Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Wayward Cats: How Do They Find Their Way Home?

   By Cal Orey

HOMEWARD BOUND

(Excerpt from Soulmates with Paws)

One spring day in a small town in Illinois, a black cat named Zephyr disappeared. “I was heartbroken, as was the rest of my family. He was truly my friend at that time,” recalls Cassandra Fink. Zephyr’s owners spend hours combining their one-and-a-half-acre yard and apple orchard looking for their beloved pet and fearing the worst. “We realized he must have run away.”

            Then one night the cat’s owners heard a soft meow outside and found Zephyr standing at the door looking well-muscled but extremely skinny. “The semi-trucks for the trucking company next door traveled back and forth to the city of Kankakee. We realized then that he had hopped aboard a flatbed semi and ended up there,” explains Fink. It had taken the cat two weeks to trek the 30 miles home!

            Zephyr is like countless cats worldwide who find their way home—even when home is hundreds of miles away. Many cat owners have tales of incredible journeys, and most have no idea how their cats do it. A number of these cases come to the public’s attention when they are reported in newspapers, but many more go unreported and unstudied. Those that are studied teach us a lot about our feline companions but leave us with as many questions as answers.

AN AMAZING HOMING INSTINCT

            Researchers really don’t know how these extraordinary cats find their way home. But they do have some idea about how some other legendary travelers navigate. Birds and bees seem to navigate by the sun, stars or moon. As for salmon, which swim all the way from the open ocean back to the very stream where they spawned, researchers think they smell their home waters. Other animals can orient themselves with the help of magnetized cells in the brain, which act like tiny compasses, and help them decide which way is north. Marine mammals may even use the sounds that rumble through the seas to get their bearings. “Cats may have similar abilities,” says renowned author and animal expert Michael Fox, Ph.D.

In a classic study done more 75 years ago, zoologist F.H. Herrick, of Cleveland, Ohio, took his own cat in a bag from his home to his office five miles away, traveling by streetcar. When he let the cat out of the bag, the cat fled. However, the cat returned home the same night, even though he had been left in an area he was unfamiliar with. Puzzled by this astonishing ability, Herrick put the cat in a closed container, took him various distances from his house—from one to three miles—and released him. The result:  The cat came home in a variety of situations and from any point on the compass. How exactly do cats do that?

THE RADAR THAT GETS CATS HOME

            Animal experts also say the sense cats use most often and that gives them the most information is scent. By sniffing bushes and buildings along their route, cats can use the information they glean to help find their way home.

            “Cats have a very sensitive nose that equal dogs, and their eyesight is certainly better,” says Ted Cohn, DVM, at University Hills Hospital in Denver CO. “Certainly for short distances visual clues are very important.”

            Cats also use physical cues from nature, such as the angle of the sun to find their way. “They may be able to use the sun as a compass, as well as sensing a time difference between their own internal circadian clock and the local time. But the father away they are from home base, the greater will be the discrepancy,” says Fox. Therefore, visual aids and memory don’t completely explain how lost cats find their way over long distances.

            That’s why many researchers believe cats are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic fields. This sensitivity may enable them to find their way back home—even from hundreds of miles away. “A magnetic field can be described as a set of imaginary lines that indicates the direction a compass needle would point to at a particular spot,” explains Psychobiologist David Jay Brown of Ben Lomond, CA.

            It’s also believed that cats possess a homing mechanism that is triggered by brain cells containing magnetized iron particles. As they do with other mammals, these cells act like built in compasses. So, some cats, like a wayward senior striped tabby named Alfie, may have been guided by the influence of earth’s magnetic fields.

            Early one summer, Alfie’s owner, Elaine Hahn, moved to a new home in Palo Alto, CA, about five miles away from her old home. For the first few weeks after the move, Hahn received regular phone calls from her old neighbor, who told her, “Alfie is here. Do you want to come and pick him up?” For two weeks, Hahn got into her car and drove five miles to go pick up Alfie. He had not only hiked five miles each time to get back to his old house, he had crossed six lanes of traffic to do so!

