Interesting Cat Facts You Probably Didn't Know

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Rainer Stropek/Flickr

It’s tempting to believe you know everything about your furry, feline friend(s). However, you’re probably wrong. From history and biological anatomy to their behavioral patterns, there’s a lot to know about cats.

Cats are not only fur babies and companions, but also amazing animals in their own right. Some enjoy swimming in warm waters, while others have furry feet to help them travel through the snow. The only certain thing about them is that you still have much to learn.

Cat in Space

Humans don’t have a monopoly on outer space. In 1963, the French launched Félicette — one of over a dozen cats chosen and trained for an outer space mission — into a suborbital flight that lasted about thirteen minutes.

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Photo Courtesy: _freakwave_/Pixabay

The information gathered by this brave kitty astronaut helped scientists better understand gravitational effects and atmospheric re-entry. Sadly, Félicette was euthanized only a couple of months after her amazing space journey, as scientists wanted to study her brain. May Félicette have a peaceful time in cat heaven.

They Can Develop Allergies

It's well-known that people can develop allergies to cats. But did you know that cats can develop allergies to their owners? More specifically, felines can develop asthma or upper respiratory disorders after spending long periods with smokers or those who like to wear a lot of perfume.

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Photo Courtesy: Ihtar/Pixabay

Cats may also develop allergies in a home that contains a lot of pollen, mold, dust or aerosol products. Yes, it's important to remember that a cat's lungs are far smaller, and therefore far less capable, than a human's lungs. Say no to household air pollutants — for you and your cat!

Their Saliva Can Be Dangerous

Although many people can be around cats and not experience any form of an allergic reaction, some people cannot physically be near them, or their owners, for fear of their lives. Most people assume that sufferers are only allergic to cat hair, but this is only partially true.

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Photo Courtesy: Hannibal Poenaru/Wikimedia Commons

While hair of any kind can tickle the nose and bother the sinuses, it’s actually a feline's saliva that produces an allergic reaction in some individuals. While hypoallergenic cats can help people with conventional fur allergies, there’s no way around a saliva allergy.

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Train Station Cat

Japan alone seems to love cats about as much as the entire rest of the internet. In addition to having a whole island literally filled with cats, the country also had the only feline train station master. Her name was Tama, and sadly, she passed away in 2015, but before then, she watched over Kishi Station for sixteen glorious years.

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Photo Courtesy: Sanpei/Wikimedia Commons

The people of the surrounding areas adored Tama, making her a personalized train master's hat and medallion. She also had a small throne to sit upon while she watched the passengers come and go. Hats off to you, Tama!

Black Cats

Black cats have an unfair reputation. Associated with witchcraft, black magic and bad luck, they have been slaughtered and persecuted since the Middle Ages. Even today, people in many cultures fear the sight of a black cat and consider it an omen of ill tidings.

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Photo Courtesy: Nikita/Flickr

However, some folks in Britain and Ireland are more likely to rejoice at the sight of a black cat since they are believed to bring good fortune in ancient British cultures. In Germany, a black cat can be either good or bad, depending on the direction it is walking. Weird, right?

Cat Taste Buds

Cats sure do seem to have a liking for meaty and fishy things, but sweet foods, not so much. That’s because of the 'sweet' receptors on a cat's tongue — they are far less pronounced and active than they are on human tongues.

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Photo Courtesy: peacedreamlady/Pixabay

While you may enjoy a sweet candy bar, chances are, your feline buddy won't. Feeding animals candy is usually an awful idea anyway, as most dogs and cats are allergic to chocolate. Besides, your cat can't even taste the sugar.

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Catnip Fever

Everyone knows that cats go crazy for catnip. At least, most of them do. Approximately one-third of the worldwide domestic cat population doesn't react to catnip at all. Their bodies don't contain the gene that allows them to translate the scent and taste of the plant into psychotropic madness.

