The following information was taken from Pawprints & Purrs, Inc ; I have posted it here for my sole purpose, in the event it becomes no longer available, that I might still be able to read it.  The Pawprints & Purrs, Inc site is a wonderful non-profit site dedicated to cats and dogs, and is, in my opinion, very worthy of a financial contribution, ALL of which goes directly to the animals, as there are no salaries or administrative fees.
(I have taken the liberty of making a few typographical corrections from the original version.)

Why Do Cats ... ?

Have you ever wondered why cats sulk, do they dream, why and how do they purr, why they knead, why they bury their waste products, why do they hiss and spit, are they smart? Here you will find answers to many cat behaviors and characteristics which are human curiosities, but the norm to cats.
Why do cats sulk?
Humans are huge to a cat. When you scold him, you are intimidating him. And when you look down upon a cat to discipline him, he associates your fixed gaze with a rival. The eyes of many animals are a signal of power. In comparison to a cat's size, his eyes are enormous. In hostile situations, a dominant cat will stare at his rival, who will look away rather than increase the hostility. So when your cat turns away after disciplining, he isn't ignoring you; he's surrendering.

Why does my cat interrupt my phone calls?
He isn't jealous - he doesn't have any idea that you are speaking to someone else. He thinks you are talking to him.

Why do cats go to the one person in the room who doesn't like cats?
When a cat enters a room full of people who are staring at him, he becomes very uncomfortable. Then he notices that one person is totally ignoring him - the person who dislikes cats for whatever reason. The cat goes to that person to seek a safe haven from those who are fawning over him or intimidating him.

Why are cats so curious?
By nature, the cat is an explorer and is constantly on the hunt - not always for food, but also to satisfy his quest for the unknown.

Do cats dream?
As do humans, cats alternate phases of deep and light sleep. Dreaming occurs during the deep sleep phase. During a cat's deep-sleep phase the give-away is movement of his paws and claws, twitching of his whiskers, and flicking his ears. Sometimes he vocalizes.

Why do cats' tails quiver?
When a cat's tail is quivering, it can mean mild irritation. If erect and the whole length seems to be quivering with excitement, it means exactly that - excitement.

Why do cats swish their tails?
One reason is to get his balance before leaping. The other is to mesmerize the prey he is looking at. Since the cat can't see prey if the prey becomes still, he moves his tail to initiate the slightest movement in his target, which he can then spot.

What does it mean when a cat lashes his tail from side to side?
The tail waving quietly from side to side means contentment. If the cat is sitting quietly with his tail gently wagging back and forth, he's concentrating intently on something. Vigorous lashing back and forth is of anger. It signals annoyance and a good sign that the cat is upset. Tail wagging somewhere in between heavy duty and half-hearted can mean that he is indecisive.

What else does a cat's tail tell?
When the tail is bent forward over the head, it means the cat is feeling like top cat. When it's waved quietly side to side like a lady's fan, the cat is contented. Several quick flicks upward is a greeting to both humans and other cats.

What do the different ear positions mean?
There are five basic ear signals, revealing if the cat is feeling relaxed, alert, agitated, defensive or aggressive. When the ears are pointed forward and slightly outward, the cat is relaxed and carefully listening to everything that is going on. When erect and facing forward, the cat is alert and ready to investigate any noise that has been heard. When they twitch nervously back and forth, the cat is agitated or anxious. The ear twitching may be accompanied by two quick flicks of the tongue around the lips. When the ears are flattened tightly against the head, the cat is signaling annoyance and is feeling defensive. A cat will pin the ears back to protect them during a fight. When feeling aggressive but not frightened, a cat's ears will be in a position somewhere between alert and defensive.

What can we tell about a cat's behavior from his fur?
When alarmed or startled, the hair will stand up on all over the body. When threatened (as when another cat is about to attack), the hair stands up only in a narrow band along the spine and on the tail. The hair will incline slightly toward the middle from both sides, and will form a sharp ridge. This will make the cat appear larger than he is to any enemies.

What do the different positions of the whiskers reveal?
When pointed forward and fanned out, the cat is tense - alert, excited and ready to act. When the whiskers are bunched together and flattened to the side of the face, he is feeling reserved, timid, or shy. When pointed sideways and aren't spread out, the cat is comfortable, calm, relaxed, friendly, satisfied, or indifferent.

Why do cats arch their backs?
The cat's arching back is actually part of his complex body-language system. Not only does he arch his back as a form of stretching "sleepy" muscles after a nap, the arched back is also a form of showing that the cat is feeling threatened. In the latter case, the arched back is usually accompanied by his hair standing out all over his body, especially on his tail. He may even turn sideways to present an even more impressive profile to scare away a threatening animal. His arch is able to get so high because his spine contains nearly 60 vertebrae (humans only have about 34) which fit together loosely, giving him that incredible flexibility.

