While dogs are fairly up-front about things – when they look like they’re happy to see you, they actually are – cats can be a lot more mysterious, and their private lives extend far beyond the knowledge of their owners.
Here are a few nuggets you probably never knew about Australia’s second most popular pet.
1. Cats genuinely do land on their feet
This sounds like a myth, but it’s true – while falling, a cat will rotate its body towards the ground, before splaying its limbs like a parachutist. They’re programmed to self-right in mid-air, providing all their reflexes are in good working order. This isn’t something you want to test though – so just take our word for it.
2. Disneyland employs roughly 200 cats
When the park shuts up shop for the day, Disneyland employs a crack team of feline assassins to keep the rides and stalls clear of rats and mice. If Mickey and Minnie go missing, you’ll know why.
3. Cats cannot taste sweet things
A 2005 study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that cats are incapable of tasting sweetness, as they do not have the corresponding tastebud. To cats, life tastes of salt and bitterness. We guess that explains Grumpy Cat.
4. Cats bring you mice to try to teach you how to hunt
Cats are instinctive hunters, and feline parents will teach their kittens the basics by bringing them dead or dying rodents as beginner-level prey.
Given that you are their surrogate family, it may be of some concern to your cat that you’re self-evidently a rubbish hunter and in need of a guiding paw. An ex-mouse on your pillow is a backhanded compliment – they’re showing they care, but also that they think you’re a bit useless.
5. Cats eat grass to deliberately throw up
Every cat owner can relate. Your moggy meanders into the garden and starts lunching on the lawn, before returning indoors just in time to vomit all over the furnishings. It’s disgusting, certainly, but deliberate – cats cannot digest grass, so eating it is a somewhat unsavoury form of purge.
6. Cats are either right or left-pawed
In the absence of thumbs, cats have limited dexterity, but every kitty is still right or left-sided. For reasons unknown, male cats are usually left-handed while females tend to favour the right.
7. Cats sweat through their paws
Full body sweating would leave a cat’s fur a matted mess, but cats do sweat through their few hairless areas – mostly their paws. This may solve the mystery of the wet paw prints on the floor on a dry day in summer.
8. Cats are an invasive species
That’s right, your beloved Mrs Whiskers is in fact a meddlesome, ecosystem-ruining colonist. Some hold them responsible for the extinction of at least 33 species of bird (although others say there’s no concrete proof that they’re solely to blame). There are now around 600 million stray and domestic cats spread through every nation, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has named cats in the top 100 worst invasive species on Earth.
9. Cat urine glows in the dark
Cat urine contains high levels of phosphorus, so when exposed to UV light it shines like a Christmas tree. We don’t know what anyone would do with this information and, frankly, we don’t want to know.
10. Every cat’s nose is unique
A cat’s nose is equivalent to a human finger, as it bears a pattern of bumps and ridges that is unique to each cat. No-one has yet worked out how to dust for ‘nose prints’, but it might solve who nicked that kipper from your plate while you were in the loo.
11. Purring helps cats heal their bones
Outlandish, we know, but hear us out. A study in 2001 discovered that feline purring measures between 25 and 150 hertz, exactly the range at which bone and tissue repair themselves most effectively. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats as deities, and it’s starting to sound like they had a point.
12. A cat (allegedly) spent 20 years as mayor of an Alaskan town
A mysterious powerbroker in the murky world of Alaskan politics, Stubbs the cat ruled the tiny town of Talkeetna with an iron paw after his election in 1997, by a populace apparently dissatisfied with their human candidates.
Years passed, and Stubbs became something of a celebrity, until his legitimacy was called into question by a reporter for NPR, who pointed out that Talkeetna had never actually had a mayor, let alone a mayoral election. Stubbs died in 2017, bringing an end to the controversy, and his two-decade reign.
13. Cats are lactose intolerant
Movie cats are invariably accompanied by saucers of milk, but real adult cats are better off sticking to water. Like most mammals, adult cats often cannot digest lactose, which can ferment in the gut and lead to an upset tummy.
14. The world’s oldest cat died aged 38
The cat’s name was Creme Puff, and she lived a long and happy life with owner Jake Perry in the city of Austin, Texas. According to Guinness World Records, she was born in 1967 and died in 2005, aged 38 years and three days.
15. Cats were once massacred after an announcement by the Pope (apparently!)
Pope Gregory IX was not a cat person. Following trumped-up reports from an envoy that cats were being worshipped by Satanists, some sources say he released a papal bull condemning the animals. A wave of killing followed, possibly helping rats proliferate before the Black Death.
Do you have a cat? Did you know any of these bizarre facts? Do you have any other interesting bits to add to our list?
– With PA
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