Ghost Hauntings, Cats and Ghosts

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!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


Ghost Hauntings, Cats and Ghosts — 18 Comments

  1. One of the people that my parents used to visit had a horse called Solomon. A long time after Solomon had died, someone took a picture of her orchard. You could see the shape of a horse betweenn the trees and it was the same height as Solomon. My cat does the same. Looks at things that I cannot see and follows them with her eyes. They are hypersensitive to slight changes in vibration I think. I would love to see any of my previous pets again. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye I think I see cats. Sometimes in other peoples’ houses that happens too. I am sometimes sure that I saw a dog or cat walk past. Sometimes I have mentioned it to people and it has often turned out to be an old pet friend of theirs.

    • Wow, I love your story of Solomon the horse. The idea of the light sensitivity makes sense re: cats, too. It’s something different there in perception. I know there are tests for sensitive humans–it would be cool to find a test for animals, too.

  2. Oh yes – I never thought of it in terms of my cats seeing the ghost of past pets, but you could very well be right. Our male cat, Rolz, in particular, will stop dead in his tracks out of nowhere sometimes. He becomes transfixed, with a look of terror on his furry face, like he has seen something that has spooked him. Sometimes he will run and hide and be very tentative about walking back into whatever room spooked him. It is quite eerie and you have to see it to believe it.

  3. Those cat ghost pictures are wild! I have a half-mastiff that does this…she’ll suddenly look up at the ceiling and then track something across it, sometimes all the way into the next room. It does make sense that animals can see and hear things we can’t, since they can sense different frequencies. And everything is just energy. Interesting topic and perfect for Halloween 🙂

    • Shannon, I try very hard to be practical and scientific and say, “oh, the cat must be hearing critters in the walls.” But …that doesn’t explain it all. And frankly, it’s a whole lot more fun to speculate than blame it on bugs. 🙂

  4. Cool post, Amy. My cat, Samantha, is always seeing things that aren’t there. Last night I was just about asleep and she sat up and just stared at the wall, tracking something across it. Nothing was there though. Of course, I know I live in a haunted house so I’ve gotten use to it. 🙂

  5. I always say that if you hear voices, it might be cause for concern, but when other people in the room start hearing the same voices, there may be something bigger going on. I suppose the same thing is true of “hallucinations”? LOL We saw (sensed? I don’t know how to explain because there was no real visual in my case, just a presence, as it were)… well… someone one day, in the house, and I started to wonder if my imagination was getting away with me… until Simba walked right up to the apparition’s feet, and stared up at her, as if waiting to be petted. Granted, this is not an entirely unusual occurence in this house, especially since the other half moved in (Lakota with medicine training, which also has a shamanic aspect and therefore he has had some capacity of working with the dead and spirits and the like). Maybe that makes more sense of why his cat is named after a god of the dead.

    Of course, recently Simba keeps making me jumpy. She wails when she has nightmares, she wails when she wants something… lately after coming to curl up on the bed with me, she’ll leave it, and start wandering the kitchen meowing. I initially figured something was up, either she was hurt or she was starting to show signs of senility… so I got up to go check on her. Her gaze was very focused with every meow… then she’d tilt her head like she was watching a toy or prey, then take off after… I don’t know what. Around the same time she first did rhis, Anubis has started spending hours staring at the front door, yowling at it. Simba seems to have had a massive increase in nightmares where she won’t stop crying until she knows where I am (though that part may have to do with her vision seeming to go more – it takes a while to catch her attention visually now, so she has a hard time realizing you actually DID put the treats in the bowl). I’m starting to suspect, given Simba’s vision issues, that sight and “sight” are not the same process in cats, since she seems to have a harder time seeing solid objects, but suddenly she seems more tuned into… other things. It’s a bit unnerving, especially since this time I can’t “see” what’s causing the cats to act like this. We’ve been burning a lot of sandalwood in the house at night lately…

    Cats so very often are said to see spirits, sometimes even said to walk between our world and the spirit world, which is why they are so often associated with magic, both the divine and the demonized, depending what culture you’re looking at. There are people designated in some human cultures who serve the role of psychopomp, meant to help guide the dead to wherever it is they may be going. It does make one wonder if perhaps certain cats hold this role as well.

