You might feel grumpy when you know a rainstorm is headed your way, and a sunny day cheers you up. Some folks get headaches because they are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. But what about a cat—is its mood affected by the weather?
Weather does affect a cat’s mood. They are affected by daily changes in the weather as well as seasonal ones. The daily changes are related to barometric pressure, sounds, and smells, while seasonal behavior is due to changes in the seasons.
The good news is that weather changes, and our cats’ moods change with it. So if the weather has caused changes in her behavior, they aren’t permanent. Read on to learn how those changes occur and how to help your cat if she’s freaking out.
How Does a Cat Know the Weather Is Changing?
A cat knows the weather is changing through its senses and your actions, as the change of barometric pressure can affect a cat. This ability to notice small changes in their environment was an essential survival skill for wild cats.
Let’s look at some of the ways cats know that the weather is changing.
Our feline companions are sensitive to the changes in barometric pressure that accompany changing weather, and they are not the only ones. For example, when air pressure drops before an upcoming storm, birds fly lower.
Researchers were able to show that barometric pressure changes affected mice.
Some people can detect changes in barometric pressure as well, getting headaches before a storm. Scientists attribute these headaches to the difference in the outside air pressure and air in a person’s sinus.
Sounds and Smells
Contrary to what you might believe, rain itself has no scent. Then what is it we smell when it rains? The earthy smell we associate with rain is known as petrichor, and it is due to the moisture in the ground and the organic compound geosmin, which we can detect at a few parts per million.
Imagine what a cat, with a sense of smell that is over 10 times as strong as ours, can smell.
Cats can perceive sounds much better than we can, and their range of hearing is even greater than dogs. And they also notice changes in pitch and tones better than we do. This is because their ears have five times as many sets of muscles as ours, they can hear up to 3 times the frequencies we hear, and they can turn their ears up to 180 degrees.
So when the weather is changing, cats can hear it, not only the weather itself but also the reaction and arrival and departure of other animals. Of course, cats are not the only animals that respond to changing weather, so if birds that live in the trees around you suddenly fly away, a cat will hear it.
Cats will also recognize and respond to our moods. Therefore, if a thunderstorm sets you on edge, a cat will recognize the change in your mood. Those people with skittish cats need to stay calm to calm your cat.
If your cat is standoffish, there’s nothing wrong with you. Instead, cats are instinctually loners, and they don’t build strong social bonds like dogs. That doesn’t mean a house cat ignores people’s emotions.
Since they rely on you for food, cats are more attuned to your feelings than you might be aware.
In a 2020 study, researchers showed that cats could distinguish between happy or angry people by facial expressions and tone of voice. When shown the image of an angry person, the cats in the study hissed, and when shown an image of the same person smiling, they purred.
If cats can pick up on expressions from a picture and the sound of the voice, they will pick up that you are stressed.
In the video “Faking My Death in Front of My Cat,” you can see that the cat is concerned for its owner until she sees the camera and realizes it’s not an emergency. Might as well join in the fun.
You can see the YouTube video here:
A Cat Is Also Affected by Seasonal Changes in the Weather
Seasonal weather also affects cats. Changes in temperature and light affect both outdoor and indoor cats. Diet and activity level are two changes, and diet is one that cat owners should become familiar with.
French and British researchers studied cats over six years and noticed that cats ate more during October through February, but during June, July, and August, the cats ate the least.
They suggest that we modify how much we feed cats accordingly.
Interestingly, they observed that cats were more active during the summer months than in the shorter winter months. This observation is another example of how house cats have retained many of the instinctual behaviors of their ancestors.
Storing food and reducing activity is a survival strategy cats adapted to survive the winters.
How Can I Keep My Cat Calm During a Storm?
The first step to keeping your cat calm during a storm is to remain calm. Prepare a safe place for your kitty and have some distracting activities in mind. Most cats are content to sit next to their humans during a storm. However, some cats move to the lowest point in the house.
Here are some other things you might want to try:
- Give your cat some extra love. A little snuggling and petting can calm a cat down. Be careful not to overdo it, however, or she may associate storms with being stressed out.
- Try playing some music or putting on some music to distract from the sound of the storm and give the cat something new to listen to. YouTube videos of silly cats do wonders.
- Play one of your cat’s favorite games to distract her.
- Have enough hiding places for your cat. Some people keep a few boxes and bring one out as a distraction. Cats love to curl up in boxes, and a new one might be the distraction she needs.
Consider calling your vet if your cat gets extremely distressed during lousy weather. Medications like Benzodiazepines, diazepam, and clonazepam are often prescribed to help cats deal with mood disorders.
If you don’t wish to use prescription drugs, you can try pheromone diffusers, such as Feliway Classic Cat Diffuser Kit, or homeopathic remedies like Bach Rescue Remedy Pet Stress Relief. Both are found on Amazon.com and can work wonders to help de-stress your cat.
Other Things That Can Affect a Cat’s Mood
Your cat’s mood can be affected by much more than the weather. Some of those things you can control, but sudden mood changes can also signify that your cat is suffering. If that is the case, then you should call the vet.
- You could be overstimulating your cat either by playing too much or by being pet in a way it doesn’t want to be.
- Your cat could be perceiving threats, such as when a kid tries to pick up a cat, or the cat thinks its things, like food and toys, are being taken.
- Changes in routine can upset a cat. This could be anything from a new job, a move, or an addition to the family.
If her mood change cannot be attributed to something like that, then she could be suffering from a medical problem.
Can Cats Predict the Weather?
Many cultures believed that cats could predict the weather. Before meteorology became an exact science, many cultures had thought that cats could predict the weather. But, interestingly, not all countries shared the same signs.
For example, in Holland, a cat clawing at the carpet was a sign of wind.
The British believed a cat that was washing its ear was signaling rain. And sailors thought cats were signaling a hailstorm when they licked their fur against the grain, sneezing meant rain, and a frisky cat was letting them know they were due for heavy wins.
So even though cats know that bad weather is headed its way, they aren’t reliable predictors. As StormGeo reminds us:
“Animals may be able to react to changes in weather faster than humans, but we should not count on their behavior to determine how much snow will fall next week or how severe a hurricane will be.”
Cats can help report the weather, however, as in this video from Univision: “Distraction: Cat wanders into the weather report.”
If your cat starts acting strangely before or during a change in weather, it’s nothing to be worried about. Even indoor cats are aware of weather changes, usually before we are. If your cat’s mood changes are excessive, however, then you might wish to call your vet to see if something else is going on.
- Science Focus: How Does My Cat Know A Thunderstorm is On Its Way?
- NCBI: Emotion Recognition in Cats
- Medicinenet: Medicines for Treating Sudden Severe Fear or Aggression
- LittleMissCat: How to Keep Cats Calm if They are Anxious
- Farmer’s Almanac: Wild Weather Forecasters
- NCBI: Lowering Barometric Pressure in Mice
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.