Grandma was more of a dog person, but she appreciated the fact that cats were invaluable on the farm: they kept the mice population at bay and they were good little weather forecasters.
The connection between cats and the weather goes back centuries and has a very close tie to the fishing industry. Cats were believed to have miraculous powers that could protect ships from dangerous weather. French fishermen, in particular, would watch their cats closely to predict weather changes. They believed that is the cat pressed her paw behind her ears while grooming, it was going to rain. From that belief came this little rhyme: “When the kitty washes behind her ears, we’ll soon be tasting heaven’s tears.”
This can be explained with a very quick weather lesson. Before the rain moves in, the air pressure begins to fall. Cats are able to detect slight changes in air pressure as a result of their very sensitive inner ears, which also allow them to land upright when falling. The cat will rub its ears for relief.
When Grandma saw a cat rubbing up against the table legs she knew there was going to be a change in the weather, and she was right. Kitty was doing that to relieve some of the pain in her ear canal brought on by the changing barometric pressure. I’ve also heard people say that when a cat is restless and darts from place to place, you can expect high winds. Low atmospheric pressure, a common precursor of stormy weather often makes cats nervous and restless. So, the next time Fluffy is freaking out, you might think twice about heading out.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.