Cats have been worshipped, vilified and are now treasured members of many households. Here are 20 fascinating feline facts for all those ailurophiles out there
1. They can survive without water
You should always provide water for your cat, but they don’t actually drink much. Cats have evolved to get sufficient water from prey and like camels, have various tricks for maximum water absorption. A wild cat’s prey is 70-75% water, wet food for domestic cats has moisture content of around 80%, but dried food is only 8-10%.
2. They use their whiskers like radar
A cat’s whiskers (vibrissae) do more than prevent it getting stuck in things. The whiskers are embedded in tons of nerves and blood vessels, making the whiskers work like kitty radar. Thanks to whiskers, a cat can navigate around objects in the dark and also judge distances.
3. Cats can smell with their mouth
Cats have a crazy-good sense of smell – 14 times that of a human – but they don’t only smell with their nose. They have a Jacobson’s Organ just behind their teeth. When a cat catches a whiff of something good, they open their mouth to collect the smell, known as the Flehmen response, and push the scent up the nasal cavity to be analysed by the brain.
4. Purring can influence emotion in humans
Karen McComb, a behavioural ecologist, discovered that cats alter their purr when they are after something. Called the solicitation purr, the cat adds a cry to the purr, giving it a frequency of 380Hz. This is within the range of a human baby cry. Humans instinctually react to this sound, so when they hear the purr, they perform.
5. A cat is always watching
A human’s field of vision is 180 degrees but a cat’s is around 200 degrees. They also have much better peripheral vision than us, so even if they aren’t looking directly at an object, they can still track its movements. Perfect for keeping a sneaky eye on prey (or treats!).
6. Cats have smelly feet
Okay, so they don’t have smelly feet like humans can have, but cats do have scent glands in the pads on their paws. When a cat kneads at a surface, they transfer their scent and mark it as belonging to them. So when they do this ‘paddy paw’ action on your lap, they are basically marking you as their territory.
7. Cats pretend to be snakes
A lot of animals mimic scarier ones if they feel threatened, and some behaviour experts believe a cat’s hiss is meant to mimic a snake. And it’s easy to see why; in addition to the actual hiss, a cat will push its ears down, bear its fangs, squint its eyes and spray saliva – making it look very snake-like.
8. Extremes of temperature doesn’t bother them
Most cats, even indoor ones, grow an undercoat that offers protection from hot or cold. This is why a cat will happily sleep next to a radiator chucking out intense heat. A human will get uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes 38 degrees C (100 F), but a cat won’t notice anything until their skin reaches 52C (126F).
9. Cats have unique noses
The bumps and ridges on a cat’s nose are unique, just like a human’s fingerprints.
10. They wiggle to focus
Cats aren’t great at focussing on slow-moving objects, and some behaviourists think this is why they wiggle before pouncing, as it helps them pinpoint the prey.
11. They have a limited sense of colour
Cats aren’t colour blind as was previously thought, but they do have limited colour perception. It’s agreed they can see blue and green.
12. Tall tail
Domestic cats are the only ones who walk with their tails straight up. Wild cats hold them horizontally or between their legs.
13. Cat and human brains are similar
Humans and cats have identical regions in the brain responsible for emotion and a cat’s brain is in fact more similar to a human’s than a dog’s.
14. Bony tails
Cats have 250 bones in their body, with 10% being in the tail. This helps make the tail such a good balancing aid.
15. Chatty cats
Dogs can make about 10 sounds, but cats have two vocal chords and can make over 100 sounds.
16. Not all cats love catnip
Most cats go nuts for catnip, but about 20% have no response because they do not possess the necessary gene.
17. Grooming kings
Grooming is incredibly important to a cat for maintaining fur, removing smells and cooling down. In fact, a cat spends a third of its life grooming itself.
18. Get a cat’s attention
Cats have incredible hearing, but do ignore a lot of noise. If your cat ignores you, try a high-pitched noise. This mimics their prey and so they (usually) respond.
19. Masters of cat naps
A cat spends around two thirds of its day asleep. Therefore a 6-year-old cat will only have been awake for two years of its life!
20. Cat sprinters
Cats can certainly move when they want to; in fact they can reach 31mph over a short distance.