Do pets have a sixth sense?

Many of the pet owners who visit your veterinary clinic just might think so.
Jan 18, 2011
By staff

No, we’re not talking about seeing dead people. A new survey reveals that pet owners think their pets have special skills. Two-thirds of pet owners think their pets have a sixth sense about bad weather and 43 percent say their pets have a sixth sense about bad news, according to an Associated poll. Seventy-two percent of dog owners said they’ve gotten weather warnings from their pets, compared with 66 percent of cat owners. For bad news, 47 percent of dog owners and 41 percent of cat owners said their pets have alerted them to urgent situations.

The reasons for pet owners’ views are hard to know. A sixth sense is something we can’t explain but we tend to trust—it’s a matter of belief. Scientists have suggested that animals sense bad weather because of changes in barometric pressure or other factors. Dogs anticipate seizures, low blood sugar, or other medical problems because of hormonal changes. But scientists haven’t figured out what alerts pets to earthquakes, bad news, or other events—or if it’s just in the eyes of their owners.

When honing in on their sixth sense, 64 percent of those polled said their pets tried to hide in a safe place, 56 percent said they whined or cried, 52 percent said they became hyperactive, erratic, or made unpredictable movements, and 36 percent said they barked or meowed persistently. Often, the pets use more than one form of communication.