There are fun tales and facts surrounding our all-powerful cats. Maybe you already know a few or all of them. We present to you 10 unusual cat facts that cat owners would love to know!
As well as cat facts, we are going to address weird questions about felines. Where did the myth come from that cats have nine lives? What’s with cats and cucumbers?
What Unusual Cat Facts Should You Know About?
1. Cat Whiskers Are like Extra Pairs of Sensory Digits
Whiskers don’t only grow on a cat’s face, it’s also on other parts of its body; they’re found above the eyes and lips, on the chin, and the wrists or the back of their front paws. Whiskers have nerve endings at the follicles that deliver signals to the brain when something touches it.
Picture posted by Lois Anne Starr
The carpal whiskers or vibrissae on their wrists detect prey movement that’s already caught on their paws. Because cats can’t see well during the day, the whiskers on their face serve as sensory detectors to warn them of physical objects nearby. The way they’re positioned, pointing forward or back, indicates how your cat is feeling.
Dr. Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University, explains, “…when cats are hunting or excited, their whiskers move forward. When cats are nervous or feel threatened, the whiskers might get pinned back against their face to make them feel as small as possible. When they are relaxed, their whiskers are out to the sides.”
2. Catnip Triggers a Drug-like Euphoria in Felines
Catnip is a herb that belongs to the mint family, used for making tea, bug repellants, and getting your cat high. What makes this herb special is Nepetalactone, the compound it produces that triggers your cat’s behavioral changes.
PetMD cites a study and summarizes that catnip works through the cat’s internal opioid system (which controls pain, reward, and addictive behavior – according to ScienceDaily). Nepetalactone interacts with certain cells in the upper airway that makes the cat’s body release endorphins – natural opioids (which trigger morphine-like effects).
Not all cats experience this drug-like euphoria from catnip though. Does it have benefits for the cat aside from getting high? It relieves pain and reduces anxiety for your feline but it shouldn’t be given in large amounts.
3. Cats Can Drink Salt Water and Still Be Hydrated
Cats can overcome a lot of physical setbacks and survive through the worst of situations, including drinking saltwater to overcome dehydration. However, this is only when it’s necessary. Their kidneys can filter out the high sodium content and retain the water.
This doesn’t mean you should allow your cat to consume water and food with high amounts of salt. Cats have nine lives, not infinite.
4. Cats Share Their DNA with Wild Felines and with Us
Cats share more than 90% of their DNA with wild felines and some of it with us. In a study made to protect endangered species, a team of researchers studied the genomes of tigers, lions, and snow leopards. The findings show that domestic cats shared 95.6% of their DNA with tigers, proving that you indeed are spoiling and loving a small predator in your house, but a cute one!
Your cat also shares DNA with you! Dr. Leslie Lyons, also a professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, goes as far as to say that cats are more genetically similar to humans than other mammals, more so than mice or dogs. I find this interesting among other unusual cat facts, don’t you think so?
5. Cats Can Recall Memories and Have Dreams as We Do
Cats can recall memories although it’s unclear how far back they can remember. Dr. Veronica Cruz Balser of the Metropolitan Veterinary Center in Chicago explains, “It depends on the type of event and emotions/reward/consequence of the event. Memory decay depends on many variables, such as the type of memory used for storing the information, its importance, and its emotional valence.”
Add to that, they also have vivid dreams and nightmares. It happens during REM when the eyes move rapidly and the brain is active at work.
6. Cats Have Three Eyelids
They have upper and lower lids that make up two eyelids, and the third one is the nictitating membrane. It’s found under the two eyelids and it spreads from the inner corner of the eyes to the outer corner.
It’s an extra layer of protection to prevent the eye from being poked or touched. It also keeps the eyeballs moist and responds to inflammation.
7. Cat Purr Has the Power to Heal
Cats purr to soothe and heal themselves. Veterinarians and owners have noted that felines purr when they’re dying, and for what reason? It could be stress, fear, and an attempt to heal itself. The purr has a frequency range between 25 and 150 Hertz.
“Purrs at a frequency of 25-100Hz correspond with established healing frequencies in therapeutic medicine for humans,” says Dr. Gary Weitzman, a veterinarian and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. “Bone responds to 25-50Hz and skin and soft tissues to around 100Hz according to researchers.”
8. Cats Can “Taste” the Air
The act of an animal “tasting” the air or curling the upper lip to expose the teeth with a partially opened mouth is the Flehmen response. Horses and cats were observed doing this.
Above the roof of the mouth, just behind the cat’s front teeth, the vomeronasal or Jacob organ allows the entry of scents to come through as your cat does an open-mouthed expression to absorb the smell, process the information, and taste the air.
9. Cats Have “Floating” Clavicles/Collarbones
Our collarbones are attached to the sternum (a piece of flat bone on our chest) and the other shoulder blade which connects our arms to our body. For cats, their clavicles aren’t attached to other nearby bones but are supported by muscles, hence are “floating”.
Because their clavicles are detached from other bones, their shoulders aren’t locked in place by the collarbones like ours are and it makes it easier for them to crawl into small spaces.
10. Cats Have a Special Ability Called Psi Trailing/Traveling
Ever heard of this yet? Psi trailing or traveling allows cats to navigate their way home to you no matter how far and how difficult. It’s an innate ability found in cats and dogs that are rather difficult to explain, similar to our sixth sense.
Dr. Joseph Rhine, parapsychologist and professor at Duke University, called this unique phenomenon as psi trailing to describe an animal’s psychic-like ability to find its way home even after traveling a long distance.
Did you know any of these unusual cat facts before? We hope you learned something new!
How Do Cats Have Nine Lives?
Cats live up to 15 years on average and felines having nine lives is thought of as a metaphor referring to their unique abilities to survive bad situations. Many have written that it is rooted in Ancient Egypt’s beliefs.
The sun god Ra takes the form of a feline to visit the underworld and has birthed eight gods. With the sun god, it sums up to nine lives for nine gods. Shakespeare also referenced it in his Romeo and Juliet play: “Good king of cats, nothing but one your nine lives.” This play has been published in the late 1500s so this myth has been around for centuries.
Why Are Cats Scared of Cucumbers?
You may laugh but in your cat’s mind, cucumbers are oddly shaped which reminds them of a certain predator that almost everyone fears. Dr. Claudine Sievert from Manhattan, Kansas explains that these fruits look like snakes! But what about bananas?
When you watch the videos of owners pranking their felines with cucumbers, it’s usually left near a cat’s feeding and defecating area, places they’re vulnerable in and so they aren’t as alert. Suddenly, this long and green object appears, so it will startle and scare them! In nature, brightly colored plants and animals are usually poisonous or pretend to be.
Have you learned a lot today from our top 10 unusual cat facts? Our furry companions are very unique creatures and even after thousands of years since their self-domestication, we are still learning more about them and discovering why they do what they do.