Cats have captivated our hearts for centuries with their endearing behaviors. These enigmatic feline companions often leave us with a myriad of questions about their habits, physiology and interactions.
From the curious quirks of their daily routines to the intricacies of their senses, the world of cats is a fascinating realm. Learn more about this realm with these 10 facts about our furry friends.
A 2007 study concluded Felis silvestris lybica was domesticated at least 9,000 years ago, somewhere in the Middle East, as grain cultivation spread, and farmers needed reliable pest control.
Over time, a mutually beneficial relationship developed between cats and humans. Cats provided pest control, and humans may have provided food scraps and shelter.
The earliest archaeological evidence of a human relationship with cats is a kitten buried beside a human on the island of Cyprus about 9,500 years ago.
Boats were too small for stowaways back then, so researchers say the cat must have been brought there purposefully.
Read More: Cats Ruled These 4 Ancient Civilizations
Your kitty’s ancestor was a solitary hunter of small prey, as opposed to dogs’ ancestors, that were large-game pack hunters. That’s why a dog tends to gulp down a big meal while a cat prefers to eat several smaller meals throughout the day.
Cats will hunt even if they’re not hungry. The University of Georgia’s KittyCam project, which outfitted 60 free-roaming pet cats with video cameras, found that only 28 percent of the prey caught was consumed. Half of the kills were simply left in situ — the rest were brought home to lucky owners.
Evolved for low-light hunting, cats’ eyes are proportionally enormous. In Cat Sense, John Bradshaw explains that their eye size makes focusing between near and far so difficult that the muscles develop with an environmental bias. Outdoor cats tend to be farsighted, while most indoor cats are nearsighted.
They are nearsighted, but not close-sighted. Because their eyes are so large, cats can’t focus on anything less than a foot in front of them — but their whiskers can swing forward to feel what they can’t clearly see.
Read More: How Long Can Cats Be Left Alone?
Cats may not see fine details as humans do, but they possess an exceptional capacity for night vision due to the abundance of light-sensitive rod cells in their retinas.
Consequently, cats can effectively navigate and see in conditions with approximately one-sixth of the light intensity required by humans.
Cats have an exceptional sense of smell, which plays a crucial role in their daily lives. Cats have between 45 to 80 million olfactory receptors in their noses, while humans have only about 5 million.
This means that cats have many more receptors dedicated to detecting and processing scents, making their sense of smell much more acute. Additionally, the vomeronasal organ helps cats detect minute chemical clues about their environment, including the proximity and status of other cats.
A cat’s sense of taste is not so impressive, though: They’re one of the few mammals that lack taste receptors for sweetness.
That’s probably because cats need meat, not sweets. Cats are obligate carnivores that get their energy from protein rather than carbohydrates.
Catnip is an herbaceous plant, that elicits various responses in cats due to its active compound, nepetalactone. When cats encounter catnip, they often display playful antics, including rolling, pouncing and chasing imaginary prey. Some cats may vocalize more, while others become more relaxed.
Catnip can also induce a temporary sense of euphoria and heightened excitement. However, not all cats are affected by catnip, as sensitivity to it is inherited. These effects typically last for about 10 minutes.
Read More: Why Your Kitty Gets High on Catnip
Most cats have five toes on their front paws but only four on their back paws. Some cats, known as polydactyl cats, have extra toes. This condition is commonly found in Maine Coon and Pixie Bob cats, as well as in outbred cats.
Ernest Hemingway was known for keeping polydactyl cats at his home in Key West Florida, which are still famously referred to as Hemingway Cats.
The average lifespan of a domestic cat can vary depending on various factors, including breed, diet, environment and the quality of veterinary care. On average, indoor cats tend to live longer than outdoor cats due to reduced exposure to dangers like traffic, predators and diseases.
Indoor cats typically have a longer lifespan and can live around 20 years with proper care. Some cats have been known to reach their mid-20s. Cats that spend significant time outdoors face more risks, including accidents, fights with other animals, exposure to diseases, and environmental hazards. As a result, their lifespan is generally shorter, with an average of 2 to 5 years.
The world of cats is a rich tapestry filled with mystery and wonder, leaving us with more to ask and discover. Whether you’re a seasoned cat owner or simply an admirer of these enigmatic beings, the pursuit of knowledge about cats is never-ending.
This article was originally published on Aug. 24, 2014 and has since been updated.