Reckon yourself a cat lover? Find out how much you really know about our feline friends with this selection of tabby-cat trivia
Cats have two vocal cords
Dogs have a range of around ten sounds, but cats can make over a hundred different noises. This is because they have thick folds of membrane in their larynx, known as false vocal cords, which can vibrate to produce a greater variety of sounds.
Humans and cats have identical regions in their brains that are responsible for emotion. In fact, a cat’s brain is more similar to a human’s than it is to a dog’s brain.
Cats are asleep two thirds of their life
As cats spend around two thirds of their days asleep, a six-year-old cat will only have been awake for two years of its life!
Purring can influence emotion in humans
Karen McComb, a behavioural ecologist, discovered that cats alter their purr when they’re after something. Called the soliciting purr, the cat adds a cry to the sound, giving it a frequency of 380Hz, which is within the range of a human baby cry. Humans intrinsically react to this sound, so when they hear the purr, they naturally respond.
Cats aren’t colour blind as was previously thought, but they do have limited colour perception. It’s agreed they can see blue and green.
They mimic other animals, like snakes
A lot of animals mimic scarier ones if they feel threatened and some behaviour experts believe a cat’s hiss is meant to mimic a snake. It’s easy to see why; in addition to the actual hiss, a cat will push its ears down, bear its fangs, squint its eyes and spray saliva – making it look very snake-like.
Domestic cats are the only ones who walk with their tails straight up. Wild cats hold them horizontally or between their legs.
They use their whiskers like radar
A cat’s whiskers (vibrissae) do more than prevent it getting stuck in things. The whiskers are embedded in tons of nerves and blood vessels, making them work like kitty radar. Thanks to whiskers, a cat can navigate around objects in the dark and also judge distances.
A cat has around 250 bones, ten per cent of which are in the tail. This makes the tail such a good balancing aid.
An undercoat protects them from extreme temperatures
Able to stand high or low temperatures, even indoor cats will grow an undercoat that offers protection from hot or cold. This is why cats can be found happily sleeping next to a radiator oozing out intense heat all evening. Humans will feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature passes around 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), but a cat won’t notice anything up to around 52 degrees Celsius (126 Fahrenheit).
They can reach speeds of up to 48 kilometres (30 miles) per hour over a short distance.
They don’t need to drink to survive
You should always provide water for your cat, but they don’t actually drink much. Cats have evolved to get sufficient water from prey and, like camels, have various tricks for maximum water absorption. A wild cat’s prey is 70 to 75 per cent water, wet food for domestic cats has moisture content of around 80 per cent, but dried food is only around five to ten per cent.
Most cats go nuts for catnip, but about 30 per cent have no response because they don’t possess the necessary gene to make them perky.
A cat’s field of vision is 200 degrees
A human’s field of vision is 180 degrees, but a cat’s is around 200. They also have much better peripheral vision than humans, so even if they aren’t looking directly at an object, they can still track its movements. This is just perfect for keeping a sneaky eye on prey, or treats!
Grooming is important to a cat for maintaining fur, removing smells and cooling down. A cat spends about a third of its waking hours grooming itself.
Cats have scent glands in their paws
When a cat kneads at a surface, they transfer their scent and mark it as belonging to them. They actually have scent glands in the pads on their paws, so when they do this paddy-paw action on your lap, they are basically marking you as their territory.
Cats urine glows in the dark because it contains phosphorus. Ultraviolet light adds additional energy which makes the chemiluminescence easier to see.
They can smell with their mouth
Cats have a special organ just behind their teeth, so when they sniff something good they can open their mouth to collect the smell.
Cats aren’t great at focusing on slow-moving objects and some behaviourists think this is why they wiggle before pouncing, as it helps them pinpoint prey.
This article first appeared in Worlds of Animals issue 6 written by Jo Cole