Earthquake Myths #3 – Animals Can Predict Earthquakes

Can Animals Predict Earthquakes?

This myth goes all they way back to 373 BC where anecdotal evidence says that animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects were behaving strangely. They would leave their homes and head for safety from weeks to seconds before an earthquake. There are other stories where pet owners report that their cats and dogs act strangely for no apparent reason before the ground shook. Or how chickens have stopped laying eggs and bees leaving their hives in a panic.

It’s hard to know precisely what animals sense. A theory is that they detect electrical changes in the air. Another theory is that they can feel the vibrations from the earth before humans do.

Flock of Birds

One interesting event occurred in 1975 when Chinese officials observed strange behavior in animals and ordered the evacuation of the city of Haicheng (population of one million) days before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit. It’s estimated that over 150,000 people would have been killed or injured had they not been evacuated. Instead, only a small portion of the population was affected. Some people say that it may have been due to foreshocks that the animals felt since they have far more sensitive senses than humans so they weren’t actually predicting it and only reacting to those vibrations.


More recently, scientists found significant changes in animal behavior weeks before a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Peru in 2011. Motion-sensor cameras were setup in Peru’s Yanachaga National Park to capture animal activity in the area. After close analysis of the footage, scientists found that 3 weeks before the earthquake there was only about a third as many animal sightings as usual. And shockingly, a week before the earthquake there were no sightings at all which is extremely unusual for a rainforest full of wildlife. Researchers think it might be due to the positive ions released in the air that build up when rocks are stressed which the animals detect and cause them to flee.

So is this a myth? Who knows! There are also several cases where animals didn’t react so it’s hard to correlate the findings. I think we need more research to get more conclusive evidence but it’s pretty interesting! Maybe “Sparky” might one day save your life by alerting you that an earthquake is coming.

What do you guys think? Do you think animals can predict earthquakes? Do you have any experiences with your pets like this? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

Read about More Earthquake Myths Here




  1. Mac

    I have always wondered about animals being able to detect earthquakes and other natural disasters! I don’t live in high earthquake area so I don’t worry about them. Next time I see my pets or other animals acting out of the ordinary I will definitely take notice now. I wonder if some animals are more in tune than others when it comes to sensing the earthquakes.

    1. Andy (Post author)

      Yeah, there’s so much we don’t know yet. Hopefully scientists will do more studies to find concrete evidence to support this case.

  2. Damien

    Hi Andy,

    What a great write-up!
    I live a little south of Vanuatu and I have to say our little puppy a few years ago knew well before we did that we where about to have a mini quake, I thought it was coincidence but I’m starting to think you’re on to something here!

    I’ll be back for more of your great posts!


    1. Andy (Post author)

      Hi Damien,

      Oh wow! I think they just had an earthquake near Vanuatu a few weeks ago. Did you feel it fro where you were?

  3. Brooke

    Hi Andy.

    I’ve had the pleasure of many earthquakes including the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake which was actually in Loma Prieta, 8 miles from my home in Scotts Valley, CA. My whole neighborhood had to be torn down in the next few years.

    So reading through your site brings back lots of memories.

    The bizarre thing is that one large earthquake is only the beginning. The ground continued to shake as the plates settled over the next 48 hours, weeks, months. For the next few years, every time a truck drove by, we’d brace ourselves waiting for the jolt or rolling to follow.

    Thank you for all of your fantastic information.

    1. Andy (Post author)

      Wow! Sounds like you had a very scary experience. Can’t believe your whole neighborhood had to be torn down! That’s crazy. I’m glad that you are safe though.
      Hopefully my site will help others be prepared.


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