They're not only the most popular pet on the planet, cats are also one of the most fascinating. From the neighbourhood missions they always seem to be on, to the sheer outrageous amount of time they spend sleeping, they are constantly entertaining and intriguing us. Here's a few of our favourite feline facts you may not even be aware of.
1. CATS SPEND BETWEEN 30 TO 50 PERCENT OF THEIR DAY GROOMING THEMSELVES.
Are you that clean? This behaviour serves several purposes - it helps cats tone down their scent so they can avoid predators, it cools them down, it promotes blood flow, and it distributes natural oils evenly around their coat, allowing them to stay warm and dry. Grooming also serves as a sign of affection between two cats, and it is thought that saliva contains enzymes that serve as a natural antibiotic for wounds.
2. PURRING DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN A CAT IS HAPPY.
Cats often make the sound when they’re content, but they also purr when they’re sick, stressed, hurt, or giving birth. Next time your cat is purring, just pay attention to the context as it may not always be a good sign.
3. IT'S POSSIBLE THAT PURRING HELPS BONE DENSITY.
Scientists don’t quite know why cats purr, but one hypothesis is that the sound frequency of purring (between 25 and 150 Hertz) can improve bone density and promote healing, according to Leslie A. Lyons, an assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. "Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy."
4. A CAT'S NOSE HAS CATNIP RECEPTORS.
Ever wonder why catnip lulls felines into a trance? The herb contains several chemical compounds, including one called nepetalactone, which a cat detects with receptors in its nose and mouth. The compounds trigger the typical odd behaviours you associate with the wacky kitty weed - including sniffing, head shaking, head rubbing, and rolling around on the ground.
5. CATS MAKE GREAT PRIVATE DETECTIVES.
Can’t afford a private eye? A feline might be able do the job for free. In the 1960's, ambassador Henry Helb (who then lived in the Dutch Embassy in Moscow) noticed that his two Siamese kitties were arching their backs and clawing at one of the walls. Helb had a hunch that the cats heard something he couldn’t and, sure enough, he found 30 tiny microphones hidden behind the boards. Instead of busting the spies, Helb and his staff took advantage of the surveillance and griped about household repairs or packages stuck in customs while standing in front of the mics. The eavesdroppers took care of their complaints, and apart from Helb and his companions, no one was the wiser.
6. YOUR CAT PROBABLY HATES MUSIC.
But they might like tunes written by composer David Teie, who partnered with animal scientists to make an album called Music for Cats, released in 2015. Teie's website states that the songs are “based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats."
7. A GROUP OF KITTENS IS A KINDLE.
And no, we're not talking about the e-reader. A kindle is also a word that’s used to describe a group of kittens born to one cat. Meanwhile, a group of full-grown cats is called a clowder.
8. MANY HISTORICAL FIGURES LOVED CATS.
If you love felines, you’re in good company! Many of history’s most famous figures owned and loved cats! We're talking Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Pope Paul II, Mark Twain, and the Brontë sisters.
9. IF YOU LOVE CATS, YOU'RE AN AILUROPHILE.
Need a good conversation starter? Try dropping ailurophile into the mix. It’s a fancy word for "cat lover" and it’s derived from the Greek word for cat, ailouros, and the suffix -phile, meaning "lover." Conversely, the word ailurophobe describes someone who hates cats.
10. CATS FIRST WENT TO SPACE IN 1963.
On October 18, 1963, French scientists used a rocket to launch the first cat into space. The feline’s name was Félicette, and we were all happy to know she made it safely to the ground following a parachute descent. We can almost guarantee she landed on her feet!
11. CATS MIGHT BE MARKING YOU AS TERRITORY WHEN THEY MASSAGE YOU.
Experts haven’t figured out why cats like to knead, but they’ve come up with several possible explanations - one being that your kitty is trying to mark their territory with the scent glands in their paws. Since kittens knead their mum's belly to stimulate milk production, there’s also a chance that they carry this behaviour into adulthood. This is a phenomenon known as a "neotenic behaviour."
