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Hey, Matt:

How is it going? How was summer vacation? Here's my question. Can cats and dogs really feel the vibrations of a pending earthquake? The reason I ask is, this morning the cat was going bananas, running and jumping off the bed. Then it started crying and wanted us to follow it out to the yard. This cat never does this. I said to my wife, "Maybe we're going to have an earthquake today." WOW, we had an earthquake in California today. So, 1. Can cats feel an impending earthquake? 2. Can they feel it all the way from Paso Robles to San Diego?

-- Too much info about cats

So, like, the US Geological Survey should replace all its seismographs with Siamese? To hear them talk about it, they're pretty sick of earnest tales of cocker spaniels and parakeets and hamsters that have predicted disasters. Not that they wouldn't like to find out it's true, but so far about all they have is a roomful of anecdotes from (mostly) unscientific observers and no real facts. Yes, it's a fact that your cat chose that day to flip out; meanwhile, near Paso Robles, 350 miles away, a fault line slipped and a quake happened. And in Phoenix somebody fell down a flight of stairs; and in Waco there was a tornado; and baked beans went on sale, five cans for a dollar, in Pittsburgh. A connection? The USGS can't prove it, and nobody else has either. Not that they haven't tried. The Japanese are particularly hopeful that the rumor's true, as quake-prone as the country is.

The stories are very old, though, as old as ancient Greek cats and rats. Animals, it's said, can sense the earth vibrations or some electrical change in the air before the quake hits. But a quake doesn't creep in on little cat feet. One minute it's not there, the next minute it is. So there's not much to "predict." The federal geologists seem to want a reproducible, controlled study that links animal freakouts and earth movement. That's a pretty tall order, sciencewise.

Some geologists are less skeptical, figuring 2000 years of anecdotes has to count for something. We just haven't figured out how to measure the mysterious connection yet. But common wisdom among the federal rock guys says, your kitty's freaked out before, just not on an earthquake day. So your kitty's cute but not clairvoyant.

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