Cool cat facts

Cats usually fall on their feet from heights due to their righting reflex (innate ability to orient itself as they fall in order to land on their feet). The tongue is covered with tiny barbs, which is why it feels like sandpaper rubbing against our skins when they lick us. In proportion to the body, their eyes are relatively large, which gives them a perpetual child-like appearance. Here are some more fascinating facts:

  • Cats can drink seawater because, unlike humans, they can filter out salt and use the water content to hydrate their bodies.
  • They can’t taste sweet things because they have a mutation in their taste receptors that prevents them from being able to taste sugar.
  • Cats can see in the dark, as they need one-sixth of the light level required for human vision.
  • Cats purr at the same frequency as an idling diesel engine, which is about 26 purrs per second. They purr continuously by flowing air past the voice box during both inhalation and exhalation.
  • Cats’ ears can hear ultrasonic sounds, which is what rodents use to communicate. Only cats can hear these sounds, not dogs or humans.
  • Cats are made a bit like ragdolls, because their pelvis and shoulders are only loosely attached to the spine, which makes them flexible; that’s why they can squeeze into tight spaces.
  • Cats are awake for only one third of the day – which averages to 16 hours a day of sleep. This is because they are carnivores and their body is nurtured for intense, brief bursts of energy to catch prey, followed by a meal, and then the necessity of a long period of rest to prepare for the next hunt.
  • Cats spend one third of their awake time grooming themselves.
  • They use their mouths to smell things. When they smell something distinctive, they open their mouth slightly, crinkle their nose and pull back on the upper lip, performing what is known as the ‘Flehmen’ response.
  • The barbs on their tongues are rear facing and help them lap up water and pull food into their mouths. This also helps them groom themselves effectively by pulling off loose fur and debris.
  • They have whiskers everywhere, not just on their cheeks – but also the chin, eyebrows, and front legs. Whiskers are sensitive touch receptors that help in orientation. It is important to never trim the whiskers as cats can become disoriented and unable to navigate.
  • They walk and run on their toes, not their feet. Also, instead of a left-right or right-left movement, they move both left legs or both right legs simultaneously.
  • In medieval times, when women accused of being witches were burnt at the stake, their cats were often tossed in the flames too. These cats, often black, were saved only if they possessed a small amount of white fur somewhere on their body. The white represented the presence of God. Thus, white patches on black cats are called, ‘God’s Thumbprint’ or “An Angel’s kiss/mark’.
- By Garima Subghal
(Garima Singhal is a behaviourist and neurobiologist)


Did you know?
In 2008, police in Misiones, Argentina, found a boy amongst eight wild cats. The cats must have snuggled up to the boy at night during freezing temperatures and kept him warm and alive. The one-year-old ate scraps of food the cats dragged in. The cats licked him and bathed him as if he were their own. The child was discovered in a gutter surrounded by cats. As the police tried to approach the boy, the cats got protective and spat at the officers


Fun Fact!
Isaac Newton invented the cat flap door because when he was sitting in the garden ‘waiting’ for the apple to fall on his head; his cat kept interrupting him to get inside or outside!

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