One story comes from the Norse. During torrential downpours, much like many of us have been experiencing this spring, The Vikings thought it had to do with the gods. Odin was the chief of the Norse gods, kind of like Zeus, but according to certain legends, a bit wiser and better traveled. Anyway, as the story goes, ‘Raining Cats and Dogs’ comes from Odin and a band of witches flying across the countryside, bringing a storm with them while dropping animals to the ground below.
Another tale comes from a time when the roofs of many rural European houses were made from thatch. Thatch, by the way, is dried straw, reeds and the like. A thatch roof had a thick covering of the stuff spread out in layers to help the water move downward until it dropped off the edge of the house. During rainstorms, as the story goes, animals like cats and dogs would run up onto the roof, then burrow in to get out of the storm. As the thatch became more and more saturated by rainwater it would lose its stiff quality and the animals would start falling through the roof into the living area below. Though this is probably the most popular of the idiom’s origins, it has a major flaw. How many cats and dogs have you seen react to a storm by climbing on a roof? It just doesn’t make sense.
The final claim, and the one I think is most reasonable, has to do with London in the 16th and 17th centuries. Apparently, the city streets were so filthy, that when there was a huge storm and the streets would flood, dead animal carcasses, along with other debris, would flow down the streets. A lot of these animals were cats and dogs, hence the idiom, ‘Raining Cats and Dogs.’
All I have to say is thank Odin for street sweepers!
As always, thanks for reading!