20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Cat
Here's what that purr really means.
Cats are among the world's most popular pets, and it's not hard to see why. They're diligent about keeping themselves clean, don't need to go outside for walks, and their enviable nap schedule means you don't have to feel guilty about leaving them alone for the day when you head to work. But even for the most dedicated pet owners, there's plenty about their feline friends that remains a mystery—until now, that is. With the help of animal experts, we've rounded up 20 amazing things you never knew about your cat, from what those purrs really mean to how they move, so read on to discover everything you've ever wanted to know about your feline friend.
Cats naturally walk on their tiptoes.
Have you ever wondered what makes cats so light on their feet? They're digitigrades by nature—meaning they walk on their toes—which is what affords them their amazing pouncing ability.
"This helps them approach their prey with a combination of speed and almost complete silence," explains Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet's My Cat From H***. In fact, it's this very ability that helps them remain uninjured as they do their own version of feline parkour: The digitigrade stance "helps provide cats with shock absorbers when they jump down from above," says Galaxy.
Cats can hunt accurately in almost complete darkness.
Your cat's uncanny ability to pounce on you even with the lights out is no coincidence. The back of a cat's eye has a reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum which "collects all available light, intensifying it and reflecting it back out of the retina," thus allowing them to accurately process images even in almost complete darkness, according to Galaxy. It's this unique ability that makes them such great hunters—and allows them to stay one step ahead of predators, too.
Cats have better peripheral vision than humans.
Even the sharpest peripheral vision in humans pales in comparison to that of your average cat. "Cats' peripheral vision occupies 200 degrees—20 percent more than humans," says Galaxy. While they're not especially effective at seeing long distances, within 20 feet of prey, they have "absolute accuracy," according to Galaxy.
Cats hear more clearly than dogs.
Your dog may be able to hear you open a can of food from rooms away, but even their incredible hearing is nothing compared to that of most felines. "The cat's pinna—the triangular part of the ear that we can see—creates a unique funnel, grabbing sounds from the air and pulling them inward," says Galaxy.
This enables them to hear incredibly high and low frequencies that humans and other animals, including dogs, are likely to miss.
Cats have a detached collarbone.
While your collarbone connects your torso and your arms, your cat's collarbone isn't holding anything together. "It's not attached to anything," says Georgia-based veterinarian Laura Seabolt. "It just hangs out under the skin." In fact, it's this unique feature that enables cats to squeeze through tight spaces without injuring themselves.
Cats are lactose intolerant.
If you're thinking about setting out a bowl of milk for your cat to enjoy, you might want to reconsider. "Even though you see cats drinking milk in movies, their bodies do not tolerate milk very well," says Sara Ochoa, DVM, a Texas-based small and exotic animal veterinarian.
Cats have 200 scent receptors—more than your average human.
Your cat's eyes aren't the only thing helping them track down their prey—they have an incredible sense of smell, too. "Cats have a sense of smell 14 times greater than a human," says Jim Carlson, DVM, owner and holistic veterinarian at the Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center. However, while incredible, their sense of smell isn't quite as sharp as that of your average dog, so don't expect your local police department to hire cat investigators any time soon.
Your cat's tummy pooch serves a purpose.
That little belly your cat has isn't just the result of those extra treats you've been giving them. Carlson says that this feline spare tire isn't "extra chub," but rather a spot on the cat's body that "stores food, protects cat's organs in cat fights, and helps felines move easier by extending when chasing prey."
Female cats are usually right-pawed.
After testing 42 cats—21 male and 21 female—for a study published in Animal Behaviour, psychologists determined that a cat's dominant paw is correlated with gender. For the record: Female cats? Right-pawed.
Cats sleep up to 70 percent of their lives.
Domestic cats do mostly one of four things: sleep, eat, run, or play. It turns out, sleeping takes up more time than the other three activities combined. With up to 70 percent of their lives dedicated to sleep, cats are among the most frequent sleepers in the animal world because, in the wild, they must use a lot of energy to hunt.
A purr is a sign of self-healing.
The purr is often translated as a sign of contentment, but it may be more complex than that. Not all purring is related to pleasure—in some cases, it reflects pain or nervousness. And according to Leslie A. Lyons, an assistant professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, it could be a sign that a cat's muscles and bones are recovering.
Raw fish can be bad for cats.
Another delicacy cartoons would have you believe cats love is raw fish—but that could actually be bad for them, according to the pros at VetStreet. Uncooked fish can contain bacteria that is harmful to cats and can cause food poisoning. Also, an enzyme in raw fish destroys thiamine, an essential B vitamin, which can lead to neurological problems.
Cats can allegedly make more than 100 different sounds.
There's the hiss, the meow, the purr, and (when in heat) the caterwaul—and dozens of variations of each. In comparison, dogs can make only 10 distinct noises. Cats can also communicate through body language, biting, scent signals, and interactions.
Cats and humans have similar emotion centers in the brain.
You have more in common with your cat than you may realize. Both human and cat brains are composed of gray and white matter. What's more, according to reporting by Petful, cats tend to think in the same pattern as humans and, like us, have a long- and short-term memory.
Cats are likely smarter than dogs.
Garfield was right. The cerebral cortex of cats—the part of the brain that is responsible for cognitive information processing—is much more complex in felines than in canines. It also contains twice as many neurons as dogs. Additionally, cats have proven to be better at complex problem-solving than their rival pet.
A cat can jump six times its length.
Just look at any series of YouTube cat videos: They can jump really, really far. By some estimates, felines can traverse six times their body length in a single bound! Cats have powerful muscles in their back legs that help them leap far, and fun fact—they use their tail for balance. That's why they have no problem jumping on tabletops, and even to the top of the refrigerator.
Cats sweat through their foot pads.
Ever wondered why your cat doesn't break a sweat when it's hot out, despite their thick fur? Cats' sweat glands are only found on their paws. In fact, you can often find wet spots from their paws when they are sweating during the hotter months of the year. But more often, when they're hot, cats just look for a cool place to lie down.
A cat's nose is unique.
Your cat's nose may look similar to that of its feline family members, but it's actually got its own distinct markings. So, just how special is your pet's sniffer? "Cats nose prints are as unique as the human fingerprint," says Ochoa.
Cats rub against people to mark their territory.
When they rub themselves on a person or object, cats leave their own personal scent behind. That way, according to the Humane Society, they can mark their territory, letting other cats know they should back off.
Cats use their whiskers in crazy ways.
A cat's whiskers are covered in nerve cells and blood vessels that help them investigate the world around them, according to the Veterinary Centers of America. An average cat's whiskers span about the width of its body, so cats frequently use them to detect if they can fit into a space.