Sometimes I Have to Wonder: Can Cats See Ghosts?

My cat Jason did something pretty strange right after Dad died, so I have to confess that lately I’ve been wondering…

Can cats see ghosts? By: Matt Perich
A lot of people wonder about the psychic abilities of cats. One researcher was convinced they have telepathic powers. By: Matt Perich

Can I tell you a story?

Soon after my father’s death, I walked into the living room. There was Jason, my tuxedo cat, staring at the armrest cushion.

That in itself wasn’t all that strange.

But he was staring at the exact spot where Dad used to rest his head while he was reading the paper or watching television after supper. And Jason used to jump up and keep him company as part of their evening ritual.

Could the large black-and-white cat see someone lying there now that I couldn’t? The rapt, uncanny look in his yellow eyes made me wonder if he did.

Walking Between Worlds

In Native American mythology, the lynx can walk between worlds. Many cat caretakers would argue that its smaller domesticated cousin can do the same and even more nimbly.

“Somehow, animals such as cats apparently share a connection with each other that is perhaps best described as some form of psychic energy,” claims the Angels & Ghosts website. “Animals of all sorts simply ‘know’ things humans would think they couldn’t possibly ever be aware of.”

We all know that cats are highly intuitive animals and that they’ll avoid places and people that don’t feel right to them. Does this mean they are also sensitive to supernatural phenomena? The Angels & Ghosts writer clearly believes so. But you might get a few chuckles if you try asking a veterinarian that question.

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Things That Go Bump in the Night… and the Day

I checked out a number of online discussions on the subject. Although a couple of folks took a “the cat’s just staring at the wall” approach, most actually seemed convinced that their felines had had some otherworldly experiences.

An elderly man reported seeing his pet gazing strangely at the stairway. He couldn’t see anything, but the cat clearly could because it suddenly “began swiping its claws through the air in an attempt to defend itself.”

This video shows a cat fighting with something or someone that cannot be seen — or, well, then again, it could just be normal cat play:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luRQa7YKa80

Another person saw the family cat’s head move up and down as though he was tracking something or someone on the stairs. The cat would study the ceiling of a particular room. There didn’t seem to be any particular reason for his doing this until once, when the caretaker was up there with him, they both heard the sound of phantom boots stomping right above the spot.

Also, there’s Cora. The former foster now lives in a house supposedly haunted by a woman who hanged herself in the 19th century. The cat seems unfazed by the shadow that is said to move through the house and the mysterious clattering of the old-fashioned door latches at night.

“Cora has reacted by looking up the stairs — just sitting there, staring,” her pet parent, Cecile, tells me. “It was like she was frozen there.”

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The Psychic Cat

In the 1930s, Dr. J.B. Rhine, “the father of modern parapsychology,” began investigating extrasensory perception (ESP) and other unusual phenomena at his lab at Duke University.

Rhine studied psi trailing — the ability of animals to travel long distances to find their families — among cats. He also believed that cats were capable of:

  • Precognition of danger to themselves and/or their pet parents
  • Telepathy or somehow knowing that their caretakers are hurt or dead, no matter how far away they may be
  • The ability to know exactly when their caretakers are returning from long trips

4-Footed Ghosties

The stories don’t stop with human phantoms. Some people insist that cats are not only sensitive to the presence of spirit animals but are also able to interact with them. I came across several real-life accounts about cats who had “fey” or ghostly playmates. Apparently, an out-of-body buddy is still a buddy in the cat world.

T.J. Banks

View posts by T.J. Banks
T.J. Banks is the author of several books, including Catsong, which received a Merial Human–Animal Bond Award. A contributing editor to laJoie, T.J. has also received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association, ByLine and The Writing Self. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love, and T.J. has worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, as an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School and as a columnist.

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