You may love your cat for its quirky personality, the love and affection it shows you (when it chooses, of course!), its adorable antics or a host of other reasons. Whether you are a long time cat lover or just enjoy their priceless antics on video, here are a few fun cat facts!
Random notes of interest
• A group of cats is called a clowder and a group of kittens is called a kindle.
• Cat breeders are called “catteries.”
• Black cats are considered bad luck in the United States, but good luck in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Why they need to be rescued from trees
• Cats can’t climb down trees head first because their paws and claws point the same direction so they are forced to back down. Climbing up is instinctive, climbing down must be learned.
• Cats walk like camels and giraffes: They move both of their right feet first, then move both of their left feet. No other animals walk this way.
What they want to eat
• Cats are believed to be the only mammals who don’t taste sweetness
• Cats will hunt even when they are not hungry.
• Cats are obligate carnivores that get their energy from protein rather than carbohydrates.
• In tigers and tabbies, the middle of the tongue is covered in backward-pointing spines, used for breaking off and gripping meat.
• Most cats are lactose intolerant.
• Cats will shun unpalatable food to the point of starvation.
How they are made
• Cats have an extra organ that allows them to taste scents on the air, which is why your cat stares at you with her mouth open from time to time.
• Hearing is the strongest of cat’s senses: They can hear sounds as high as 64 kHz — compared with humans, who can hear only as high as 20 kHz.
• Cats have over 20 muscles that control their ears.
• Cats can move their ears 180 degrees.
• They can also move their ears separately.
• A cat’s nose is ridged with a unique pattern, just like a human fingerprint.
• Cats only sweat through their foot pads.
About those Hemingway cats
• The story of Ernest Hemingway and his six-toed cats began with Snow White, a white polydactyl kitten that Hemingway received in the 1930s. The kitten was a gift from a sea captain named Stanley Dexter. Sailors favored polydactyl cats, believing they were good luck. Their extra toes enhanced their abilities as mousers and provided better balance on rough seas. They are often called “mitten cats.”
• Cats are supposed to have 18 toes (five toes on each front paw; four toes on each back paw). There are cats who have more than 18 toes. These extra-digit felines are referred to as being “polydactyl.”
• For centuries cats have been kept on ships for rodent control and as good luck charms. Those seafaring kitties left their mark. More than 10 percent of cats in coastal cities from New England to Nova Scotia have extra toes (polydactyl). Given the cities’ historical trade networks, researchers believe that this high incidence of the normally rare mutation resulted from a few polydactyl merchant-ship cats taking shore leave as far back as the mid-18th century.
How they talk
• Meowing is a behavior that cats developed exclusively to communicate with people.
• Cats have a unique “vocabulary” with their owner — each cat has a different set of vocalizations, purrs and behaviors.
• Cats have up to 100 different vocalizations — dogs only have 10.
• Cats can change their meow to manipulate a human. They often imitate a human baby when they need food, for example.
• Cats’ purring may be a self-soothing behavior, since they make this noise when they’re ill or distressed, as well as when they’re happy.
• A cat’s purr vibrates at a frequency of 25 to 150 hertz, which is the same frequency at which muscles and bones repair themselves.
• Cats have scent glands along their tail, their forehead, lips, chin, and the underside of their front paws. So, when a cat rubs against you, it’s marking its territory.
BY MARY ELLEN KOSANKE