Why do cats suddenly take off at 90 miles an hour?
This behavior is due to pent-up energy that suddenly overflows. Cats are nocturnal beings and natural hunters. Even in an environment where there's nothing to hunt, or the cat no longer needs to hunt, he will feel the need to hunt anyway. At full hilt, a cat clocks an amazing 31 mph and covers about three times his own length per leap. Cheetahs, which are the fastest land animals, hit their stride at around 70 mph.

What does it mean when a cat does that unusual little hop?
When a cat zips over to you, bumps against your leg, quickly lifts both front paws off the ground together and puts them down again in a little hop-like manner, it's generally reserved just for humans. It's a throwback to the head-to-head greeting behavior he learned from his mother. She would lower her head to make face-to-face contact and rub noses with him in order to mingle scents. Since humans are so tall, and a cat is so short, this is his welcoming greeting.

Why do cats rub against your leg?
When a cat rubs his head or the side of his chin against you, the furniture, or any object, he is actually depositing his scent on them as part of territorial marking. He uses his glands on his forehead and around his mouth and chin. These glands produce chemicals called pheromones, which he transfers by rubbing against objects. Cats can tell how long ago a scent was left and how much attention they need to pay to the warning.

Why do cats roll over and expose their stomachs?
A rare form of greeting, the ultimate compliment that a cat can pay to a human. This body language shows how much he cares for you and how comfortable he is around you. Totally exposing the stomach reveals how secure he feels, because the stomach area is the must vulnerable body part of the cat. He can be asking for a caress, inviting you to play with him, or may want the stomach area stroked. If he sleeps on his back this way, his trust in you is in the stratosphere.

Why do cats chase birds?
Cats are a bundle of instincts and are carnivores (meat-eaters). They will play with anything that moves because they are hunters. Never mind that the prey is a nutrition-less, tasteless cat toy, they do what comes naturally.

Why won't cats come when called by their name?
More than likely, your cat won't answer your call because he is napping or something of much more interest is holding his attention, meaning that he doesn't see any reason to stop what he is doing.

Why makes a cat purr?
Cats (big and small) are the only animals who purr. Contrary to popular belief, purring isn't speaking. The purr comes from two membrane folds, called false vocal cords, that are situated in the larynx behind the actual vocal cords. Cats purr 26 cycles per second, the same as an idling diesel engine. Cats purr both when inhaling and exhaling, keeping the mouth completely closed. Scientists believe purring is produced by blood in a large vein in the chest cavity that vibrates and is then magnified by air in the windpipe. Kittens are born blind and deaf, but the vibrations of their mother's purring is a physical signal that the kittens can feel. It acts as a homing device, signaling them to nurse. Kittens begin purring at about one week old; then it's a signal to the mother cat that they're getting their milk and are content. Since purring is non-vocal, it doesn't interfere with the suckling. Contrary to another popular belief, cats don't purr purely for pleasure. Be alert: a deep purr can indicate that a cat is in pain or distress. Female cats will purr when in labor. Cats may purr in fear or anxiety. They will also purr in anticipation of being fed or stroked. Big African cats only purr in short bursts, but the house cat can purr for hours. Curiously, scientists tell us that a cat never purrs when alone.

Why do cats act as if they were born to be stroked?
Cats carry many of their kittenhood memories into adulthood. They respond to our stroking because they see us as a substitute for their mothers. They interpret our stroking as if they were being groomed by their mother's tongue as kittens.

Why do cats knead?
That loud purring followed by the sharpening of claws on some soft spot of your body is called "milk-treading." When you relax and sit quietly, you're giving your cat the same signal he got from his mother when he was a kitten - that his mother was ready to let him suckle. A nursing kitten instinctively uses his paws to draw out the milk, gently pushing on his mother's stomach to increase the milk flow. When older cats behave this way, it's a good sign that they're happy, content, and probably recalling their kittenhood.

Why do cats get stuck in trees?
Their claws are constructed for climbing up. When they attempt to climb down headfirst (and normally this is what they will try to do first), it's impossible for them because the claws are curved the wrong way. Eventually, a cat will figure out how to go down the correct way - shimmying down backward so that the claws will cling to the bark of the tree.

Why do cats torture their prey?
Because humans look at hunting as either a sport or cruelty, we overlook the fact that the cat is a natural born hunter possessing a marvel of cunning and skill. Cats who have to live off their catch will kill and eat what they catch immediately. House cats, regardless of the fact that they are domesticated, may hunt but do not kill because they aren't hungry. Most house cats are never trained by their cat mothers to hunt and kill swiftly, so the kill becomes a toy - it moved and was caught by the cat who now regards it as a play object.

Why do cats cover their feces?
Many people believe they bury their waste products because they are fastidious. That isn't necessarily so. In the wild, only secondary cats bury their waste to protect their trail from predators. The dominant feline will actually display his or her feces prominently. This sends a strong message of dominance. In the world of house cats, you are the dominant animal and the house cat chooses not to offend you. They will carefully bury their feces to eliminate interfering with what they perceive as the natural order.

