Psychic Animals

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I initially contemplated writing this on the National Geographic Channel Dogs Blog instead, but this 1998 study of humans’ observation of their pets’ precognition abilities includes other cats and other animals as well. I found it on the website of the study’s co-author, Rupert Sheldrake, whose bio says he holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge and is a former Royal Society Fellow, so don’t cue up the theremin music just yet.

A telephone survey of 200 households was carried out in North-West California to find out how many pet owners claim to have observed seemingly psychic abilities in their animals. 132 of the households surveyed had pets. 45% of dog owners claimed their animal knew in advance when a member of the household was on the way home, compared with 31% of cat owners, and around 20% of these animals were said to react more than 10 minutes in advance. 65% of dog owners and 37% of cat owners said their pets knew that they were going out before they showed any physical signs of doing so. 46% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners said that their pet responded to their thoughts or silent commands, and 42% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners said that their pet was sometimes telepathic with them. 49% of pet owners and 31% of non-pet owners said that some of the animals that they had known in the past were telepathic.

Here’s a kicker that’s even more intriguing.

Significantly more pet owners claimed to have had psychic experiences themselves than non-pet owners, and a significantly higher proportion of ‘psychic’ pet owners claimed that their pets exhibited psychic powers than ‘non-psychic’ owners.

As the authors note, this could have a number of possible implications. Perhaps living with pets brings out humans’ latent psi abilities. Or it could be that people who think of themselves as psychic are more likely, for some reason, to have pets. It also could be that both pet owners and non-animam fanciers actually think of themselves as psychic in equal numbers, but that non-pet owners are for some reason more reluctant to admit it, while pet owners already had crossed a threshold by answering questions about their pets’ psi abilities.

Of course, there also are certain caveats regarding the reliability of the survey.

In this study a possible source of bias may stem from a tendency for pet owners to exaggerate their pets’ abilities, owing to their emotional attachment to their animals. Conversely, people who pay relatively little attention to their animals may not observe them closely enough to be aware of their responses.

To me, as the owner of three dogs, that last part is a little troubling. Could it be that Madge, the basset hound-pit bull who’s snoozing in a chair in my living room right now, secretly has the potential to be the four-legged version of Edgar Cayce, and I don’t even realize it? And when she awakens periodically to bark in response to some frequency that only dogs can hear, is she actually trying to warn me about the cataclysmic events that some New Agers believe will follow the end of the Maya calendar cycle in 2012?

Btw, if you actually do want to cue up some theremin music, you’ll definitely want to check out this weekly podcast of theremin performances from the Purple Note Music Network.