    They say cats have nine lives, and people claim it’s just based on the fact that they seem so resilient. But what if it’s literal? If they walk between the worlds, maybe they can walk back when they depart.

    Of course, in our case we believe it’s possible for more creatures to do so. Not necessarily of their own will, and why some spirits return, some remain, and some move on, I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

    I do wonder, though, if the fact that animals, and only SOME humans, seem to see such things on a regular basis (as opposed to the occasional random sighting when some strange crossing occurs) has any relation to heightened senses in general. Animals can sense much more than we can, sometimes have senses most humans don’t even have PERIOD… and in the case of James and I, we’re both a bit hypersensory in a general sense. I am somewhat less sensitive to light than he is, but we are both highly sensitive to sound, touch, and movement, to a degree that can often be overwhelming (more so for me, since I haven’t learned to cope quite as well – get me in a crowd and eventually you’ll find me hiding in a corner trying to cover my ears). He speaks to the dead (okay, I do too to a degree, but usually just those of the furry/feathered/scaly variety), I speak to plants, we both speak to animals, for some definition of the word “speak”. Assuming, again, that our imaginations haven’t just run wild (which we do often question). But you do have to wonder, when one of us responds out loud to the voice the other one just heard… maybe, just maybe, we have a little proof, if only to ourselves.

    (End long-winded ramble that probably makes me sound like i should be in a padded room somewhere. LOL)

  6. When my cat Missy was dying two years ago all of our cats (ten of them) sat in a circle around her as she took her last breaths. Even through the horror of unexpectedly losing a beloved friend I was struck by the sheer eeriness of what they did. The moment she passed they took a last look and left the area. I’m not sure if they were there to comfort and help her pass or were just bearing witness but I’ll never forget it. I wrapped Missy’s body in a flowered sheet and put her in a box to be buried by my husband when he got home, the funny thing to me is that not one of the kitties paid any to Missy’s body at all. They knew she was no longer here.

    The only other story I have is when I was a teenager I lived in a house where certain events took place. One of the ongoing ones is we had a plant in a corner where there was no air vents or windows. The leaves on that plant moved by themselves on a regular basis as if someone was brushing by them. The dog was always staring at that corner of the room barking.

    • Angela, that is just eerie–and somehow comforting. There’s a story we included in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul about the “cat funeral” where a feral/stray cat died–and all the community cats in the colony paid tribute, walking in a circle around and then away, very much like a ceremony. Sort of reminds me of what’s reported about elephants’ reaction to the death of family members.

  7. I’ve heard a handful of stories similar to your over the past year or so, Amy. Fascinating stuff! One friend of mine, a long-time author, still says he wakes up on occasion to find his deceased German shepherd sitting on his sofa. 🙂

  8. The black cats that I have known (including our current dear) tend to know they can’t be seen that easily & love to play with your mind over that. Re that photo of the black cat: I suspect that black cat lived in that house whether they knew it or not and just ate the dog food. That’s what mine would have done. Our current dear is black and likes to play pranks, loves it when he can bushwhack you.

    When our current dear’s ggg-uncle had died, the very next Good Friday an exact lookalike (gorgeous yellow & white) was in the backyard in his favorite spot.

    When our current dear’s ggg-nephew died last October his humans told us that the others circled around him while he was in his final minutes.

    I didn’t comment in a timely manner because the day this came out the comment info would not come up on my computer.

    Since Halloween is coming I’ll tell the tale again of the time the woman walking by thought our cat (who was in the front picture window) was a Halloween decoration — UNTIL HE MOVED and gave her quite a start apparently. He used to like to arch his back all the time just like all the decorations of them. (We were outside at the time.)

  9. Cats in general are fey creatues and two of our four are easily spooked. My wife has often noticed the cats staring up at a place in the room as if they are seeing something we can’t see. Peaches, Celeste and the two gay boys Enoch and Yoshi, say hi.

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