Why do cats like high places?
Anything up high gives cats a great view from which to keep an eye on their property. It's safe and secure, and they can keep a lookout for prey.

Do cats have a memory?
Cats have a memory that can be up to 200 times more retentive than dogs. The individual feline uses his memory only for what he regards as useful functions; therefore, a cat's memory is quite selective.

Why do cats chatter when seeing a bird?
The odd behavior that resembles teeth-chattering is usually produced when a cat sees something he wants but can't get to it. Though his mouth is slightly open (the lips pulled back and the jaw opening and closing rapidly), it's not a form of communication. The noise made is a combination of lip-smacking and teeth-chattering as he gets more excited. He may emit small bleating noises like a baby goat. So far, none of this is believed to have any function.

Why do cats hiss and spit when attacked or threatened?
Believe it or not, they are imitating snakes. The sound of the cat's hiss is almost the same sound as a snake's hiss - and the snake is one of the most feared creatures in the animal world. Hissing is pretty common in all land animals. When a cat hisses, he opens his mouth halfway, drawing back the upper lip and wrinkling the face. As he does this, he expels his breath so hard that, if you were close enough, you could feel the jet of air. The moisture he releases with this gusty breath is what's called spitting. It almost always succeeds in repulsing an enemy.

Why do cats want out when in ... and in when out?
Cats have a very powerful need to check out their territory from time to time. The reason that their checking is so rhythmic is because of the built-in time clock of their scent marks. When outside, cats rubs a territory marker or sprays urine on it to keep their rivals away. The staying power of the scent becomes weaker with time and eventually disappears. This means that they will need another visit outside to do it all over again.

Why are cats so territorial?
All cats are territorial by nature, even those who live indoors. They're very protective of their space. Inside, a cat claims from an entire room to a specific corner of a bed. Outdoors it is especially important for a cat to stake his territorial claim, limited only by how big an area he feels he can reasonably defend. New cats in the neighborhood have to fight to be accepted and to win territory. Each cat's territory includes a few types of spaces: private where he will sleep and feel safe, commonly held grounds which he will share with a few other cats, and meeting grounds where a group of cats will meet. An outer part of the territory is where he will hunt and roam. Usually by battling it out with other cats, they establish their territories. Often, they form a time-share system, using the same areas, but at different times. When they fail to agree on the rules, the caterwauling begins.

Why do cats feel compelled to bring dead prey into the house?
Returning with the spoils of the hunt is their way of proudly bringing back a gift to their guardian. Normally, cats see us as a parent figure, but when they present gifts of prey, they see us as their kittens. Accept the gift graciously and properly dispose of it. Big cats in the wild present prey to others in their den as a social gesture. Perhaps they prefer to share it in safety where chances of theft are slim.

What do your cat's eyes reveal about his moods?
The pupils of a hungry cat's eyes will dilate up to five times their normal size when he spies his food bowl, even if it's empty. They'll also appear as big black pools when frightened or threatened. Half closed eyelids say that he's totally relaxed; when fully closed, he's very satisfied or asleep. He will shut his eyes for protection against a dominant rival. When forced into submission, he shuts out the image of his tormentor. The victor perceives this as defeat and usually walks away.

Why are cats so hard to train?
Actually, cats aren't that tough to train; they just refuse to perform for a pat on the head. They're indifferent to the process and learn tricks only because they want to. Because they're not renowned for their obedience, we think they're defiant. However, if there's something in it for them, they are quick to learn. Cats learn by association. You can't bribe them with sweets because their taste buds don't have any sweet receptors (as meat eaters they don't need them). They can't tell the difference between a sugar solution and plain water. As with all animals, coaxing them includes much love, patience, consistency, authority, repetition, and reward ... but never punishment. Dogs are trainable because they are born to follow leaders; cats, on the other hand, take care of themselves.

Are cats smart?
In the animal kingdom, the cat's IQ is surpassed only by monkeys and chimps. Cats think and adapt to changing circumstances and learn by observation, imitation, and trial and error. Interestingly, cats seem to learn more quickly from their own mothers than from examples set by unrelated cats, but imitate humans. They have been shown to exhibit greater problem solving abilities than dogs. Tests conducted by the University of Michigan and the Department of Animal Behavior at the American Museum of Natural History have concluded that while canine memory lasts no more than 5 minutes, a cat's recall can last as long as 16 hours, exceeding even that of monkeys and orangutans.

Do cats think?
A cat's intelligence is confined to cautiousness with a guarded view of the world. They're smart enough to know danger and remarkably well-equipped to avoid it. Their curiosity is related to their high intelligence. They will work endlessly in order to get the results they want - food, for example.

Why do cats' eyes glow in the dark?
There is a simple explanation for that characteristic green or gold shine. A membrane, called tapetum lucidum, coats the eye and reflects light. When a cat is in the dark, his pupils open wide and light is reflected off them, but they aren't actually glowing. This ability, along with their extraordinary sensitivity to ultraviolet rays, enables them to see very well in the dark.

