The Weird & Wild Origins Behind "It's Raining Cats & Dogs"

The origin of "It's raining cats and dogs" is almost weirder than the expression itself.

Published December 18, 2023

The expression “it’s raining cats and dogs” means that it’s raining super heavily. When you think about it, it’s an odd expression. I mean, sure, some dogs love the rain — but cats and water haven't classically been the best of friends. And it's just an odd saying. Why do we even say it, and where did the expression come from?

There’s actually no single known root of the phrase. Instead, there are several theories around why this idiom came about, and if you think the expression is strange, wait until you hear the possible origins!

Theory #1: Norse Mythology

One possible backstory is that it’s rooted in Norse mythology. Because of the association between black cats and witches or all things “evil,” cats became a sign of storms. And Odin’s wolves, Geri and Freki, came to represent the wind. As a result, “raining cats and dogs” could have come to mean stormy and windy weather.

Theory #2: Flooded Streets

A kind of morbid theory comes from the fact that European streets would flood pretty regularly during storms in the 17th century. The water would slosh around and carry with it tons of debris, including dead animals, like cats and dogs. 

Fast Fact

Irish poet Johnathon Swift even wrote a poem in 1710 called A Description of a City Shower about these floods. In it, he mentioned “drowned puppies” and “dead cats,” which might be where “raining cats and dogs” came from.

Theory #3: Similar Words

The phrase “cats and dogs” could have come from other words that sound similar. One possibility is the old English “catadupe,” which means waterfall. Another is the Greek phrase “cata doxa,” which translates to “contrary to belief.” Either of these could have evolved into the expression we use today.

Debunked Theory #4: Cats and Dogs Washed Down Roofs

A theory that has long been disputed because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is the idea that stray cats and dogs would seek shelter at the top of thatched roofs. When it rained, they’d be washed down the sides of the roof along with the water and fall onto the street. Hence, “raining cats and dogs.”

The reason people say this probably isn’t the true origin of the expression is because animals just don’t hide out at the tippy top of roofs, and definitely not during poor weather. They’re more likely to seek shelter under bushes, houses, or anywhere it’s warm and dry.

Rainy Day Dog Tips

Even though no one knows the real root of this expression, we do know one thing for sure: some cats and dogs actually like the rain. But if your dog doesn't there might be some a explanation.

Fast Fact

Scents are actually amplified, and the water can wash faraway smells closer to your pup, which is like a party for their nose. But that’s only one of the reasons it gets them frisky.

When Dogs Don't Like the Rain

Some dogs absolutely loathe rain. Maybe it’s the feeling of the water droplets, the thunder, or even the barometric pressure change. If that sounds like your pup, all isn’t lost. There are a few ways you can prep for rainy days to make your doggo more comfortable next time it drizzles.

Rainy Weather Precations for Pups

If you’re planning on taking your pup out for a stroll while it’s sprinkling out, you’ll want to take some precautions to keep them safe. And post-walk, definitely dry their paws off to prevent any irritation or a yeast infection from starting.

“Raining Cats & Dogs” Meaning

Next time you use the expression “raining cats and dogs,” you’ll have a better idea of where the phrase came from. And if it is coming down out there, don’t be surprised if your canine or feline companion still wants to head out on a walk. Some pets just love the wet stuff, whereas others want nothing to do with it. Work with your pet’s comfort level to keep them safe and happy.

The Weird & Wild Origins Behind "It's Raining Cats & Dogs"