Do Earthquakes Make Cats Suicidal?
I thought this story was a gag when I first noticed it on the infamous gossip blog Gawker. But when I traced it back to its origins, it seems that this tragic tale is all too real.
The Turkish news website Sabah reported that Professor Abuzer Taş, a lecturer at the Faculty of Veterinary Studies of Van’s Century University has seen an increase in the number of cats coming to his clinic with broken bones after leaping from high buildings.
Taş believes this isn't a simple case of "high-rise syndrome." He suggests that the cats have become suicidal because of psychological disorders developed as a result of the earthquakes that struck the region on October 23 and November 9, 2011.
"They are getting fidgety by remaining in confined areas for a long time," he said, "and they are throwing themselves out in order to free themselves."
A photo essay on the Armenian news website news.am shows a crew of veterinarians applying a cast to the front leg of a beautiful odd-eyed white cat. While the photos do look posed (and how!) I'm reasonably certain that a university professor wouldn't sully his own credibility by fabricating a story like this.
Although this is the first time I've heard of suicidal cats, it's certainly not the first time I've heard of animals behaving suicidally. News reports of dolphins apparently committing suicide have been circulating for years, for example.
Nonetheless, I'd be hesitant to label the cats' plunges to the ground as suicide attempts. I could imagine the behavior as some kind of post-traumatic stress reaction. Cats are exquisitely sensitive to their emotional environment; they've been known to be able to predict earthquakes; and as we all know, any kind of change -- even good change -- can stress out the coolest kitty. And it has been scientifically confirmed that dogs, and probably cats too, can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Whatever the cause of the cats' death-defying leaps, I hope that Turkish cat lovers will do their best to ensure that their cats won't make a potentially fatal mistake.