Can cats really see in the dark?
They can't see in total darkness and their daytime vision is only fair, but they can see far better than humans in semi-darkness. They can also distinguish brightness 7 times better than we do. As nocturnal hunters, their eyes are able to scoop up even the smallest scrap of available light. Their vision generally is blurred at the edges and they see best at 6 - 20 feet. When it comes to movement, though, the cat doesn't miss a twitch. An aside: a cat's diet without taurine, a substance crucial for his eyesight, will make the cat go blind. Dog food lacks taurine, so never feed it to a feline.

Do cats see in color?
It was once believed that cats are colorblind, but now it is known that they can actually tell the difference between certain colors. Basically, they see the world in shades of blue and green. Though they see color, cats don't pay much attention to it. In nature, color isn't particularly necessary for a cat's survival success.

Why do all tabbies have an "M" on their foreheads?
Since most of the world's cats are tabbies, the distinctive M is a genetic feature passed on from generation to generation. This feature is part of the fur pattern. An Italian legend tells the story of a young cat being in the stable in Bethlehem during the Christ Child's birth. As the Child lay crying in the manger, none of the animals present could soothe Him to sleep. When the tabby jumped into the manger, snuggled close, and began to purr, the Infant Child responded as if to a lullaby and soon drifted off to sleep. Mary gave the tabby a gentle pet on the forehead. Where her fingers had touched, the little tabby was marked with an M as a symbol of the Madonna's eternal gratitude.

Why do cats flick their ears when they're asleep?
The cat's remarkable ears each have 30 muscles that control the outer ear (our ears only have 6 muscles). These muscles rotate 180 so that they can hear without moving their head. Even though they may appear to be sleeping quite often, most of the time they are only dozing, constantly searching the air for sound.

What's the purpose of that useless looking pad midway up the rear of the cat's leg?
It's called the carpal pad and its function serves as an anti-skid insurance policy for any crash landings as they race around full hilt.

Why does the Manx cat have no tail?
The most common Manx cat legend says that the tail was lost because the cat was the late boarding the Ark. Noah accidentally slammed the door on the tail. In fact, the lack of a tail is a true genetic abnormality that was first observed in the 16th century. The tail mutation is a serious defect. There is a hollow in the Manx's body where the tail should be. This distorts the rest of the spine so that the Manx has a backbone with fewer and shorter vertebrae. A true Manx is called a "Rumpy;" if he has a tiny tail, he's a "Stumpy." He is also called a "Bunny" because his strong back legs are longer than his front. As a result, he runs with a hop.

Why is a cat's tail so flexible?
The cat's tail contains between 14 and 28 caudal or tail vertebrae, linked like a string of beads. Even the tailless Manx has three tail vertebrae, even though flexibility isn't the Manx's strong points. Short of the short tail, a Manx looks like an ordinary cat.

Why do cats have three eyelids?
The third eyelid is actually a tiny triangle of pinkish or whitish tissue that is sometimes visible in the corner of the cat's eyes. It's called the haw, or nictating membrane. Humans have something like it - the small pink bump at the inner corner of the eyes. In the cat, the haw rises automatically and then moves sideways across the eye to protect or lubricate its sensitive surface. If the cat is ill, undernourished, or on the verge of catching a disease, the presence of the haw is a good indicator that the cat's health isn't up to par. The spontaneous movement occurs because pads of fat behind the eyeballs, which act as shock absorbers, start to shrink when the cat is in poor health. This is usually a signal to immediately take your cat to the vet.

Why do cats shed?
It's their way of going from their winter coat into a summer one. Less hair means a cooler body. Cats lose more hair in summer months because the increased light from longer days triggers the shedding process. The average house cat will also shed more because of electric lights, even near the light from a TV screen. Stress and illness adds yet other factors to cause more shedding.

Why do cats shed their claws?
Cats are the only animals who walk directly on their claws, not on their paws. It would be like humans walking on the tips of their fingers. Getting around on tiptoe, called digitigrade, is a particularly useful feature when it comes to moving at high speeds. Being the great hunter that they are, they need to keep this skill very sharp. Contrary to popular belief, manicuring their nails on your furniture is not out of malice or sharpening the claws. Cats are tearing off the ragged edges of the sheaths of their talons when scratching. All year long, they shed their claws to expose new sharp ones beneath. Claws aren't just for protection. They are responsible for the cat's exquisite balance and amazing feats such as climbing, stretching, running, and grooming. Declawing not only physically afflicts a cat, but he is also psychologically anguished, deprived of his only defense and one of his most versatile tools for survival.

Why do cats retract their claws?
They pull in their claws to protect them and to keep them sharp. They need to be kept sharp for all the reasons explained above. Sharpened claws are needed to mark their territory as well. When scratching, sweat glands between the paw pads secrete a scent transferred to the tree trunk or other object (possibly furniture if a house cat). This is how the cat identifies the scratched area as his own. In the animal kingdom, the cat's retractable claws are his most remarkable feature. When the legs are extended, the paws automatically expand to extraordinary size and the claws appear.

