A Few Facts About House Cats

I am a cat person, although I do like dogs, I prefer a cat.  I love their independence.  Cats are survivors and better at taking care of themselves than a dog.  For example, you can leave a cat alone in your house for a few days and when you return the only response you’ll get from your cat is, “did you go somewhere?”  Do that with a dog and you will return to a house that looks like it has been vandalized.  But that aside, I thought I would share a few tidbits I have found out about cats that you might find interesting.

Jinx 003

1.  Why do cats have whiskers? — “The whiskers, unlike human hair, are actually touch receptors. These longer, stiffer hairs — also called vibrissae — are embedded more deeply in the cat’s body than the shorter top-fur coat. The vibrissae are connected securely to the sensitive muscular and nervous systems, sending information about the surroundings directly to the cat’s sensory nerves, giving it a heightened sense of feeling and helping the cat to detect and respond to changes in its surroundings – sort of like kitty radar.” (taken from http://www.petmd.com)

2.  Why do cats purr? — “Although we assume that a cat’s purr is an expression of pleasure or is a means of communication with its young, perhaps the reasons for purring can be deciphered from the more stressful moments in a cat’s life. Cats often purr while under duress, such as during a visit to the veterinarian or when recovering from injury. Thus, not all purring cats appear to be content or pleased with their current circumstances. This riddle has lead researchers to investigate how cats purr, which is also still under debate.”  (Leslie A. Lyons,  Scientific American, January 27, 2003)

3.  Why do cats wag their tail? — “Cats, use their tails to communicate with other animals. For example, the position of a wolf’s tail can tell another wolf what mood he’s in. A confident wolf holds her tail up high, whereas a frightened wolf holds her tail between her legs; a white-tailed deer shows alarm by flicking her tail; horses flatten their tails between their legs when frightened and lash them back and forth when they are irritated or annoyed.  Likewise, your cat’s tail is a barometer of her feelings. A high vertical tail is a sign of happiness. If that high tail quivers from the base up, it indicates that she is really happy and excited. If that tail goes in the opposite direction and is tucked between the legs, your cat is afraid or trying to avoid a confrontation.  A cat’s wagging tail means various things, each wag is slightly different. Broad wagging, even whopping, indicates annoyance. Your kitty may be curled up next to you enjoying a nice petting session when suddenly she decides that she’s has enough. She will signal this to you by swishing her tail up and down or its tip from side-to-side. If you miss the signal, she may bat at you with her paw, or worse, to make her point.  If she’s really agitated, she will wag her tail rapidly back and forth from the base. This is a threatening signal to warn other cats (and you) to back off. On the other hand, a tail that waves back and forth slowly and gently indicates that your cat is relaxed and happy.” (www.petplace.com)


4.  Why do cats bump their face into yours? — “Scent communication is not only kitty’s way of marking her territory — it also provides her with  a comforting familiarity to her surroundings. Cats often scent-mark things that are most important to them. For example, if your kitty head bunts your face, she is letting you know that she trusts you completely. After all, she is placing herself in a rather vulnerable position, not sure of what your reaction will be. Scent communication is a large part of bonding and expressing emotion for cats.  Bunting spreads the cat’s unique odor “signature” upon whatever she rubs. Sharing this scent quickly identifies you, other family members and objects with a familiar odor. Congratulations, you’re a member of her club.” (www.petsadvisor.com)

cat face

5.  Why do cats walk sideways? — She is being playful or showing off.

6.  Why do cats sleep so much? — “Cats have the physiology of a predator, meaning that they’re hardwired to give chase and hunt — mainly at night. Large cats such as lions have a similar pattern of sleeping during the day and hunting at night. Although they have been domesticated for the most part, housecats still retain that wild streak. Even cats at play will display the feline primal instincts of creepng about in the shadows and, without a whisper of warning, pouncing on their target prey. And hunting prey takes an amazing amount of energy. Whether your kitty is hunting for outdoor prey or tackling a catnip toy, all that sleep he gets is reserve energy for running, pouncing, climbing and stalking.” (www.petmd.com)

Jinx - day two 002

7.  Why do cats meow? — “Adult cats, living apart from humans, have very clear communication with one another. Cat language is spoken mostly through scent, then through facial expression, complex body language and touch.  Cat sounds for vocal communication involve caterwauls for mating, chattering upon spotting prey, hissing to ward off an intruder or shrieking when hurt or terrified. Meowing is not part of natural cat language—it was developed almost exclusively for humans.  The only meowing in cat language is done between a mother cat and her kittens. A kitten’s tiny “mew” is a cute, endearing sound, used to solicit attention and care from mom cat. Once the kittens are grown, the mews and meows would stop, if not for communicating with humans.  So why do cats meow to people? Because meowing is what works. Your cat is dependent on you and quickly learns that you are clearly not picking up the scent messages she leaves on your belongings or the body language she is attempting to use.”  (www.catchow.com)

8.  Why do cats rub up against us? — “By engaging in different types of rubbing, cats mark their territory and establish group scents, which are an important factor in maintaining group identity in multi-cat households. When cats rub up against one another, the activity is called allorubbing.” (http://www.examiner.com/article/why-do-cats-want-to-rub-up-against-you-all-the-time)

I was going to put up 10 things but 8 seems quite enough, and answers most of my “compelling cat questions.”  What I did find in reading the various article associated with cat behavior is that such behavior is shared throughout the animal kingdom, although domestic cats are the only animal that purrs when happy.  Cats in the wild, regardless of type, do not purr although snow leopards and certain other large cats have demonstrated purr-like sounds. Oh, and the two pictures of the black & white (tuxedo) cat are of my cat Jinxie.


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