ISAZ The Newsletter No.15, l99E 1998
by Rupert Sheldrake


Pet owners often comment on the perceptivenesso f their animals.F or example, some cat owners say that their animals seem to know when they intend to take them to the vet, and disappear, even when the person has tried to give the cat no clue. And some dogs are said to know when their owners are about to return, sometimes half an hour or more in advance, even when the person comes at an unusual time or in an unfamiliar vehicle (Sheldrake,, t994). Many pet owners ascribe such kinds of perceptivenesst o telepathyo r a mysterious 'sixth sense'.

Such phenomena have, so far, been neglected by biologists and psychologists. One reason for this neglect may be the taboo, widespread among scientists, against taking seemingly 'paranormal' phenomena seriously. Another may be the taboo against taLing pets seriously (Serpell, 1986).

I and my colleagues have recently carried out three surveys to find out what proportion of pet owners have experienced a perceptiveness in their pets that might go beyond the known senses. We asked a series of questions, listed below, in telephone interviews with people in randomly sampled households. The same questionnaire was used in three separate surveys in widely different locations: Ramsbottom, a small town near Manchester, England (Sheldrake and Smart, 1997); Santa Cruz, a university and beach town in California, USA (Brown and Sheldrake, 1998); and London, England (SheldrakeL, awlor and Turney, 1998).

Of course, what people believe about their pets' abilities may not be true. But it may not be false either. Only empirical investigations can shed further light on these phenomena

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