What makes cats cuddly?
The cat has a toasty body temperature of 102. A good percentage of the nutrients he gets from his daily food intake (approximately 30 percent) is devoted to making his skin and coat supple and fuzzy.

Why do cats like to sleep in the sun?
Cats like to feel warm and secure before they fall to sleep. They also use the sunlight to help make up the slight drop in body temperature that happens once they fall asleep. Some cats will change their sleep positions to follow the movement of the sun.

Why does catnip make cats act crazy?
Their wacky, daydreamy state is actually a response to the herb's powerful natural chemical, trans-nepetalactone. It's almost identical to the essence excreted by female cats, which is why tom cats seem to love catnip the most. However, this doesn't explain why females love it as well. Catnip was once thought to be an aphrodisiac, but scientific tests have squelched that theory. Cats aren't attracted to it until they are at least two months old. If introduced to catnip prior to this age, most cats will not respond to it at all when they are older. The herb valerian will give cats the same sense of ecstasy as catnip. Valerian is a mild stimulant and, though it doesn't do any harm, it shouldn't be offered to cats with kidney ailments. By the way, both catnip and valerian produce ecstasy through the odor, not the taste.


Why Do Cats ... ? Part II

Why does a cat's tongue feel like sandpaper?
To the cat, the sandpaper feeling tongue is a vital tool. The little prickly things covering the upper surface of the tongue are called papillae, and has hundreds of small backward pointing protuberances constructed of virtually the same substance as human fingernails. The cat uses his tongue like a comb to give himself an extra deep cleaning so that he leaves no odor to warn prey as he sneaks upon it. Not only does the tongue feel like sandpaper, it's used like it, designed to scrape that last little bit of meat from bones. This talent is no longer used by the average house cat, although the big African wild cats still use their tongues to pick the bones of carcasses clean, ensuring every last nutritious bite. At birth, a newborn kitten's tongue has a rim of spines that runs along the edge. These spines help give the hungry kitten a good grip on their mother's nipple.

How many teeth do cats have?
Cats have 30 teeth, each specially adapted for a specific job - such as stabbing, slicing, and biting. The teeth are arranged so the cat can sever a rodent's spine with the precision of a surgeon. The large canine teeth let him grab his prey securely enough to kill it. The molars work like scissors to cut prey into bite-size pieces. Their mouths also are specially adapted for meat eating. They can't move their jaws sideways like humans do, so they are unable to grind or chew their food with their mouths closed. That's why they always chew on large chunks of food with the side of their mouth, cutting off smaller pieces and swallowing the pieces whole. Kittens' baby teeth eventually get replaced by permanent ones, starting at about six months. There will be a full set of permanent teeth by nine months.

Why do cats drink dirty water?
Because of their keen sense of smell: fresh tap water usually is heavily treated with chemicals and chlorinated so strongly that it has a chemical odor, offending cats' sensitive noses. Even worse, you've probably washed the drinking dish with some form of detergent. Stale water in puddles, aquariums and flower vases seem much more attractive. They're full of natural microbes and organic decomposing vegetation. You should always thoroughly wash and rinse all detergent from water and food dishes before using. Let tap water stand for a while before offering to your cat.

Why don't cats like refrigerated food?
Cold food to cats is unappealing because they are basically predators. In the wild, they would consume their kills fresh - at body temperature. Serve your cat food at room temperature or give it a quick zap in the microwave.

Are most cats left-handed or right-handed?
Paw preference tests were conducted on 60 cats at Oxford University's physiology lab. Researchers found that the majority of the cats consistently used their left paw. This led Dr. J. Cole of the university's lab to conclude that most cats are right brain dominant. That's because the right side of the brain hemisphere controls movement on the left side of the body and vice versa. Right brain dominance also means that your cat is highly intuitive. Other experts believe cats are ambidextrous.

Why do cats always land on their feet?
They don't. Even if they land upright, cats can sustain severe injuries from the impact. Their amazing acrobatic skill is due to their natural righting reflex. This mechanism is very complicated and is governed by a complex organ in the inner ear that determines a specific sequence of events. Simplified, this organ sends information to the brain about the position of the cat's head in relation to the ground. In fractions of seconds, the brain commands the head to change position in order to protect it. When his head is level, he first flips the top half of his body around to face the ground, then flips the rear. In the process, he uses his tail to adjust for any overbalance. Finally, he's ready for landing and reaches the ground on all four feet with his back arched to cushion the impact. The trick to success, though, is time. He needs a minimum of 1.8 seconds to right himself. Though he is able to accomplish this in a fall as short as one foot, his chances of success are much better at greater heights within limits. Experts say few cats are able survive a fall of more than 60 feet.

How does a cat know how high to jump?
It has to do with the eyes. Cats' faces are flat between the eyes, so both eyes are able to work together more easily. This is a rare feature in the animal kingdom. But because of it, the cat has an amazing ability to visually judge distances with remarkable accuracy. As a result, he can focus more sharply and actually see three-dimensionally.

