Cats, cats, cats. Voted species most likely to keep my profession, animal communication, alive. Cats are so mysterious. Ambiguous. They are not…..dogs. They are not horses or birds or reptiles or even wild animals, really. Cats exist in their own little twilight corner of the greater interspecies family and this is precisely what makes the feline mystique so compelling and irresistible. May these 50 science supported lesser known facts about cats help you see a little more clearly into your kitty’s inner world.
Guess what the number one species is that I talk with every day? Yup, that’s right. Dogs.
Guess what the number two species is? Cats. Definitely cats.
For some of my colleagues, cats even outnumber dogs in the companion animals most likely to send their human running to the animal communicator for help.
Yet the feline language translates rather easily once you forget they are cats and start pretending they are people.
Aka…..animals are people. People are animals.
And truthfully, the more I do this work, decoding and translating communications across interspecies boundaries, the less I care what costume you happen to be wearing while we are having a chat.
And yet, while animal communication is a great helper in fostering interspecies communication, understanding and connection for sure, it is still just one aspect of the greater whole effort required.
Appreciating our similarities is key. Appreciating our differences is equally key.
In that spirit, here are 50 science-backed facts about cats. Enjoy. 🙂
psssst. Want to know more about why you love cats so much? I asked them! Find out what cats had to say.
- The domestic cat’s genome is a 95.6 percent match with the wild tiger. (Nature Communications)
- Cat whiskers occur in five different places: above the eyes, on the backs of the front paws, on the chin, above the upper lip and next to the ears. (VCA Animal Hospitals)
- Each feline whisker relies on a mechanism hidden deep inside each whisker to relay information back to a specific part of the cat’s brain. (Journal of Neurophysiology)
- Cat chin whiskers are about the same width as the cat’s body which is how they figure out whether they will fit into small spaces. (Dr. Marty Becker)
- Three-quarters of all cats show a bias for using the right or left paw, with males more likely to use their left paw and females more likely to use their right paw. (Journal of Animal Behaviour)
- Cats are neither diurnal nor nocturnal; rather, they are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. (Science Focus)
- Cats have a defect in their T1R2 gene which is why felines do not have a receptor for sweet tastes. (Journal of Nutrition)
- Cat collarbones are small and are only attached to muscles. This gives cats an unusually wide range of motion and helps them squeeze into and through incredibly tiny spaces. (Cornell)
- Cats have as many as 53 vertebrae in their spine (including the tail) and notably wide discs in between each for cushioning, contributing to both their flexibility and running speed of up to 30 mph. (Cornell)
- Cats do not have the muscles required to change the shape of their eyes (such as to squint) resulting in chronic nearsightedness. (Live Science)
- But cat eyes have a special structure called the tapetum lucidum that reflects light back to the retina, enhancing their vision in low light. (American Journal of Optometry)
- Researchers believe cats favor vision or scent for tracking and hunting prey. (ScienceDaily)
- Cats, like dogs, have a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, on the roof of their mouths that allows them to basically taste the air to detect scent. This is why cats often exhibit the flehmen response – leaving their mouths open to help route incoming air to the organ for examination. (ScienceDirect)
- Cats have such efficient kidneys that they can drink salt water and still stay hydrated. (Journal of Physiology)
- Cat claws curve downward by default, which is why cats have so much trouble when they climb trees – the only way they can get down is to climb down backwards! (PetMD)
- Cats walk by moving both front legs and then moving both back legs, something only two other species on the planet do. (PLoSOne)
- Cats can jump a span equal to six times their total body length in a single jump. (PeerJ Journal)
- Cats typically land on their feet after a jump or fall due to something called the “aerial righting reflex.” (Journal of Integrative & Comparative Biology)
- Cats can distinguish between other human words and their own name. (Nature)
- Cats can recognize the sound of their human guardian’s voice. (Journal of Animal Cognition)
- Not all cats are sensitive to catnip and those who are have a genetic (heritable) sensitivity. (Scientific American)
- The frequency of cat purrs is being researched for its healing ability, including to foster bone growth (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America)
- The majority of cats prefer interaction with “their” person over toys or even treats. (Cornell Cat Watch)
- Cats that are missing their person won’t accept an item that smells like them as a stand-in. (Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science)
- Cats bonded to humans observe human cues to determine if unfamiliar objects are dangerous or safe. (Animal Cognition)
- Cats choose to spend more time with humans who pay more attention to them. (Behavioural Processes)
- Cats also demonstrate “gaze following,” which is turning their gaze to look at something a human points to. (Elsevier Intelligence)
- Cats can get fooled by optical illusions just like people can. (Journal of Comparative Psychology)
- Research suggests that cats domesticated themselves – a process that took thousands of years. (Nature Ecology & Evolution)
- Of the two most recent feline ancestors to today’s domestic cat, the Near Eastern wildcat, was said to be intensely anti-social and territorial. (AAAS Science)
- Researchers believe the earliest wild cats gravitated to live side by side with humans because humans attracted the rodents they preyed on. (National Geographic)
- Just like puppies but unlike most other animals, even very young kittens pick up social cues from humans easily. (Science)
- Like dogs, cats also alter their facial expressions and other social cues to ask for help from people. (Animal Cognition)
- Like humans, cats can bond securely or insecurely to their human guardians. (Science Direct)
- Cats may have selectively evolved to purr in ways humans find more pleasing. (APA PsychNet)
- Cats can be optimistic or pessimistic just like people. (Science)
- Today’s pet cat shares a nearly identical genome to modern wildcats, except for one aspect – tabby cat markings (which are closely linked to the wild cheetah’s spots). (Nature Ecology & Evolution)
- Evolutionary biologists believe cats were able to spread throughout the world so rapidly by accompanying sailors aboard ships to keep rodents under control. (Nature Ecology & Evolution)
- Cats will use sound to track their human guardian’s movements when out of sight. (Phys.org)
- Neutered pet cats allowed to roam outdoors rarely wander further than one-third of a mile from their own home. (Phys.org)
- Meowsic – Melody in Cat Vocalisation Studies – is a relatively new field of study that looks at human comprehension of varied feline vocalizations, including purring, hissing, growling and more. (FONETIK)
- New research indicates that cats in multi-cat households recognize names given to the other cats and possibly also to their human carers. (Nature)
- Cats living in multi-cat homes may or may not get along, and researchers believe the key to multi-cat friendship is embedded in their hormone levels and gut microbiome. (PLoS One)
- Pet cats allowed to roam outdoors behave and vocalize differently when away from home than they do when in the home. Particularly, they vocalize less and with a different pitch while outdoors on their own. (Applied Animal Behaviour Science)
- Cats show a preference for free feeding over using puzzle toys to get food, but tend to eat more food when they have to work for it first (puzzle toys). (Animal Cognition)
- Both pet cats and shelter cats showed a preference for human interaction – petting, playing with toys and humans speaking to them – over food, solo play with toys and scents. (Journal of Behavioural Processes)
- In the same study, both pet cats and shelter cats preferred moving toys over stationary toys and catnip scent over the scent of other cats and gerbils. (Journal of Behavioural Processes)
- Cats can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone too long or separated from their people. (PLoS One)
- Some cats are prone to bonding with just one human and this may be more prevalent in some cat breeds than in others. (Journal of Veterinary Behavior Clinical Applications)
- Cats and humans share about 90 percent of their DNA in common, more than dogs and less than only one other animal species….apes. (Sciencing)
Which of these 50 scientific facts about cats is your favorite?
Do you adore cats and simply can’t imagine your life without a feline companion?
Have you ever wondered why you feel such a strong preference for feline company?
I asked the cats this question. Find out what they had to say.