If you frequent this column you’ll know that I classify myself as a cat lady (threat level yellow). Indeed the two things I love most in this world are cats and science. Therefore, if I can use science to demonstrate why cats are the greatest animals on this planet, I will.
Humour me, dog lovers, after all it is the holiday season.
Fun cat fact: Cats were domesticated before dogs. Unlike dogs, cats were not domesticated as a food source, but for hunting small rodents and their pleasant company.
Cute Kitty Poses
Part of what makes cats so adorable is their ability to contort into hilariously cute shapes both for their own amusement, and to beguile us into rubbing their tummies. (I just can’t say no!) Cats are able to do this due to the increased flexibility conveyed by having extra vertebrae in their spinal columns. This is why my cat laughs when I try and do yoga.
Napping the Day Away
Your cat doesn’t wake you up at 4 am because he loves you, it’s because he doesn’t have any circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms tell you when to wake up and when to go to sleep. They are caused by hormonal shifts in your body. Your cat doesn’t have this luxury and therefore naps… well, whenever he isn’t eating.
Cats like it hot! Your cat’s body temperature doesn’t vary much throughout the day; it remains constant at about 38 degrees. They can tolerate extreme heat (so don’t be afraid of snuggling your kitty too much and causing her to over heat). Cats can actually tolerate temperatures up to 56 degrees, which may explain why my cat loves to sit in the dryer on hot summer days.
Night Vision Eyeballs
Cats have excellent night vision for watching you sleep. The back of human retinas have a special layer designed to absorb incoming light, which prevents it from reflecting off the back of the retina and re-exciting the rods and cones in our eyes responsible for vision. Cat eyes don’t contain this specialized layer, and therefore any incoming light stimulates their rods and cones again. This is what gives cats excellent night vision, because whatever light does enter their eyes is bounced around, exciting the neurons more than in humans. They can see in approximately 1/6 the amount of light required for humans to see. Cats can also see color, mainly blue and green but in some conditions can distinguish red and green!
Prickly tongues! If a cat has ever licked you, you know it’s an exfoliating experience. These barbs are called papillae and work like little combs when your cat grooms itself. It also helps scrape meat from bones when large cats feed on their prey.
“I ain’t been droppin’ no eaves sir, honest.”
Think you can talk about kitty behind her back? Think again. Cats hear higher sounds than both humans and dogs. A cat can literally pinpoint the origin of a sound within a few inches within six one-hundredths of a second. They can also distinguish tones very precisely. This enables them to determine the size of their prey before seeing them. This also might mean your cat knows when you’ve gained a few.
The Mystery of the Purring
Cat purring is a huge mystery, and scientists actually don’t know the answer! Cats appear to purr when they are content, but they have are also known to purr in response to stress or injury. They can purr at a frequency of between 25 to 150 Hertz, and some research suggests this frequency can aid in healing of bone and tissue. A recent study even suggests that low frequency purring by the cat is a means of activating their muscle tissues and metabolism while lying around being lazy all day. It’s interesting to note that large cats, notably lions and tigers, can roar but cannot purr, whereas large cats like mountain lions and bobcats are still able to purr.
Cat in High Heels
Cats walk directly on their toes: not only does it make them feel taller, but it aids in their precise movements. Their soft paw pads dissipate excess noise while stalking prey (your feet), and some cats have what are called toe tufts. My cat has very long toe tufts. He assures me they are really in vogue this year, and these also aid in muffling excess noise while he stalks spiders near his litter box in the middle of the night.
Intra-whisker Communication System
Cats’ whiskers enable them to navigate seamlessly in the dead of night. Whiskers are chalked full of nerve endings which enable the cat to detect changes in air pressure and currents. Changes in these currents let the cat know if he’s on a crash course with your television or not. Scattered in your cat’s hair are tylotrichs, large hairs that function much the same as whiskers, detecting changes in air pressure and light vibrations.
It’s not too late to run and get your special someone a little kitty from the Humane Society for Christmas, you know!