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Photo Courtesy: katieb50/Flickr

However, if your tiny kitten isn't responding to catnip, it may be worth giving it some time. Most cats don't have any reaction to the green stuff until they're at least six-months-old. If you want to see your cat flip out on 'kitty drugs,' wait until it’s old enough to do so.

Cat Memes Are Forever

There are a lot of people out there that believe cat memes began with I Can Haz Cheezburger?, But the truth of the matter is far more surprising. People have been looking at cats and thinking, "Oh, how fun!" for ages. Possibly since the dawn of western civilization.

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Photo Courtesy: Karen Arnold/PublicDomainPictures

Photographic proof of this infatuation first appeared during the late 1800s and early 1900s with stylized photos of cats dressed as people while doing human-things such as cooking, hanging with friends and sitting down to dinner. Though these pictures seem a little weird by today's standards, they are some of the first cat memes.

Painful Intercourse

This topic is a bit gross, so if you're easily disgusted, you may want to scroll down now. For those of you with stronger stomachs — or weaker imaginations — here's a tidbit about cat genitalia. Yeah, like you wanted to know. Still — male cats have uniquely formed genitals covered in small barbs.

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Photo Courtesy: tevenet/Pixabay

When they 'get frisky' with a female cat, these barbs scrape the inside of the female, causing her to ovulate. Honestly, this sounds awful. Luckily, we humans have developed a far more user-friendly approach to reproduction and sexual intercourse.

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Lots of Bones

The human body contains many bones — more when we're younger than when we're older, believe it or not! People are born with about 270 bones, but by the time they’re adults, that number has shriveled down to only 206.

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Photo Courtesy: Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

Overall, adult cats beat adult humans in the number of bones by 24. Part of this number is an extra set of ribs not found in humans in addition to tail bones.Just because an animal is smaller doesn’t mean its skeleton is less complex!

Taking the Big Dip

While most domestic cats are afraid of water and swimming in general, there are lots of species of big cats that enjoy going for a dip every now and again. Some of the largest domestic cats, such as the Bengal, Turkish Van and savannah cat are all fond of taking to the water.

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Photo Courtesy: Wildfaces/Pixabay

Biologists theorize that many aquatically oriented felines swim because they have an instinctual need to avoid extreme heat, and keeping cool is easy in a pond or a lake. Added benefit — while you're swimming, you can catch some fish for lunch!

Small Spaces

Cat's don't seem to ever experience claustrophobia. They determinedly seek out small places and wedge themselves there — for better or for worse. This appears to be a safety-related behavior. Cats feel safer when they're in tight, concealed spaces or when they're on the tallest bit of furniture of the house, overseeing all around them.

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Photo Courtesy: alisdair/Flickr

This is because cats once needed to protect themselves from danger while they slept. Because they sleep so often, they need to find a safe spot to curl up in. Usually, this means the laundry basket.

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We've Turned Them Into Permanent Babies

Cats don't meow at other cats in the wild. Even domesticated stray cats only meow when they are kittens or talking to humans. This is a pretty significant finding. It indicates that a feline that develops a relationship with a human mimics certain characteristics of kittenhood for their entire lives.

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Photo Courtesy: HelgaKa/Pixabay

Owners are protectors and providers — the largest, seemingly oldest ones around in the eyes of a pet cat — so it does make sense that they would come to see people as gigantic parents, allowing them never to have to grow up.

They Get Sweaty

A lot of people seem to think that cats don't sweat, but oh, they do. Unlike humans, which have sweat glands dispersed over much of the body, cats only produce sweat from their paws. Or toe beans. Whichever you prefer.

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Photo Courtesy: Steven Sanchez/Flickr

Cats can overheat, and while most domestic cats aren't likely to jump into the pool to cool off, they do pant — just like canines. Opening the mouth and sticking out the tongue doesn't seem like a great way to cool down to humans, but it does help both cats and dogs.

All About That Sleep

Our fuzzy feline companions can spend up to half of their lives sleeping. During a typical day, a cat may spend up to 30 percent of its time at rest. Of course, anyone might sleep half the day away if they had someone feeding, loving and looking after them all the time.

