When Cats Become Magnetized

October 9th, 2010

Much like how aircraft can become magnetized when flying through the earth’s magnetic field, or electromagnets when a current runs through them, cats sometimes become magnetized. It’s just one of those strange things about cats. G. Curtis Hoskins describes one method for determining whether your cat has become magnetized:

Note when a cat is lying in a certain orientation. Pick it up and then put it back down. If it chooses the same orientation (to magnetic fields), then it is in need of degaussing.

Degaussing is the process of removing the magnetism from an object, for example, old CRT monitors will frequently need to be degaussed when you move them or point them in new directions. A magnetized cat is not a serious problem, but you may notice your cat exhibiting curious behavior while suffering from magnetism.

It will not be strong enough to attract metal objects to the kitten, however, the cat will tend to position itself in the room according to unseen magnetic fields, sometimes resulting in funny behavior such as sitting in the corner facing the wall or hanging half way off of objects in seemingly impossible (or at least uncomfortable) positions. They will also tend to align themselves along a north–south axis (much like cattle and deer, which are naturally magnetized).

Unlike cattle, however, magnetization affects some of the highly refined senses of the cat, such as its inner ear mechanisms that allow it to always land on its feet, the high sensitivity of its whiskers, and ESP. Usually cats are able to keep themselves from becoming too magnetized by brushing against things as they walk by, which creates a static current in their fur that will naturally tend to degauss them. Petting your cat also helps it to keep down magnetic build-up. However, once magnetism has built up too much, cats will try more drastic measures, such as taking advantage of the photoelectric effect to degauss by sitting in the sun or lying on top of devices which emit small amounts of radiation, such as laptop computers. If your cat has most of the aforementioned symptoms of magnetic build up, or any of the following, it is time to manually degauss your cat:

Fortunately, there are reliable ways to degauss your cat, if you’re willing to put in the effort. Hoskins, in the same Air & Space article linked to above, outlines the steps:

First: Take the cat outside and coil a lightweight copper or aluminum wire loosely around it, beginning at whichever end the cat prefers, or allows. The coil may be either right-handed or left-handed, but be sure to note the direction of the coil and whether the cat is left-pawed or right-pawed, so the outcome may be correlated later.

Second: Wrap either end of the wire around a long nail and drive the nail into the ground. Note which end of the wire is used.

Third: After a suitable period of time, remove the wire from around the cat, or remove the cat from within the wire. Cats generally choose the suitable time period, and will pretty much take it from there.

Finally: Check to see if the cat’s direction is more random when lying down. If so, then the procedure has been successful. If the cat still appears to be polarized and unduly oriented within the magnetic fields, then a repeat of the procedure is recommended.