The cat has replaced the dog as America's favorite pet, with 66,000 pet cats in the U.S. compared to about 58,000 dogs. It has been said that it takes intelligence and understanding to win the affection of a cat. Here are some interesting facts about the fabulous feline to increase your understanding and perhaps bring you closer to your own furry companion.
Most people know that cats were sacred in ancient Egypt. In fact, killing a cat was punishable by death. In 2004, the skeleton of a human was found buried with the skeleton of a cat in Cyprus, Greece, in a grave dating back approximately 9,500 years. Previously, scientists thought cats had been domesticated only about 6,000 years ago.
Similarity to Humans
Cats and humans have some common physiological traits. For instance, a cat's brain is more similar to a human brain than a dog's; the regions of the brain responsible for emotion are identical in both humans and cats; and cats have AB blood types, just like people. A cat's memory is 200 times more retentive than a dog's, and the cat's memory lasts longer than that of monkeys and orangutans.
Cats have about 100 different vocalization sounds, while dogs have about 10. Purring is part of that social communication repertoire. Cats purr at the same frequency as an idling diesel engine -- approximately 26 cycles per second -- and they purr while both inhaling and exhaling. Most often, purring is a sign of contentment, but it can also be used by severely ill or anxious cats as a form of self-comfort and even healing. Mother cats use it to summon their kittens, and the kittens purr as they suckle milk from their mother. Kittens knead their mothers' abdomens to stimulate the flow of milk, and adult cats will often mimic this kneading motion while purring.
The cat's tail can be used as a barometer of his emotions. Common examples are: 1. Held up straight while walking or bent forward over the head, the tail signifies a confident, contented cat. 2. Tucked under, the cat is fearful or anxious. 3. Twitching sharply side to side means, "You'd better quit bugging me, or you'll be sorry." Other "statements" made by the tail include: waving gently from side to side means contentment; several quick flicks upward is meant as a greeting -- to humans as well as other cats.
Unlike humans, cats cannot survive without eating meat. Cats need more protein than most other animals -- five times more than dogs -- and they must have fat in their diets, as they cannot produce it on their own. They have short digestive tracts and teeth designed for shearing and tearing meat. Most important, however, is the fact that cats need taurine. Humans can get this protein from vegetable sources, but cats cannot. Cats who have a taurine deficiency can develop feline central retinal degeneration, which leads to blindness, or even worse, dilated cardiomyopathy, a fatal heart disease.
Famous Cat Lovers
Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale, and Leonardo DaVinci were all cat lovers. Ernest Hemingway loved cats as well, and his Key West estate continues to be home to many polydactyl cats, believed to be descendants of a six-toed tomcat presented to Hemingway by a sea captain. The cats have multiplied and can be found throughout the island.
Cats' noses are like human fingerprints -- each one is different. Most cats are either left- or right-pawed; only 40 percent of all cats are ambidextrous. Domestic cats can reach speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, though they cannot maintain that speed for more than a minute. Cats' whiskers are used to help the cat determine whether it can fit through an opening. Cats prefer their food at the temperature of freshly killed prey, and they like it cut into bite-sized chunks. About 60 percent of all cats like cold tomato juice, but they do not care for V8.