During Halloween, our imagination turns to ghost hauntings, but do cats and ghosts actually have a connection? Does pet death mean the end or will they come back to comfort us?
Cats have long been thought to have a link with the “other world.” In fact, popular urban legends hold that cats see ghosts—and their behavior certainly seems to support that notion. My cat Seren often plays “track the spook” games, maybe just to mess with my head. You’ll understand more when you read the last paragraph.
Cats and Ghosts
We built our house 15 years ago but maybe the site used to be an ancient burial ground that remains haunted by spirits of the departed. That would explain Seren’s behavior when she fixes her gaze on “something” and follows the motion up the wall, around the ceiling, and out the door. *shiver*
It’s not just my own vivid imagination, either. A letter to the “Occult Review” magazine of April 1924 tells of a ghost that appeared in a chair, also apparent to the humans present. A cat in the room seemed to recognize the spirit, and immediately leaped into the spirit’s lap—and was dismayed when the insubstantial lap would not hold it. The popular movie Ghost of some year’s ago featured a cat able to see the spirit of the murdered victim, played by actor Patrick Swayze.
Can Cats Sense Death?
There also are many stories of cats wailing at the exact instant of a beloved owner’s death, even when separated by miles. How do the cats know? Do they “see” the spirit, or feel the psychic change at the sudden absence of their special human? Cats have the physical ability to see certain wavelengths and color spectrums that people cannot, and perhaps this “remnant” of the dearly departed remains behind—or in fact the spirit portion remains visible for felines as well as ultrasonic sound communication.
Oscar the cat, a resident of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, has an uncanny ability to predict which patient will soon die. He was adopted as a kitten but remains standoffish as an adult cat—until an individual nears the end of life. Then he will scratch at the door and demand to be in the room, whereupon he hops up on the bed beside the patient and sits vigil with them until they die. Oscar’s prediction rate has been better than the nurses or physicians who care for the residents, who suffer with severe dementia. Experts speculate the dying simply smell different, and that alerts Oscar. Yet he is the only one of several resident cats that seems to care. Relatives have said they feel comforted that Oscar spends time with their loved ones when they can’t be there.
Do Cats Haunt Us?
When cats die, owners recount experience of the kitty returning to comfort remaining pet friends and people that they’re okay. Sometimes the delicate paw-print tracks of never seen mourning “ghost cats” have been left where the owner can find them. Very often one can feel the jarring “thump” of the ghost cat leaping onto the bed at night, snuggling across your ankles, or being seen out of the corner of your eyes. These invisible visitors may still cheek rub and head butt ankles, so that people can feel the brush of fur against their skin. Wishful thinking? Perhaps the mourning human so desperately wants one last contact that imagination takes over.
But what of the other pets who also detect the invisible cat’s or chase a transparent cat as she runs through a room only to disappear into a wall? In some cases there’s also photographic proof that points to a kitty haunting a residence or person. One early famous example is a 1925 family portrait taken by Major Allistone in Clarens, Switzerland that documented a woman restraining an infant from climbing out of a baby carriage, with an older boy standing in front holding a stuffed bunny in his left hand. But in the boy’s right hand appears the face of a white kitten—except that white kitten had died several weeks earlier.
More recent examples abound and can be including pictures and videos posted on the Internet. For example, one family admired and took pictures of a neighbor’s flowers and captured the image of a cat in the window—only the family doesn’t have a cat, so just who was the ghostly feline and (perhaps more importantly) did the cat allow him/herself to be photographed?
Do Spirit Cats Return?
On October 29, 1993 at 8:30 p.m. my beloved dog passed away at age 12 years 5 months. At the time we lived in a tiny apartment and had to place his body outside in the entryway, to await burial the next morning. Shortly thereafter we heard a strangely haunting sound at the door, and found a cat crouching over my poor dog’s body muttering and crying. The cat was a stranger, one I’d never seen before or since. I like to think that this eerie cat visitor arrived to pay feline respects at his passing—it certainly couldn’t be my beloved dog’s spirit being hosted within this feline visitor. Or could it?
I never saw the cat again, although I did hear the yowls each year on October 29th at about 8:30 p.m. Maybe I imagined it? All I know is the spectral cat cries stopped after my Seren-kitty found us.
Have you ever had a “visit” from a dearly departed pet? Have your cats (or dogs) “detected” an otherworldly presence–what did they do? If you had the chance to see a pet ghost, would you want to? Have you ever visited certain locations (or even people) that you’re sure had an animal ghost in residence…what happened? Please share!
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