For thousands of years cats have been domesticated. The earliest records of house cats come from the ancient Egyptians, who were plain crazy about them, and who put their cats’ excellent hunting skills to good use to prevent rodent infestations.
Not much has changed since of our relationship with Felis catus, and although we know a little more about them than once we did, there is still much to learn. The cat may be domesticated, but it is also an enigma, and an animal that we either can’t understand or love with a passion.
We’ve put together 10 of the most interesting science-based facts about cats, and we think there are one or two that even the keenest cat lover may not know. Read on to learn more!
What's so special about cats?
Cats? Or dogs? The jury is out on what is the more ‘superior’ animal. Each of our most popular pets has its fan club. But perhaps cats remain somewhat more of a mystery to us because they were domesticated more recently than dogs. In so being, cats have brought to the home a wholly different type of friendship: one borne from mutual respect, laidback love and plenty of bargaining.
But how well do we know our cat? And what is it about the cat that makes it so special? Due to its being more closely related to wild cousins, the cat never ceases to impress its human owner with an armoury of exciting and unusual talents.
What are the 10 best facts about cats?
We may love our dogs, but after tens of thousands of years living with them we know what makes them tick, and we know (roughly) how their minds work. Cats, on the other hand, are completely different, and there are some things about them that are - quite simply - brilliant.
Cat Fact 1: A cat will sleep for 75% of its life
The cat spends about three quarters of its life asleep or napping! That’s about 16 hours a day! As a comparison, a dog sleeps for half of its life, and we sleep for only about a third of ours.
But why does the cat sleep so much? The first cats came about in very hot countries, and one of the ways they kept cool was to sleep. So the natural instinct of the domestic cat is to do the same, and also to recharge its batteries.
Cat Fact 2: A cat cannot taste sweetness
Cats cannot taste sweetness. Whereas some other animals (including humans) have lots of taste buds to detect things that are sweet, savoury and sour, cats do not. In fact, they have hardly any taste buds.
Cats can however taste other things, and can even ‘taste’ the air. If you see a cat standing with its mouth open it is using a special gland in the roof of the mouth called the Jacobson's organ. This allows them to detect very slight scents.
Cat Fact 3: A cat can predict a storm
This skill may not be peculiar to Felis catus, but it is still worth including in our line-up of a cat’s best skills. Like some other (especially small) animals, the cat can detect an approaching storm from miles away. It does so by a keen sense of smell and hearing. It may also be able to detect changes in barometric pressure.
Cat Fact 4: An indoor house cat lives longer than an outdoor roamer
True! Keeping a cat indoors will extend its life considerably. Cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors are subjected to the risks of the wild world.
Larger predators, poisons and traffic are the three big killers of outdoor cats. But so too are diseases that an outdoor cat may contract from wild animals. An indoor cat is more likely to survive into old age, and be healthy.
Cat Fact 5: A cat is great at reading our facial expressions
Cats are known to have good eyesight, although they cannot actually see in the dark. After sharing the human world for so long they have developed the sort of skills dogs have for reading our facial expressions.
Try this: stare at your cat for a moment before slowly closing and then opening your eyes again. You have just gained its trust, and you may well be heading for a feline cuddle.
Cat Fact 6: The cat is closely related to the tiger
The cat has a well-known heritage. Researchers believe the domestic cat genome diverged from the tiger not so long ago. Genetically, the cat shares 95% of its genetic ingredients with the tiger. Common behaviours that point to this close lineage are such things as scent marking and the manner in which cats stalk prey.
Cat Fact 7: The cat walks like the camel
Camels and giraffes walk with a lateral pacing gait. In other words, they move both right hooves first and then the left hooves. Cats are the only other animal to walk in such a way. As a cat’s pace increases however its gait changes to a more commonly seen diagonal gait.
Cat Fact 8: Cats suffer depression and anxiety
It may not be a fun fact, but it is still a fact. Researchers have identified the tendency of some cats to be depressed or anxious. In fact, some studies suggest one in every 10 cats may suffer with mental anguish.
The absence of stimulating things around the house, and even the absence of human interaction are said to contribute to a cat’s feeling of sadness.
Some symptoms that point to a troubled cat include in-house urination, aggression and excessive vocalisation.
Cat Fact 9: Some cats have more toes than others
Most cats have 18 toes: five toes on each of their front paws, and four on the hind paws. Some cats are born polydactyl, which means they have more toes than they need. The abnormality is genetic by design, and is most often seen of cats from the east coast of North America, south west England and Wales.
Cat Fact 10: Cats are great jumpers
The cat is well-known for its athleticism. We only have to watch how it climbs a tree or rooftop to know that it is well-built. In fact cats have been known to jump up to six times their length. This skill is due to its skeleton and muscle composition. Combined with an excellent notion of balance, the cat’s physical makeup allows it excellent manoeuvrability.
The cat may be a common sight in our neighbourhood, but its abilities are far from common. It is exceptionally skilled in most types of physical feat, and its ability to catch prey makes it a formidable predator.
Although Felis catus is said to be partial to some alone time, and may very well cope on its own for far longer than a dog, it still needs our love and support. A cat will return home to a person it loves and trusts. Thus, it is the responsibility of the owner of a cat to make a home safe and welcoming, and full of interest. To provide a cat with all of its needs is all that it takes.