Now that I’m home for the summer, I have to come clean about something central to my personality. Mom, Dad, I’m sorry… I’ve become a cat lady.
Now, I know you’re going to argue that at 19 I am simply too young to know for sure, but let us be realistic here. I smuggled a kitten home for spring break in the back of a friend's car. It’s a long life filled with sweaters sprinkled in cat hair staring me in the face and, really, I’m okay with that. The only thing I can do now is try and spread my fascination with all things that go meow in the night with this handy dandy list of things you probably didn’t know about cats.
1. They can tell if their bodies can fit through doorways via their whiskers.
Their whiskers act as what are known as touch receptors. Technically, the breadth of their “muzzle whiskers” is equal to or greater than the widest part of a cat’s body. This does not always hold true for overweight cats who often get stuck halfway through an opening.
2. The chirping sound they make at prey is a hunting call that demonstrates excitement and is designed to mimic the sound of birds.
This noise, called “chattering” by scientists, has recently been considered a form of mimicry rather than just excitement after a wildcat was seen trying to imitate monkey calls while stalking its prey. Pretty cool huh?
3. Cats knead to demonstrate contentment as a leftover response from nursing.
Adult cats often make this motion on soft cloth or the limbs of unsuspecting humans when happy, usually accompanying it with a low rumbling purr. Surprisingly enough, kittens do the same thing when nursing to stimulate the mother into making more milk. It seems that adult cats who knead are returning to the same feelings of safety and home! It also might help them infuse the area with their scent, too, since they have scent glands in their paws.
4. When cats are happy or pleased they squeeze their eyes shut.
While a simple behavior, it’s a way a cat can signal trust to you. “Hey human, I’m just going to chill right here and you’ll protect both of us right? Good.”
5. Cats are actually lactose intolerant.
While some kitties might purr for their favorite treat, those bowls of milk aren’t treating their tummies so kindly. Just like humans, cats get more and more lactose intolerant as they age and vets encourage owners to give milk based treats rarely and in very small amounts until you know how your furry friend’s digestive system reacts.
6. Eating onions can cause the red blood cells in cats to burst due to the presence of the ingredient thiosulphate.
Thiosulphate, even in really small amounts, causes what’s called hemolytic anemia or damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can thus cause them to burst, killing the animal at a rapid pace. The same holds true for dogs as well as cats.
7. Shoving their head against the wall, called head pressing, is actually a sign of a brain condition that needs to examined by a vet immediately.
The act of compulsively pressing the head against a wall or another object with no apparent reason is a sign of neurological damage, usually to the nervous system. It can emerge from anything from exposure to toxic materials, such as lead, or a previously unnoticed brain tumor, but if any cat or dog owner notices this behavior popping up a trip to the vet is needed immediately.
8. A group of kittens is called a “kindle.” A group of grown cats is called a “clowder.”
9. Cats sleep between 16 and 20 hours a day.
Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours. The rest of the time they spend conserving energy for hunting, only grabbing five minute stretches of rem sleep and spending the rest in a wakeful doze. Since humans are diurnal, domestic cats tend to adjust their sleeping habits around when their owners are most active and their feeding schedules. Kittens and older cats will tend to sleep the longest.
10. Female cats tend to be right pawed, while male cats are more often left pawed.
Interesting enough, while 90% of humans are right handed, the remaining 10% of lefties also tend to be male.
11. A young and healthy cat can jump around six times their body length (or over eight feet).
12. There’s now a cat lover library in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The Doña Ana County Government Center allows employees to “check out” shelter kittens and take them to their desks for cuddle time! The library itself has been in business for three years now and gets its cats from the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley. The cats help workers deal with the day to day stressors of their jobs and in return the visibility provided by having adoptable cats in a lobby traversed by hundreds of people every day allows for an increased number of kittens finding their forever homes.
13. Cat Cafes are now popping up across America
The first cat cafe of America opened its doors in Oakland, California in late 2014. Since then, New York had a pop-up cat cafe this April and others are scheduled to emerge in Portland, Los Angeles, Denver, Denver, San Diego and Seattle. The idea, however, came from Taiwan. Visitors buy carefully crafted coffees and get to spend their afternoons playing with cats as both a perfect way to de-stress and hopefully find a new housemate. Each cat pouncing or napping along the elaborate play area is from a local shelter and fully adoptable. The pop up cafe in NYC, like many counterparts in Asian countries, ran for the most part on the money the owners make on refreshments and small packages of cat treats designed to lure shy cats out into the open. Others subsisted on donations.
14.The cost of taxpayer money annually to round up, house, kill and dispose of homeless animals is $2 billion.
15. 70% of cats in animal shelters are euthanized.
While not everyone is a cat lover like me, the percentage of animals killed in overcrowded animal shelters to “make room” for new arrivals is disturbingly high. Rather than throw away around $2 billion for the purpose of distributing death, people should support the growth of more cat cafes and cat libraries that help take the strain off of shelters and provide an incredible place to relax.