Cats and Weather

The cat, much like the hedgehog, has a long history with being associated with weather predicting abilities. In Nine Lives – The Folklore of Cats, Briggs reports a number of examples where a cat is told to possess such ability, reminding us that Egyptian priests kept “anxious watch” over the temple cat’s and their behavior.

From S.O. Addy’s Household Tales and Other Traditional Remains, Briggs quotes “When the “mark” of a cat’s eye broadens there will be rain.” Addy also reports in the ‘Weather Lore’ chapter that “if your cat lies with her back to the fire it is going to rain.”

Briggs continues, referring to John Spence’s Shetland Folk-lore and below I’ve included Spence’s complete passage on it.
Briggs also refers to another belief that “if a cat passes its paw over both ears in washing it is thought to be a sign of rain”, although no source is provided.

A cat sitting with her back to the fire indicated cold weather, and washing her face with both the fore paws was a sure prognostic of coming rain; but when puss was observed sleeping on her harns (head turned down), fair weather might be expected.

Turning to Hulme, Briggs refers to Natural History Lore and Legend, who tells of the cat as a ‘storm-raisers’…

It was held that they had power to raise a gale, and on board ship the malevolent disposition with which they were credited has made them in an especial degree unpopular shipmates. Pussy was thought to particularly provoke a storm by playing with any article of wearing apparel, by rubbing her face, or by licking her fur the wrong way; she was sheltered from rough usage however by the belief that provoking her would bring a gale, while drowning her would cause a regular tempest. In Germany there is a belief that anyone who makes a cat his enemy will be attended at his funeral by rats, and heavy rain. As cats see well by night, and are given to wandering abroad at unholy hours, they were connected with the baleful influences of the moon. Freye, the Norse goddess, was attended by cats, and Friday, her especial day, was always considered unlucky. The ruffling of the water by the rising wind is called a cat’s paw, and cats are said to smell a coming gale, while all must be familiar with that tempestuous state of affairs known as ” raining cats and dogs.”

Briggs also finds the cat related to weather in Marie Trevelyan’s Folk-Lore and Folk-Stories of Wales.

When cats are frolicsome on board a ship, the Welsh sailors say “a gale of wind is in their tails, and there is rain in their faces.”

When the cat washes her ears it is a sign of rain. If she turns her back to the fire a snowstorm can be expected. If the cats are frisky rain and wind are coming. If they stretch so that their paws meet it is a sign of prolonged bad weather.

Beyond the Briggs, I found no shortage of other references to cats in regard to the weather, and I’ve added a few below, although I could have easily quoted away all day long!

From Charles Swainson’s A Handbook of Weather Folk-Lore:

When cats sneeze it is a sign of rain.

Cats are observed to scratch the wall or a post before wind, and to wash their faces before a thaw : they sit with their backs to the fire before snow.

Quand le chat se frotte l’oreille
C’est le temps vif qui se reveille. – Herault.

Quand el gat se frega i orecc
Speta l’aqua che vegn a secc – Milan :
i.e., When the cat scratched her ear it will rain very soon.

When cats wipe their jaws with their feet it is a sign of rain.

Quand lou cat passe la patte sur la teste, Benleon (bientot) fara tempeste. – Basses Alpes.

In Southey’s Travels in Spain, we read, “The old woman promised him a fine day tomorrow, because the cat’s skin looked bright.”

“Sailors, I am informed on the authority of a naval officer, have a great dislike to see the cat, on board ship, unusually playful and frolicsome: such an event, they consider, prognosticates a storm: and they have a saying on these occasions that ‘the cat has a gale of wind in her tail.’” – Brand, iii. 188.

A fair amount of cat lore can be found in Ozark Magic And Folklore, some dealing with the weather.

Mrs. Mabel E. Mueller, of Rolla, Missouri, says that “if the cat lies in a coil, with head and stomach up, bad weather is coming, but if it yawns and stretches, the weather will be good. (p.12)

When a cat sits down with its tail toward the fire, the hillman looks for a cold spell. (p.26)

Many hillfolk think that cats are able to tell when a windstorm is on the way; some even say that just before a storm a cat always scratches itself and points with its tail in the direction from which the wind will come. (p.30)

In some localities people imagine that they can cause a rain by submerging a cat in sulphur water – they don’t drown the animal, but make sure that it is completely under water for a moment at least. I once saw this tried at Noel, Missouri, but without success. (p.31)

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