Every dog owner knows the sound – the tick, tick, tick of toenails on the floor as Rover ambles onto the scene to see what you’re up to.

But what if you hear the sounds and there’s no Rover?

A year and a half ago a combination of old age and chronic bronchitis caused our dear old pug, Scooby, to pass on. It wasn’t unexpected, but I was devastated just the same. A couple nights later, I found myself awakened by the sound of canine claws on the linoleum. The sound proceeded up the hallway at a slow, waddling pace, accompanied by the jingle of tags. Thinking that my remaining pug, Fiona, needed to go out, I sat up – but discovered she was snoring beside me! All was quiet once more and I thought I’d dreamed the incident.

However, the distinctive doggy sounds continued to occur. By the third incident, I realized that Scooby was still checking in on us. This was confirmed when one of my daughters flew to visit us the following month and was awakened in the night by the same phenomena – and no, I hadn’t yet told her of my own experiences. Scooby had been especially close to her and I wondered if perhaps he had lingered in order to connect with her. After she went home, the pugly visitations decreased to once every few months or so.

Stories abound of departed pets visiting the people they were close to in life. A ghostly experience with one of her own cats caused Dusty Rainbolt of Lewisville, Texas to write a book “Ghost Cats: Human Encounters with Feline Spirits”. A month after her cat, Maynard, passed on, the woman felt something jump up onto the bed, walk across the blankets and settle at her feet. “I could feel the pressure,” recalls Rainbolt. “It was truly haunting but not in a bad sense. I was away from home when he died and I think he came back to say goodbye.”

So can animals really become ghosts? If we accept that humans can linger in another form after death, then it follows that animals can too. Some argue that animals do not have souls (obviously these folks are not pet owners), but it’s much more likely that animals possess the very same energy that we do. And, as with us, this energy is not extinguished by physical death – physics tells us plainly that energy can’t be destroyed, only transformed to another state.

There are almost as many motives for animals to “haunt” a place as for humans to do so. The most powerful reason would be emotional attachment – there’s no denying that our animals often love us as much as we love them. Intense trauma can also cause a spirit to linger, and this would be true for any creature, not just our species. And then there are some ghosts who seem to hang around either because they don’t realize they’re dead or they just prefer to stay in familiar surroundings. Again, this could occur in animals as easily as in humans. All of these are referred to as intelligent hauntings.

But there are also residual hauntings. Some researchers suggest that certain ghosts are not actual entities but a snippet of time being replayed over and over, like a loop of film. This may account for phenomena at the ancient Colosseum in Rome, where not only countless humans lost their lives but thousands of animals were killed. A steady supply of lions, wolves, bears, elephants and many more creatures were imported and used to perform tricks or pitted against gladiators. Over the centuries, there have been many reports of hearing and even seeing exotic animals in the abandoned structure. Today, many staff, workers, guards and visitors have reported that in addition to the sounds of swords clashing and chariots rumbling, they’ve heard the roaring of big cats and the trumpeting of elephants!

Former Civil War battlefields and camps are among the most haunted places in the country, the source of countless apparitions both human and animal. For instance, a Civil War re-enactor was surprised to discover a riderless horse standing a few feet behind him – but his company had no horses. The sound of many phantom horses snorting and pawing the ground has often been reported around Cashtown Inn in Pennsylvania, an area where Confederate soldiers stayed prior to the battle of Gettysburg.

As with the ghosts of humans, not all animal spirits are friendly. The “most haunted place in Maryland” is a house in Fells Point with five ghosts – and one of them is an angry cat. The story goes that a large cat belonged to a woman who was abused by her drunken husband. The man resented the cat and eventually killed it and walled it up in the cellar! Years later, the house was remodeled and the wall removed, revealing a feline skeleton. This likely explains the mysterious gray cat that has appeared in many rooms of the house over the years – and also explains its bad temper. Guests have attempted to pet the creature, thinking it to be a live cat, but it hisses and runs away. It has also been reported to run between the legs of people it doesn’t like, knocking them off balance.

Some phantom animals have a job or duty that they continue to attend to. For example, a church in Picton, Australia has a cemetery guarded by a phantom dog of enormous size. The story goes that a priest owned a St. Bernard, and when his beloved pet died, he buried it in the church graveyard. The ghost dog patrols the sacred grounds and has been reported to chase people out of the cemetery. The Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, VA has a ghost horse which roams the grounds and startles guests on occasion. Legend has it that the horse is still waiting for its rider, a Union soldier who was shot in front of the building in 1864.

What if the pet owner is a ghost too? The Hotel Vendome in Prescott, Arizona has long been considered haunted, with numberless sightings of ghosts in and around the building. Among the “regulars” is Abby Byr, a woman who once owned the hotel before falling on hard times. And keeping her company is her cat, Noble. The pair have been spotted in and around Room 16 by guests and staff for decades. It’s become a tradition to bring gifts for Abby and Noble when staying in the hotel!

Dani Harper

YOUR TURN – Have you ever had an experience with a departed pet or other animal spirit?


  1. I have had two dogs who died within a few months of each other visit me and lay either side of me on my bed when I was ill with a terrible migraine. Also last week ( and I have photographic evidence of this) my horse that passed at the end of last year, has appeared in a photo graph taken of the moon light, standing next to my other horse her companion for 8 years.

  2. My cat of 18 years, Buddy, passed 1 month ago. From the time I saved him as a newborn, he climbed up on my chest and purred himself to sleep. He did that every day until the day he died. He had a very distinct scent before he died. Every other day, sometimes more, I pick up his "scent". I KNOW he comes to visit. I've been so heartbroken, but when he visits, it really helps.