Why are cats such finicky eaters?
Cats like to eat fresh food - a little bit at a time, yet quite often. Considering the size of the average mouse, small meals are the order of the day. A typical meal of commercial cat food, by the way, equals five mice. Cats prefer clean dishes and in a private, quiet place. If the mealtime ritual is not perfect, he may turn up his nose at supper. If hungry enough, however, he will eat almost anything, except fruit (some cats do like cantaloupe). If a cat continually avoids food, there could be several reasons. If he is an outdoor cat, he may be getting food elsewhere. He may be experiencing discomfort in his mouth or teeth. Stress or depression will affect the appetite. Leaving food out too long or serving it too cold may be a turn off. If food is kept in the refrigerator, try heating it slightly before serving. Food finickiness may even be built-in to your cat. Studies have actually shown that when cats are given a choice between a routine food or a new food, they almost always choose the new variety. Despite their finickiness, an average cat consumes about 127,750 calories a year, nearly 28 times his own weight in food, and the same amount again in liquids. In case you're wondering - no, cats cannot survive on a vegetarian diet.

Why can cats eat garbage and not get sick?
Actually, sometimes they do get sick, terribly ill. After all, there are degrees of rotten food, even for a garbage picker. For the most part, though, cats are naturally safeguarded against food-related illness because they have specially designed gastric juices that protect them. These special chemicals not only can digest unchewed pieces of food, but can also break down some bones and destroy some bacteria in food.

Why do cats eat plants?
Cats nibble plants indoors as a substitute for eating grass, which is perfectly natural behavior. Eating grass is like taking medication - it's nature's way of inducing vomiting. The reason why cats need to regurgitate (vomit) is to rid their digestive system of those painful hairballs that accumulate from grooming. Because they can't very well stick a paw down their throat to do the job, they instinctively seek out grasses or plants. Since they'll eat almost anything green, it's important that cats don't have access to toxic plants. You can make sure that your cat is safe from poisonous plants by buying special grasses for cats sold at pet supply stores. He will also love parsley, sage, thyme, and lavender.

Why do cats sleep so much?
They are the catnap originators. They sleep practically all day - clocking in about 16 hours of dozing during each 24 hour period. They can sleep from sitting up to snuggling into spots humans can't deem comfortable or suitable for sleeping. Their sleep patterns have evolved because of their ancestors' success as predators. Their bodies are designed for short bursts of energy needed for high-performance over short distances. They're so efficient at stalking and killing their prey that they end up with time to spare. They sleep very lightly, so they make up the length of time they sleep what they lack in depth of sleep. Even though they may go into deep sleep, their brains are always on the alert for danger.

How well do cats hear? 
Actually, the dog has a greater range of pitch, but the cat's hearing far exceeds a dog's when it comes to picking out high-pitched sounds. The cat has brilliantly adapted to hunting by lurking - listening for the tiniest sound, the smallest rustle, the tinest squeak. His keen hearing also lets him know the precise direction and distance of his victims. He can hear up to an amazing 100,000 cycles per second, which happens to be about the same pitch made by a mouse's squeal. A cat's hearing capability is five times greater than humans, a dog only one-third the hearing ability of the cat. The cat's sound sensitivity could be one of the reasons why many people mistakenly believe that cats have extrasensory or supernatural powers. He can hear ultrasonic sounds that precede a noisy activity such as an earthquake.

How do cats predict earthquakes and the weather?
For centuries, the Chinese look to cats for early warnings of earthquakes. Scientists monitoring earth tremors in California say that cats sense them long before the most delicate of instruments can. An old wives' tale may actually have some basis in scientific fact. It says that a cat passing his paw over his ear signals an oncoming storm. The reason may be that the cat is trying to massage away the annoying sensation of electrical waves that pass through the air when a storm is building. Before a storm actually strikes, there's an enormous buildup of electricity and the air becomes highly charged with particles that are thought to influence brain chemistry. Naturalist Ivan Sanderson thinks the cat's astonishing ability to flee from an area before a quake strikes is really a result of hissupersenory perception - a highly sensitive way of hearing that lets him pick up noises inside the earth.

Why are kittens born with their eyes closed?
All kittens are born blind, and their eyes remain closed as a protective measure until this delicate sense begins to develop. Incidentally, they are also born deaf. Since the cat's perfect balance requires a combo of eye and ear messages, the tiny kitten's righting reflex isn't fully operational until his eyes open. Kittens will begin to open their eyes 5 - 10 days after they are born, then their eyes open fully between eight and 20 days. Once their eyes open, kittens will have to learn how to handle all these skills until they're approximately 12 weeks old. Their sense of smell, though, is well-developed from day one. Even at birth, certain behaviors are instinctive. If you hold your finger up to a new-born kitten's nose, for example, he'll hiss or spit if he feels disturbed. At birth, all kittens' eyes are blue/gray; they get their permanent eye color at about 12 weeks.