            Alluring as it is though, the magnetic field theory doesn’t entirely explain the homing instinct, according to Brown. “If you have a compass and you’re not in the middle of nowhere, you can’t figure out the direction of your destination unless you knew your position in a certain geographical area. So, it’s really a big mystery.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

What Kitty Knows--Your Cat May Sense Danger, and You Should Know About It

  

(Excerpt from Soulmates with Paws)

  By Cal Orey

 At noon on a stormy spring day in Austin, Texas, several household cats started acting strangely. “I was in bed watching the weather channel on TV,” recalls cat owner Janet Shon. “My cats wanted to hide underneath the covers.” The heavy rains and howling winds continued, causing panic in her house full of pets. Eventually, she put them into carriers to calm them, and took cover under the stairwell. “Usually, my cats don’t mind being in the crates during bad weather,” she says, “but this time, they were chatting nonstop and wanted to be next to me.”

            Several hours later, on May 27, 1997, an extremely rare and dangerous tornado (classified as an F-5), with winds measuring over 260 mph, touched down 40 miles to the North of Shon in Jarrell, Texas. Twenty-seven people died in Jarrell. Multiple tornadoes also ripped through the Austin area, killing two people. “It took the roof off the Albertsons’ store,” says Shon with awe. She and her cats survived without a scratch.

            What made Shon’s cats react in such a way? Some say it’s ESP (extra sensory perception), or a sixth sense. Others claim cats aren’t gifted, just blessed with well-developed or heightened senses—scent, sound, and sight, that are far superior to our own.

 However, you see it, cats have earned their supernatural reputation throughout history. In ancient Egypt, felines were worshipped as gods, and killing a cat was a crime punishable by death. Even modern society gives credence to the idea that cats “know” things. During World War 11, “British families found that their cats were the best warning system for impending danger,” notes Dale Koppel, author of Amazing but True Cat Facts. “They showed unmistakable signs that something was about to happen even before the air sirens were sounded. Their hair would stand on end, or they’d spit or wail. Some would head straight for the nearest shelter.”

            Many people who live through terrible disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, or earthquakes (reports of animals sensing the imminent deadly  Loma Prieta 1989 quake# to Japan 2011 quake# rolled in)—believe their cats knew something before these disasters struck. But whether or not cats really predict danger is still an open debate. So, what will you do the next time Felix starts acting strange? Will you roll your eyes, or head for high ground? Read on and decide for yourself.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

THE BLACKOUT EFFECT Authors Forecasted a Near Galveston, TX Hurricane in NEW BOOK

By Cal Orey

Hurricane Beryl made landfall along the Texas coast as a Category 1 storm early Monday... leaving more than 1.5 million people without power.

 A Hurricane Warning means hurricane-force winds are expected somewhere within this area within the next 36 hours