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Photo Courtesy: andrea castelli/Flickr

From a biological point of view, cats sleep most often during the daytime and in the middle of the night. They tend to be most active at dusk and dawn. This habit developed as a way to avoid larger, scarier predators.

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Quotation Marks

Have you ever looked at a pair of quotation marks and thought they looked like cat's claws? If the answer is yes, you think a lot like a Hungarian. Rather than calling them quotation marks, the Hungarians call them cat claws. It does make a lot of sense when you think about it.

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Photo Courtesy: meineresterampe/Pixabay

Those two inky little lines do look like the work of a palm-sized kitten, dutifully punctuating every sentence correctly. On the other hand, it does give quotation marks a dangerous sort of edge that they just don't have in the English language.

Some Like It Cat

Plenty of famous people from modern times and history have been huge fans of the contemporary domesticated feline. Abraham Lincoln loved cats, while Freddie Mercury dedicated whole rooms of his mansion to his furry friends. Ernest Hemingway and John Lennon also had a special affection for kittens.

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Photo Courtesy: The Story Behind/YouTube

It's also important to note that some of history's greatest dictators despised cats. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Ghengis Khan are all known cat-haters.

Jumpers

Cats of all kinds are excellent jumpers. They can leap, they can pounce and they can bounce away into the far distance like tiny panthers. Many domestic breeds can jump up to 6 times their height, which translates to about 12 feet for some cats!

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Photo Courtesy: rihaij/Pixabay

Their amazing jumping ability and lightning-fast reflexes are a result of millennia spent searching for prey. Though they might not know it, that colorful tuft of feathers on the end of a stick is a representation of the animals that a cat's ancestors hunted. Pretty cool, huh?

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Half the Day Cleaning

Cats can spend half the day sleeping, that's true. But they're likely to spend the other half of their day cleaning themselves. Felines tend to be fastidiously hygienic, which is why they don't often share their litter box with another cat.

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Photo Courtesy: OLID56/Pixabay

Because cats spend so much time cleaning themselves, and because most of them are covered in fur, hairballs can become a common issue for some kitties. This ailment is especially common in cats with longer, heavier coats. Owners should be aware that daily brushing and proper nutritional care can lessen the occurrence of hairballs.

Whiskers Aren't Just for Looks

Whiskers may be the equivalent of a beard for cats, but unlike humans, they are more than just facial decoration. Cats depend on their whiskers to let them know about the space around them, kind of like motion-sensing antennae. If a cat's whiskers are damaged or cut, they can experience poor stability and motion control.

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Photo Courtesy: Ian Barbour/Flickr

It may be excruciating for a cat to have their whiskers cut, so it is absolutely vital to avoid doing so at any point. Whiskers naturally fall out and replace themselves over time, so just let nature do its thing.

Colorblindness

Cats don't see things in black and white, but they do experience a very different view of the world. Unlike most humans, cats have difficulty seeing colors like red or pink. Also, the shades of green and blue they perceive are far less saturated and robust compared to the hues people see.

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Photo Courtesy: Apantig/Wikimedia Commons

A bright and grassy hillside may appear brown to a cat, while a striking blue sky could be sort-of grayish. Interestingly, cats are also nearsighted, meaning that humans can see farther, and more clearly, than their kitty counterparts.

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Free Collarbones

The family cat may find itself caught in a precarious position when exploring behind the refrigerator, washer or dryer. Persistent meowing usually lets owners know that something's up. However, the question quickly becomes how the cat ended up in that spot in the first place.

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Photo Courtesy: Andrey/Flickr

The answer, most of the time, is collarbones. A cat's collarbone is not attached to the rest of its skeletal system. It's actually quite flexible compared to most parts of the anatomy. This allows cats to squeeze into any space that's the same size as its collarbone.

