Given it’s National Cat Day today, let’s learn some interesting facts about felines and their unique character!
1. The domestic cat or the feral cat is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal.
2. They are often called house cats when kept as indoor pets or simply cats when there is no need to distinguish them from other felids and felines.
3. Cats are often valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt vermin.
4. There are more than 70 cat breeds. Different associations proclaim different numbers according to their standards.
5. Cats are similar in anatomy to the other felids, with a strong, flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey. Cat senses fit a crepuscular and predatory ecological niche.
6. Cats can hear sounds too faint or too high in frequency for human ears, such as those made by mice and other small animals.
7. They can see in near darkness. Like most other mammals, cats have poorer color vision and a better sense of smell than humans.
8. Cats, despite being solitary hunters, are a social species and cat communication includes the use of a variety of vocalizations (mewing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, and grunting), as well as cat pheromones and types of cat-specific body language.
9. Cats have a high breeding rate. Under controlled breeding, they can be bred and shown as registered pedigree pets, a hobby known as cat fancy.
10. Failure to control the breeding of pet cats by neutering and the abandonment of former household pets has resulted in large numbers of feral cats worldwide, requiring population control.
11. In certain areas outside the cats native range, this has contributed, along with habitat destruction and other factors, to the extinction of many bird species.
12. Cats have been known to extirpate a bird species within specific regions and may have contributed to the extinction of isolated island populations.
13. Cats are thought to be primarily, though not solely, responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds, and the presence of feral and free ranging cats makes some locations unsuitable for attempted species reintroduction in otherwise suitable locations.
14. Since cats were venerated in ancient Egypt, they were commonly believed to have been domesticated there, but there may have been instances of domestication as early as the Neolithic from around 9,500 years ago (7,500 BC).
15. A genetic study in 2007 concluded that domestic cats are descended from Near Eastern wildcats, having diverged around 8,000 BC in West Asia.
16. During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Pope Innocent VIII condemned cats as evil and thousands of cats were burned.
17. Unfortunately, the widespread killing of cats led to an explosion of the rat population, which exacerbated the effects of the Black Death.
18. During the Middle Ages, cats were associated with withcraft, and on St. John’s Day, people all over Europe would stuff them into sacks and toss the cats into bonfires.
19. On holy days, people celebrated by tossing cats from church towers.
20. The first cat in space was a French cat named Felicette.
21. In 1963, France blasted the cat into outer space. Electrodes implanted in her brains sent neurological signals back to Earth. She survived the trip.
22. The group of words associated with cat stem from the Latin catus, meaning domestic cat, as opposed to feles, or wild cat.
23. The term “puss” is the root of the principal word for “cat” in the Romanian term pisica and the root of secondary words in Lithuanian (puz) and Low German puus.
24. Some scholars suggest that “puss” could be imitative of the hissing sound used to get a cat’s attention. As a slang word for the female pudenda, it could be associated with the connotation of a cat being soft, warm, and fuzzy.
25. A 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today.
26. As of a 2007 study, cats are the second most popular pet in the United States by number of pets owned, behind freshwater fish.
27. Cats are the most popular pet in the United States: There are 88 million pet cats and 74 million dogs.
28. There are cats who have survived falls from over 32 stories (320 meters) onto concrete.
29. A group of cats is called a clowder.
30. Cats have over 20 muscles that control their ears.
31. Cats sleep 70% of their lives.
32. A cat has been mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for 15 years. His name is Stubbs.
33. And one ran for mayor of Mexico City in 2013.
34. Cats can drink seawater.
35. But they can’t taste sweet things.
36. Some cats have thumbs.
37. The furry tufts on the inside of cats’ ears are called “ear furnishings”.
38. Approximately 40,000 people are bitten by cats in the U.S. annually.
39. A cat’s hearing is better than a dog’s. And a cat can hear high-frequency sounds up to two octaves higher than a human.
40. But cats can’t see directly below their noses. That’s why they miss food that’s right in front of them.
41. Isaac Newton invented the cat flap after his own cat, Spithead, kept opening the door and spoiling his light experiments.
42. Nikola Tesla was inspired to investigate electricity after his cat, Macak, gave him a static shock.
43. In tigers and tabbies, the middle of the tongue is covered in backward-pointing spines, used for breaking off and gripping meat.
44. When cats grimace, they are usually “taste-scenting.” They have an extra organ that, with some breathing control, allows the cats to taste-sense the air.
45. Owning a cat can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by a third.
46. In the 1960s, the CIA tried to turn a cat into a bonafide spy by implanting a microphone into her ear and a radio transmitter at the base of her skull. She somehow survived the surgery but got hit by a taxi on her first mission.
47. Female cats are typically right-pawed while male cats are typically left-pawed.
48. Cats and humans have nearly identical sections of the brain that control emotion.
49. Cats have a longer-term memory than dogs, especially when they learn by actually doing rather than simply seeing.
50. Adult cats don’t release any particular key hormones during sleep. They just snooze all day because they can.
51. Cats sleep so much that, by the time a cat is 9 years old, it will only have been awake for three years of its life.
52. A cat rubs against people not only to be affectionate but also to mark out its territory with scent glands around its face. The tail area and paws also carry the cat’s scent.
53. Researchers are unsure exactly how a cat purrs. Most veterinarians believe that a cat purrs by vibrating vocal folds deep in the throat. To do this, a muscle in the larynx opens and closes the air passage about 25 times per second.
54. When a family cat died in ancient Egypt, family members would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows. They also held elaborate funerals during which they drank wine and beat their breasts. The cat was embalmed with a sculpted wooden mask and the tiny mummy was placed in the family tomb or in a pet cemetery with tiny mummies of mice.
55. In 1888, more than 300,000 mummified cats were found an Egyptian cemetery. They were stripped of their wrappings and carted off to be used by farmers in England and the U.S. for fertilizer.
56. Most cats give birth to a litter of between one and nine kittens. The largest known litter ever produced was 19 kittens, of which 15 survived.
57. Smuggling a cat out of ancient Egypt was punishable by death. Phoenician traders eventually succeeded in smuggling felines, which they sold to rich people in Athens and other important cities.
58. The earliest ancestor of the modern cat lived about 30 million years ago. Scientists called it the Proailurus, which means “first cat” in Greek. The group of animals that pet cats belong to emerged around 12 million years ago.
59. When asked if her husband had any hobbies, Mary Todd Lincoln is said to have replied “cats.”
60. Cats use their whiskers to detect if they can fit through a space.
61. Cats only sweat through their foot pads.