Cats are cute, furry, and one of the most common house pets in the world. Cats are incredible creatures and unique in so many ways. Although you may know how to interpret the meow, mew, and yeow, and even know how cats stretch before they fall asleep, they are more complex than you would imagine. From the shape of their eyes to their specialized taste buds and the reason they purr, the unique behavior of cats cannot be understated. Cats may be quiet and fond of their alone time but there is much more to them than meets the eye. Here are ten amazing facts about cats.
10. Cats can't climb with their heads down.
Cats can climb up a tree with ease but coming down the same way is a challenge to them. A cat would rather jump from a tree than climb down with its head first down. To get down, a cat must back down or jump. Cats’ claws are curved backward and that facilitates climbing up a tree or wall. They simply hook their claws in the cracks and push themselves upward. When coming down head first the claws curve upwards and cannot hold them securely on a tree or climbing surface. Cats that do not know what to do while up a tree will remain there until help comes their way.
9. Cats have more bones than humans - many of which are in their tail!
Even though the human body is obviously larger than that of a cat, cats have many more bones - approximately 11% more, in fact. A cat skeleton is composed of 250 - humans have 206. Most of the extra bones are found in the backbone extending to the tail which gives the cat extra flexibility. Cats have 2 or 53 vertebrae compared to humans’ 32 to 34. The famous flexibility of cats can be attributed to extra bones. The tail alone has 19 to 23 vertebrae - about 10% of the bones in the body!
8. Cats can run up to 30 miles per hour.
Although you may think that cats are lazy because they sleep most of the time when it comes to speed they are some of the fastest animals. A domesticated cat can run up to 30 miles per hour in a short spurt. When a cat walks it moves both left legs then both right legs but when running both of the back legs move in front of the front legs launching it airborne for a moment. The technique combined with the flexibility of the spine makes a cat such superb runners. The napping for a long period also helps the cat conserve its energy that is required to propel it to such speeds.
7. Calico and tortoiseshell cats are almost always female.
While any breed of cat can be born with calico fur, the majority of these cats are female with only one in three thousand calico cats being male. Just like in humans, female cats have X-chromosomes while the male ones both X and Y chromosomes. The male cats can pass either X or Y chromosomes to their offspring while the female can only pass X chromosome. In Cats, the X chromosome determines most of the fur color. A male offspring receives only the X chromosome from the mother while the female receives X chromosome from the mother and father. One of the X chromosomes will be deactivated in each cell. Simply put, since the female has two X chromosomes they are able to display two different colors and white creating a calico.
6. Cats only meow for humans
Meowing is an interesting vocalization produced by adult cats. It is a way of communicating with people. Interestingly cats do not meow to other cats or other animals, just at people. Kittens on the other hand meow to communicate to their mothers but once they grow big, they no longer meow to other cats. Cats meow to greet people, solicit attention, to ask for food, ask to be let in or out. Adult cats speak to each other through scent, facial expression, and complex body languages. Cats use different types of meows depending on the situation. A pleasant meow sound is used to solicit food while a loud unpleasant meow is used to express annoyance.
5. Cats sleep up to 18 hours a day.
Cats are one of the top sleepers in the animal kingdom, spending about 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping irrespective of their ages. A new born cat may spend 24 hours sleeping. Interestingly, a nine-year-old cat has stayed awake for only three years. Cats are most active at dusk and dawn and spend most of the daytime sleeping. Cats also use a lot of energy to chase their prey and so the sleep helps the cat to reserve the energy for running and stalking. During deep sleep, cats experience rapid brain movement. The deep sleep lasts about five minutes while the dozing lasts about 15 minutes. The deep sleep and dozing alternate for hours until the cat wakes up.
4. Cats dream!
Cats not only spend most of the day sleeping but also dream in their sleep. Like humans, cats experience Rapid Eye Movement sleep, a stage where most dreaming occurs. Their dreams do not differ with that of humans since they also dream about day-to-day activities. A cat that is twitching, chattering and moving its paws while sleeping is most likely dreaming. The most significant indication of dreaming in cats is utterly slack and relaxed conditions. Cats may also sleepwalk but in reality sleepwalking only occurs in brain-damaged cats. Cats are likely to fulfill their dreams by chasing toys or convincing the owner to feed it again.
3. In many places, declawing your cat is illegal.
Declawing is a form of operation to remove an animal’s claw. Although common in some parts of North America, declawing is considered an act of cruelty to the animal. Most of the cats kept as pets are declawed to prevent them from scratching or damaging furniture and flower beds. Declawing is a serious problem for the cats. Several countries including the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Israel, Brazil, Australia and some states in the US have banned the practice of declawing. One is likely for face a jail term of up to one year or pays a $20,000 fine for declawing a cat.
2. They navigate using the sunlight.
How a lost cat can find its way back home without a map remains a mystery to many people today. A cat is able to walk a long distance from its new home back to the former foster owner without getting lost. Cats have mental maps that not only store the memory of their paths throughout the day but also help them find their way in case they are lost. Cats also navigate by observing the angle and position of the sun and maybe the polarization of the sunlight.
1. Cats sweat through their paws.
As cats evolved as desert animals, they are able to cope up with heat. However, the ways in which cats sweat are very different than the way sweat manifests in humans. Cats’ actually sweat through their paws. If a cat overheats, it secretes sweat through her paws. A cat may leave a trail of wet footprints on the floor. However, since paws have small surface area, a cat develops other strategies to cope with the heat such as panting or excessive cleaning.