How can you determine the gender of a kitten? It's easiest to tell a kitten's sex when he or she is just a few hours old because the clues aren't all covered up with fur. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the kitten is 10 or 12 weeks old. At that time, you can spot the differences this way: In females, the orifice is slitlike; in males, it's round. Also, the distance between the anus and the sexual opening is greater in males than in females. Additional information about determining the sex of kittens can be found here.

How long will a mom cat nurse her young?
As a rule, kittens are fully weaned at eight weeks, though the mom cat will continue to nurse her young as long as one or all will drink from her, even when the kittens may be months old. As early as three or four days after giving birth, the mom cat will begin to leave the nest for short periods. For the first couple of days, her little brood will hang on almost continually to her teats, even when they stop drinking and fall asleep. It's crucial at this stage that the kittens each have a steady milk supply. From the mother's milk, they not only get lots of nutrition, they also get antibodies that help guard them against disease. Although the mom cat only has eight teats, if she gives birth to more than six kittens, they may not get enough to eat. That's why it's critical that each newborn stakes out a special nipple of his own. Nature has taken care of this problem in a remarkable way. Each one of the mom cat's nipples has its own special smell. Once the kitten assigns himself to that nipple, he will always recognize it with ease. This helps to avoid potentially frantic and noisy scramblings for milk and keeps feeding time rather a civilized affair.

Why do cats have so many babies?
Nature was kind to cats when it came to guaranteeing the survival of their species. First of all, your cat can get pregnant as early as four months of age. Plus, the feline reproductive cycle is set up so that the female doesn't actually ovulate until she has by stimulated by a male cat. In other words, her eggs are released and available for fertilization only after the male's sperm has been introduced into her reproductive tract. Because she ovulates instantly when she mates, the odds that she will become pregnant are greatly increased. Additional pregnancy information can be found here.

Who had the largest litter?
The largest known litter in which all the kittens survived was from the offspring of Bluebell, a Persian from South Africa. She once gave birth to 14 kittens. Cats can produce two or three litters a year. During her reproductive life, a female could have more than a hundred offspring. One tabby beat this record in 1952. By the time Dusty had her last litter at age 18, she'd had more than 400 kittens. Please, please spay/neuter your pets.

Why do kittens born in the same litter look so different?
Because they more than likely had a different father. One of the more bizarre biological attributes of a female cat is that she can get into heat while she's already pregnant. In fact, her ovaries are stimulated to release more eggs as soon as one male partner withdraws. So a single litter of kittens can have more than one father. Mating isn't exactly a romantic affair for cats - the whole process only takes a few seconds. Once a male cat has finished, the female will wait for another tom to approach her. Depending on the neighborhood, one roaming tom after another will mate with a female. After that, it's anyone's guess whose sperm fertilized which egg. She can even carry two litters at the same time at two different stages of development.

How long does a female cat carry her litter?
The average gestation period of a cat is about nine weeks, or approximately 63 days. Some females don't exhibit hardly any external pregnancy signs until around the 35th day - then the female will have expanded like a balloon. If you're not sure when your cat got pregnant, you can figure out her due date by noticing when her nipples first begin to redden. This is known as "pinking up" and occurs approximately during the third week of pregnancy. You can then do the arithmetic from there. Kittens that are born earlier than 58 days tend to be born very weak or, worse, dead. Kittens born very late, after 71 days, are likely to also be born dead. Consult your veterinarian immediately if she's carrying this long - she may need help. Some females have been known to continue to breed well into their senior years, as old as 12, and there have been some even older than that. Please, for the health and well-being of your cat, spay/neuter.

Why do most cats hate water?
Considering that cats evolved practically as desert animals in climates that were very dry, it's not surprising that they aren't overly fond of water. There just wasn't very much water around. In reality, though, virtually any cat who has been exposed to water since kittenhood may enjoy it, and may even delight in taking the occasional bath. Cats are also natural swimmers. Certain breeds do seem to like water more than others. Abyssinians have been known to join their owners in the shower. The Van cat, rare outside his native Turkey, loves to swim. Turkish angoras and Manxes also enjoy water. A wild cat, known as "the fishing cat," may be the most unique. This one actually swims to catch fish. Called the Bengali Mach-Bagral, nature gave him extra-long claws, which he uses like fishhooks to spear them. This fishing cat is found in Nepal, Burma, Southern China, and parts of India.

Should you give a cat a bath?
As a rule, only bathe a cat if he's very dirty or if he has a disease that requires bathing. If you must bathe him, use a gentle shampoo and always bathe the cat in a well-heated room, in a tub of lukewarm water (about 86 Fahrenheit). Be gentle and never scare him by running water on him or spraying him with it. Scoop the water over him, never wetting his head, and always rub him dry with a pre-warmed towel (pop a large fluffy towel into the dryer for a few minutes). Some cats don't object to a hairdryer, though make sure the dryer is on its lowest setting.