12. CATS DON'T ALWAYS LAND ON THEIR FEET.
Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t always land on their feet when they fall. But more often than not, all four paws end up touching the ground. Cats have a fantastic sense of balance, so they’re able to tell up from down and adjust their bodies accordingly. If they sense they’re plummeting downwards, they twist their flexible backbones mid-air, allowing them to right themselves so they don’t fall on their backs. Additionally, cats can spread their legs out to “parachute” through the air, and they’re small, light-boned, and covered in thick fur—meaning their fall isn’t going to be as hard as, say, a dog.
13. THERE'S A CAT PAINTING WORTH CLOSE TO $1 MILLION.
In 2015, a 8.5 foot oil painting billed as the "world’s largest cat painting" sold at auction for more than $820,000. It’s called My Wife's Lovers, and it once belonged to a wealthy philanthropist named Kate Birdsall Johnson. She loved felines so much that she owned dozens (some even say hundreds) of cats, and commissioned a painter to capture her Turkish Angoras and Persians in their natural element. Since Johnson’s husband called the clowder "my wife’s lovers," the nickname was selected as the artwork’s title.
14. YOUR CAT MIGHT BE ALLERGIC TO YOU.
Usually we think it's the other way around, but even if you’re not allergic to cats, your cat might be allergic to you! One in 200 cats are believed to have asthma, and this number continues to rise among indoor kitties as they're more frequently exposed to cigarette smoke, dust, human dandruff, and pollen.
15. JAPAN HAS A CAT WHO MANAGES A TRAIN STATION.
A train station in Southeastern Japan is presided over by an adorable "stationmaster", a 7 year old calico cat named Nitama. The Kishi train station near Wakayama City hired Nitama in 2015. Nitama has also, not surprisingly, increased passenger numbers by 10% in her 5 year career! We know we would be newly converted train passengers, that's for sure!
16. YES, ANCIENT EGYPTIANS LOVED CATS.
The ancient Egyptians revered cats, and even worshiped a half-feline goddess named Bastet. People who harmed or killed cats faced harsh legal sentences and in some cases, even the death penalty!
Photo courtesy of www.instagram.com/charleswinston_ragdoll
17. CATS CAN'T TASTE SWEETS.
Cats are genetically predisposed to not be able to taste sweets. They will likely try to nibble off your plate if it contains meat, but they’ll more often leave it alone if it’s laden with cake.
18. YOUR CAT HAS MORE BONES THAN YOU DO.
A cat has 244 bones in its entire body - even more than a human who only has 206 bones.
19. CATS LIKE SMALL SPACES.
We all know this, but do we know why? Animal experts think that the enclosed spaces make felines feel more protected, secure, and important, almost like they're back in the womb. Researchers found that when shelter cats are provided with boxes to cuddle up in, they adjust faster to their new home and are less stressed than kitties that aren't given boxes. Not only that, but sleeping in a box might help a feline retain more body heat so it stays nice and toasty, and therefore relaxed.
20. WE DON'T KNOW WHY CATS MEOW.
Nobody knows quite why cats meow, but experts think they might be channeling their inner kitten. Kittens make these sweet noises to get their mother’s attention but as fully grown felines but they don't meow while interacting with other cats. Some experts think that felines use the noises they made as infants with humans to convey their emotions, physical needs and simply get attention.
21. CATS CAN SWEAT.
Cats sweat through their paws and sometimes when they get very hot they pant!
22. MOST OF THEIR LIVES ARE SPENT SLEEPING.
According to one estimate, a cat will spend nearly two thirds of its life asleep! Nice for some!
23. SOME HOTELS HAVE LOBBY CATS.
The iconic Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan owns a pampered lobby cat named Hamlet. He's one of a dozen rescue felines that have lived in the institution since the early 1920's. Hamlet took over the post following three Matildas! Matilda the third passed away in 2017.
24. QUOTATION MARKS HAVE A FELINE CONNECTION.
Our favourite fact! The Hungarian word for "quotation marks", macskaköröm, literally translates to "cat claws".