops in the hours preceding a storm. There is scientific suggestion that even life forms as simple as insects alter their patterns and behaviors in response to changes in environment, like atmospheric pressure.  Even moths and aphids have been documented as having changes associated with pressure change, light cycle, and temperatures1.

Birds, also, are thought to respond to changes in barometric pressure that precedes storm by 12-24 hours.  These animals can alter their feeding behavior because of experimentally induced barometric pressure drops2.  Mammals such as cows have been shown to have altered birth rates in relation to the barometric pressure for spring calving3.

Another interesting study found that mice experienced changes in their blood pressure in response to geomagnetic effects associated with a naturally occurring storm4. Sugar gliders were documented to decrease their activity (a feat for this very energetic species) in order to outlast storms5. But what about our house cats?

The studied species are ones that must adapt to the changes in the environment because they are vulnerable to it, but our cats are generally protected from it. However, today’s cats are not genetically very far from the feline ancestors, so it stands to reason that they still maintain the ability to sense atmospheric changes. Because they are so protected though, they may not learn the consequences of a storm.  In wild animals that choose to ignore the natural warnings, they will then experience high winds and danger associated with the storm experience. They might even fail to seek shelter and die.

The answer to the question “Does My Cat Know That Bad Weather Is Coming?” probably is that on some level your cat perceives the changes of an impending storm, but might not alter her behavior because of it. There are surely some cats that have learned fear associated with storms and their behavior is more likely to be obvious to an observer. Chances are, your cat may know that bad weather is coming, but she might not tell you!

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  1. Weather forecasting by insects: modified sexual behaviour in response to atmospheric pressure changes.PLoS One. 2013 Oct 2;8(10):e75004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075004. eCollection 2013.Pellegrino AC1, Peñaflor MF, Nardi C, Bezner-Kerr W, Guglielmo CG, Bento JM, McNeil JN.
  2. Environment, behavior and physiology: do birds use barometric pressure to predict storms?J Exp Biol. 2013 Jun 1;216(Pt 11):1982-90. doi: 10.1242/jeb.081067.Breuner CW, Sprague RS, Patterson SH, Woods HA.
  3. Relationships of barometric pressure and environmental temperature with incidence of parturition in beef cows.J Anim Sci. 2012 May;90(5):1583-8. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-4088. Epub 2011 Dec 6.Troxel TR, Gadberry MS.
  4. Artificial reproduction of magnetic fields produced by a natural geomagnetic storm increases systolic blood pressure in rats. Int J Biometeorol. 2016 Nov;60(11):1753-1760. Epub 2016 Apr 19. Martínez-Bretón JL, Mendoza B, Miranda-Anaya M, Durán P, Flores-Chávez PL.
  5. Snoozing through the storm: torpor use during a natural disaster. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 15;5:11243. doi: 10.1038/srep11243. Nowack J, Rojas AD, Körtner G, Geiser F.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Dr. Kathryn Primm

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