How cats and other animals know when a natural disaster is coming
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Cats predicting natural disasters

Camera trap photo: Anil Cherukupalli / WWF.

There is a long history of animals reacting to impending natural disasters.  In 373 BC, in an ancient Greek city called Helike, a strange event was recorded:

“All the mice and martens and snakes and centipedes and beetles left in a body,” wrote the Roman Claudius Aelianus.  The event went unexplained until “after the aforesaid creatures had departed, an earthquake occurred and Helike disappeared.”

Before the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009, toads left their colonies. Before the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami animals began to flee to higher ground.

There are some articles written by visitors and myself on this website describing the changed behaviour of the domestic cat before an earthquake. Sammy predicted a South Carolina earthquake. The behavior of Susie Bearder’s cat, Jessie, changed significantly before and earthquake in Spain. Kathy’s cat. Lia, predicted an earthquake in Illinois. And the Japanese Bobtail cats howled a warning at an impending tsunami in Japan.

Scientists, in a study at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England appears to show and confirm that in some cases animals can predict an impending natural disaster and they also suggest the methods used.

The study has been published in the journal Physics and Chemistry of the Earth. For the study, Rachel Grant used camera traps as a way to detect the presence or absence of animals at a certain time and in a certain place and then to compare the results of the camera trap photographs with the timings of natural disasters in the general area where the photographs were taken.

Camera traps are frequently used nowadays to study wild animals. They are used, for example, to count the number of wild animals in an area to work out overall population sizes.

Using camera traps in a forest in Peru it was noticed that there was a sharp drop in the activity of animals in the area with rodents disappearing completely. The year was 2011. Eight days later, there was an earthquake. What is interesting is that the camera traps had been set up in a national park which was 320 km away from the epicentre of the earthquake in Contamana. Dr Grant believed that animals that far from the epicentre of an earthquake would not respond but she was surprised to find out that there were no animals at all being photographed in camera traps. There was a sharp decline in the usual numbers photographed.

“The rodents were normally ubiquitous, then they suddenly disappeared,” Dr Grant said.

In addition, the camera traps picked up the presence of armadillos, which are usually elusive and rarely seen. They appear to have come out of their burrows (in readiness to flee?).

As mentioned, Dr Grant had been studying toads in the region where the L’Aquila earthquake occurred in 2009. The toads disappeared before the earthquake.

“Toads were what got me started on this,” Dr Grant said.

So what is the reason behind this highly sensitive behaviour of animals? Well, Dr Grant makes a suggestion. She says this:

“We think when rocks are under mechanical stress, which happens before earthquakes, large numbers of positive airborne ions are released, you get massive ionisation on a huge scale.”

Dr Grant appears to have confirmed her theory because at the time of the Peruvian earthquake she contacted a radio astronomer and significant disturbances in the ionosphere had been detected eight days beforehand.

Dr Grant mentions that the ionisation effect would have been greater on the ridge lines (the paths and tracks along which animals often walk) which is where the cameras are located. She believes that it is possible that the animals fled to the valley floor when detecting the ionisation in the air.

As an afterthought I wondered (as did Michele) how cats detect ionised air. Ionised air smells different to normal air. I think ionised air produces ozone and other gaseous molecules. I think cats with their superior and very sensitive noses pick up the smell. It has to be one of the senses and smell would seem to be the one.

If that is correct the cat has somehow decided that that smell means danger. It may just be instinct in that if the air smells strange something is wrong and they seek normality, what they know. We know cats are creatures of habit. (this is a copy from a comment I made below).

Note: “ions” are atoms or molecules that are positively or negatively charged because one or two electrons are missing (positive charge) or have been added (negative charge) (source: Google).

Source of article: Times Newspaper. See also pet care during natural disasters.

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Comments

How cats and other animals know when a natural disaster is coming — 2 Comments

  1. This is really interesting news.

    I’d heard of people experiencing headaches before a thunderstorm due to the build up in positively charged ions. So it makes sense that animals, who’re more in tune with nature, would recognise similar warning signs and react accordingly.

    I wonder how animals detect the ions and what effect it has on them physically? Hopefully Dr. Grant will be able to discover even more on the subject through her research.

    • I wonder how animals detect the ions and what effect it has on them physically?

      I had an afterthought which I will add to the page. Ionised air smells different to normal air. I think ionised air produces ozone and other gaseous molecules. I think cats with their superior and very sensitive noses pick up the smell. It has to be one of the senses and smell would seem to be the one.

      If that is correct the cat has somehow decided that that smell means danger. It may just be instinct in that if the air smells strange something is wrong and they seek normality, what they know. We know cats are creatures of habit.

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