They Can Taste Smells

When a cat opens its mouth for a few seconds and makes a face as if it smelled something awful, it may be doing just that, except ten times worse. Cats can taste the air for scents, and particularly strong scents produce the that open-mouthed stank face in felines.

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Photo Courtesy: burak kostak/Pexels

This is just one more reason to be more sensitive to the experiences and needs of your kitty. Though you may not realize how strong your deodorant or cologne is, your cat surely will. The same rule applies to air fresheners and exotic cooking.

Rough Tongues

Unlike the human tongue, which is rather slippery and smooth, a cat's tongue is rough and sandpapery. This is due to the rows and rows of raised, spine-like papillae covering the tongue. Though it might sound gross to have a spine-covered tongue, it suits the needs of cats just fine.

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Photo Courtesy: Jennifer Leigh/Wikimedia Commons

The papillae help a cat to clean itself more thoroughly, which is great since cats can spend a huge portion of their lives cleaning themselves. In the wild, these fleshy spikes also help felines to lick every last bit of meat and tissue from a prey's bones.

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The Preferred Paw

Just like humans, cats have a preferred 'hand' they use to catch things. A cat can be right-pawed or left-pawed, but unlike people - who mostly do things with their right hands - the split is fairly even among the feline population.

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Photo Courtesy: Lisa Zins/Flickr

This 50/50 situation arises from a very peculiar pattern. Most female cats tend to be right-pawed, while most male cats tend to be left-pawed. There is, as of yet, no solid theory as to why pawedness divergence among male and female cats developed. Perhaps it is a forgotten secondary sexual characteristic, but this seems unlikely.

The Truth Behind Purring

Most cat owners think their cat purrs because they are happy and comfortable. While this is true most of the time, it isn't always the case for every cat. Some cats purr when frightened or extremely sick.

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Photo Courtesy: Jeffry Wainwright/Flickr

Think of it like this: Have you ever whistled a happy tune while you were scared or sad to try and cheer yourself up? Cats purr to themselves for comfort in stressful situations, just like that!

My Name Is

There is a substantial amount of evidence that shows that cats do know their names. However, some cat names are more successful than others. Names that end with a '-y' or '-ee' tend to be more effective than others, though more data is needed to draw a solid conclusion on that.

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Photo Courtesy: Ramiz Dedaković/Unsplash

Cats may recognize their names, but they may also choose to ignore you. You can call a cat for ten minutes and get nothing, but shake a treat back and bam — there's a cat. The power of food, people.

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Body Language Is Important

When making a new acquaintance, speaking with a coworker or manager or generally trying to make a good impression, body language is essential. Crossed arms and shifty eyes don't bode well for a potential employee and may cause an applicant to miss an opportunity.

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Photo Courtesy: Marko Blazevic/Pexels

Cats work similarly. They read people and each other for physical signs of how that person or animal may be feeling. Body language is also the primary way that cats communicate with their owners — besides meowing, of course. A raised, slightly curved tail almost always means, "Hello there!"

They Can Be Thieves

There are some pretty hilarious stories of families who ended up adopting a klepto kitty. Some cats, especially ones that have lived through some hardship where food was scarce, like to steal things. Car keys, money, jewelry, plastic or anything else that catches their eyes may end up in a secret treasure trove somewhere.

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Photo Courtesy: imarksm/Pixabay

Sadly, children are often blamed for the burglaries carried out by the household cats. It’s usually only during a move or thorough house-cleaning that parents may find a cat's secret pile of items. Always clean beneath your couch!

They're Pretty Smart

Dogs get a lot of credit for being smart. However, while it may be easier to teach a dog how to sit, rollover and play dead than it would be to try and teach a cat any of those things, that doesn't necessarily mean that cats are less intelligent than dogs.

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Photo Courtesy: Karen Arnold/PublicDomainPictures

Both species are capable of learning and 'using' hundreds, if not thousands of words. They can also follow verbal commands. This sets them at about the same intelligence as a two or three-year-old child. Your fur baby is more like a fur toddler!

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