  * LOCATIONS AFFECTED - Galveston - Jamaica Beach - West End Galveston Island
* WIND - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Equivalent Tropical Storm force wind - Peak Wind Forecast: 45-55 mph with gusts to 75 mph - Window for Tropical Storm force winds: until late Monday afternoon - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for wind 58 to 73 mph - The wind threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for dangerous wind of equivalent strong tropical storm force. - PREPARE: Last minute efforts to protect life and property should now be complete. The area remains subject to significant wind damage. - ACT: Now is the time to shelter from dangerous wind. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Unfolding - Potential impacts from the main wind event are unfolding. * STORM SURGE - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Life-threatening storm surge possible - Peak Storm Surge Inundation: The potential for 4-6 feet above ground somewhere within surge prone areas - Window of concern: Begins early Monday morning - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for storm surge flooding greater than 3 feet above ground - The storm surge threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for life-threatening storm surge flooding of greater than 3 feet above ground. - PREPARE: Evacuation efforts and flood preparations should soon be brought to completion before conditions become unsafe. - ACT: Leave immediately if evacuation orders are given for your area to avoid being cut off from emergency services or needlessly risk lives. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - Areas of inundation with storm surge flooding accentuated by waves. Damage to several buildings, mainly near the coast. - Sections of near-shore escape routes and secondary roads become weakened or washed out, especially in usually vulnerable low spots. - Major beach erosion with heavy surf breaching dunes. Strong and numerous rip currents. - Moderate damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Several small craft broken away from moorings, especially in unprotected anchorages. * FLOODING RAIN - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Flood Watch is in effect - Peak Rainfall Amounts: Additional 6-10 inches, with locally higher amounts - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for major flooding rain - The flooding rain threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should include the potential for major flooding from heavy rain. Evacuations and rescues are likely. - PREPARE: Strongly consider protective actions, especially if you are in an area vulnerable to flooding. - ACT: Heed any flood watches and warnings. Failure to take action will likely result in serious injury or loss of life. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Extensive - Major rainfall flooding may prompt many evacuations and rescues. - Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks in multiple places. Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become dangerous rivers. Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed. - Flood waters can enter many structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away. Many places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out. * TORNADO - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: - Situation is favorable for tornadoes - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for several tornadoes - The tornado threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should continue to include the potential for several tornadoes. - PREPARE: Stay within your shelter keeping informed of the latest tornado situation. - ACT: Move quickly to the safest place within your shelter if a tornado warning is issued. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - The occurrence of scattered tornadoes can hinder the execution of emergency plans during tropical events. - Several places may experience tornado damage with a few spots of considerable damage, power loss, and communications failures. - Locations could realize roofs torn off frame houses, mobile homes demolished, boxcars overturned, large trees snapped or uprooted, vehicles tumbled, and small boats tossed about. Dangerous projectiles can add to the toll. * FOR MORE INFORMATION: - Hurricane Preparedness: Federal Emergency Management Agency - http://ready.gov/hurricanes - Local weather conditions and forecasts: NWS Houston/Galveston, TX - http://www.weather.gov/hgx/
* WIND - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Equivalent Tropical Storm force wind - Peak Wind Forecast: 45-55 mph with gusts to 75 mph - Window for Tropical Storm force winds: until late Monday afternoon - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for wind 58 to 73 mph - The wind threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for dangerous wind of equivalent strong tropical storm force. - PREPARE: Last minute efforts to protect life and property should now be complete. The area remains subject to significant wind damage. - ACT: Now is the time to shelter from dangerous wind. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Unfolding - Potential impacts from the main wind event are unfolding. * STORM SURGE - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Life-threatening storm surge possible - Peak Storm Surge Inundation: The potential for 4-6 feet above ground somewhere within surge prone areas - Window of concern: Begins early Monday morning - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for storm surge flooding greater than 3 feet above ground - The storm surge threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for life-threatening storm surge flooding of greater than 3 feet above ground. - PREPARE: Evacuation efforts and flood preparations should soon be brought to completion before conditions become unsafe. - ACT: Leave immediately if evacuation orders are given for your area to avoid being cut off from emergency services or needlessly risk lives. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - Areas of inundation with storm surge flooding accentuated by waves. Damage to several buildings, mainly near the coast. - Sections of near-shore escape routes and secondary roads become weakened or washed out, especially in usually vulnerable low spots. - Major beach erosion with heavy surf breaching dunes. Strong and numerous rip currents. - Moderate damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Several small craft broken away from moorings, especially in unprotected anchorages. * FLOODING RAIN - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Flood Watch is in effect - Peak Rainfall Amounts: Additional 6-10 inches, with locally higher amounts - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for major flooding rain - The flooding rain threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should include the potential for major flooding from heavy rain. Evacuations and rescues are likely. - PREPARE: Strongly consider protective actions, especially if you are in an area vulnerable to flooding. - ACT: Heed any flood watches and warnings. Failure to take action will likely result in serious injury or loss of life. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Extensive - Major rainfall flooding may prompt many evacuations and rescues. - Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks in multiple places. Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become dangerous rivers. Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed. - Flood waters can enter many structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away. Many places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out. * TORNADO - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: - Situation is favorable for tornadoes - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for several tornadoes - The tornado threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should continue to include the potential for several tornadoes. - PREPARE: Stay within your shelter keeping informed of the latest tornado situation. - ACT: Move quickly to the safest place within your shelter if a tornado warning is issued. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - The occurrence of scattered tornadoes can hinder the execution of emergency plans during tropical events. - Several places may experience tornado damage with a few spots of considerable damage, power loss, and communications failures. - Locations could realize roofs torn off frame houses, mobile homes demolished, boxcars overturned, large trees snapped or uprooted, vehicles tumbled, and small boats tossed about. Dangerous projectiles can add to the toll. * FOR MORE INFORMATION: - Hurricane Preparedness: Federal Emergency Management Agency - http://ready.gov/hurricanes - Local weather conditions and forecasts: NWS Houston/Galveston, TX - http://www.weather.gov/hgx/
* WIND - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Equivalent Tropical Storm force wind - Peak Wind Forecast: 45-55 mph with gusts to 75 mph - Window for Tropical Storm force winds: until late Monday afternoon - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for wind 58 to 73 mph - The wind threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for dangerous wind of equivalent strong tropical storm force. - PREPARE: Last minute efforts to protect life and property should now be complete. The area remains subject to significant wind damage. - ACT: Now is the time to shelter from dangerous wind. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Unfolding - Potential impacts from the main wind event are unfolding. * STORM SURGE - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Life-threatening storm surge possible - Peak Storm Surge Inundation: The potential for 4-6 feet above ground somewhere within surge prone areas - Window of concern: Begins early Monday morning - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for storm surge flooding greater than 3 feet above ground - The storm surge threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Plan for life-threatening storm surge flooding of greater than 3 feet above ground. - PREPARE: Evacuation efforts and flood preparations should soon be brought to completion before conditions become unsafe. - ACT: Leave immediately if evacuation orders are given for your area to avoid being cut off from emergency services or needlessly risk lives. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - Areas of inundation with storm surge flooding accentuated by waves. Damage to several buildings, mainly near the coast. - Sections of near-shore escape routes and secondary roads become weakened or washed out, especially in usually vulnerable low spots. - Major beach erosion with heavy surf breaching dunes. Strong and numerous rip currents. - Moderate damage to marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers. Several small craft broken away from moorings, especially in unprotected anchorages. * FLOODING RAIN - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: Flood Watch is in effect - Peak Rainfall Amounts: Additional 6-10 inches, with locally higher amounts - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for major flooding rain - The flooding rain threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should include the potential for major flooding from heavy rain. Evacuations and rescues are likely. - PREPARE: Strongly consider protective actions, especially if you are in an area vulnerable to flooding. - ACT: Heed any flood watches and warnings. Failure to take action will likely result in serious injury or loss of life. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Extensive - Major rainfall flooding may prompt many evacuations and rescues. - Rivers and tributaries may rapidly overflow their banks in multiple places. Small streams, creeks, canals, and ditches may become dangerous rivers. Flood control systems and barriers may become stressed. - Flood waters can enter many structures within multiple communities, some structures becoming uninhabitable or washed away. Many places where flood waters may cover escape routes. Streets and parking lots become rivers of moving water with underpasses submerged. Driving conditions become dangerous. Many road and bridge closures with some weakened or washed out. * TORNADO - LATEST LOCAL FORECAST: - Situation is favorable for tornadoes - THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT INCLUDES TYPICAL FORECAST UNCERTAINTY IN TRACK, SIZE AND INTENSITY: Potential for several tornadoes - The tornado threat has remained nearly steady from the previous assessment. - PLAN: Emergency plans should continue to include the potential for several tornadoes. - PREPARE: Stay within your shelter keeping informed of the latest tornado situation. - ACT: Move quickly to the safest place within your shelter if a tornado warning is issued. - POTENTIAL IMPACTS: Significant - The occurrence of scattered tornadoes can hinder the execution of emergency plans during tropical events. - Several places may experience tornado damage with a few spots of considerable damage, power loss, and communications failures. - Locations could realize roofs torn off frame houses, mobile homes demolished, boxcars overturned, large trees snapped or uprooted, vehicles tumbled, and small boats tossed about. Dangerous projectiles can add to the toll. * FOR MORE INFORMATION: - Hurricane Preparedness: Federal Emergency Management Agency - http://ready.gov/hurricanes - Local weather conditions and forecasts: NWS Houston/Galveston, TX - http://www.weather.gov/hgx/