How long can a cat go without food or water?
A cat can survive without food much longer than humans can. He can lose as much as 40 percent of his body weight and survive. Water, though, is entirely a different matter. A 10 to 14 percent loss of the total water in a cat's body is fatal. Dehydration in cats can be a very serious matter. Dehydration must be addressed immediately and, if left untreated, can cause multiple health problems, including organ failure and death. A lot water is the best way to replace fluids, but a severely dehydrated cat should not be allowed to intake large amounts at once. This will result in vomiting and a further loss of fluids. Let the cat drink small amounts over a period of time. Electrolytes can be replaced with a hydrating solution. Pedialyte, a water and electrolyte product sold for human infants, is suitable for cats. Any cat that seems dehydrated or refuses to drink should be seen by a veterinarian immediately to determine appropriate treatment.

Why are kittens born with their ears folded?
Cats have a relatively short gestation periond. Cats can get pregnant more often and have more kittens. Having so many kittens often means that the kittens don't get a chance to fully develop all their senses before coming into the world. Eyesight and hearing - two of the most complicated - take time to properly mature. So the kittens are born deaf. The ear canal is closed and not fully developed. Their ears continue to develop after birth; therefore, the ears are sort of folded to protect the internal mechanism until development is complete. After birth, it takes about 14 days for the ear canal to open up. Until then, the kittens relies on signals they can actually feel, such as the vibrations of their mother's purring.

Why do cats walk the way they do?
A cat walks the way he does because it's best suited for a skillful hunter. Almost all animals walk by moving alternate legs - first the left front and right rear, then the right front and left rear. Only three animals walk by moving the two legs on one side together first, then shifting to do the same on the other side: the giraffe, the camel, and the cat. This method of walking, which is basically diagonal, uses a minimum of energy and helps ensure speed, agility, and silence.

Why do cats spend so much time grooming?
The typical cat devotes about a third of his waking day to grooming himself. Considering how many hours he devotes to sleep, this may not sound like much, but it translates to about three hours' worth of self-pampering a day. There are several reasons why he grooms himself so fastidiously. Cats clean themselves with their saliva, which is thought to contain a detergent-like deodorizing substance that keeps his coat soft, glossy, and clean. But grooming also has other important functions: it removes dead hair and skin, tones up the muscles and stimulates blood circulation. This is also why mother cats clean their newborns so frequently.

How do cats use their whiskers?
How cats' whiskers work isn't fully understood, but there is no doubt that they are one of the feline's most sensitive features. By bending his whiskers like antennae, a cat can magnify the smallest air disturbances. With these feelers, he can safely maneuver through underbrush and around obstacles and avoid bumping into things. A cat's whiskers, called vibrissae, grow at the side of his mouth in four rows and above his eyes (cats don't have eyebrows). There are approximately 30 of them, each attached to a nerve in the skin. They are so sensitive, that the cat relies on them to aid his movement in the dark. He can actually identify things he can't see. Studies of blindfolded cats, for example, reveal that they can place their front paws on a tabletop when only their whiskers had touched its edge. The slightest touch on a whisker also causes a reflex closing of the eyes. This is vital protection for the feline hunter whose eyes are frequently fixed on prey. It also ensures that a twig or grass springing back will not cause injury. Whiskers are so important to the cat that removal of them actually can harm the cat. Some scientists theorize that the cat bends some or all of his whiskers downward to help guide him when jumping or leaping over uneven ground. A cat with poor eyesight, or totally blind, will use his whiskers like a blind person uses a cane. The cat will walk with his head moving from side to side, using his whiskers to guide him. So it comes as no surprise to cat lovers then, that when something is really wonderful, we say that it's "the cat's whiskers."

How can a cat crawl through openings smaller than his body?
This ability is due to the absence of a collarbone. A cat has a chest cavity that is very small for his size; the lack of the collarbone and small chest size makes him practically collapsible. With the help of his whiskers, a cat will carefully figure out the height or width of an opening before attempting entrance.

Does the loss of the tail affect a cat's sense of balance?
A cat's tail is obviously there for a reason. The tail is used for balance very much as a tightrope walker uses a long pole. If the cat is walking along a narrow ledge or fence and decides to peer over in one direction, he automatically moves his tail in the opposite direction. However, cats compensate quite well if the loss of their tail is because of an accident. If they weren't, there'd be no Manxes in catdom.

How can cats walk in snow and not get frozen paws?
Cats' footpads are very calloused areas, made of a modified type of skin that covers a thick cushion of connective tissue, making them much tougher than normal skin. Because these areas are thicker, they offer some protection against the cold. Where there is no calloused skin, there's fur.

Why don't cats drink a lot of water?
The cat's ancestors were originally desert animals. Their kidneys have adapted incredibly well without much water. Their kidneys can eliminate many harmful toxins into the urine without needing much fluid to do so. That is why their urine is so concentrated and has such a smell. The average healthy cat needs very little fluid to maintain his health. Feeding your cat some canned food, which is 70% water, the cat may choose not to drink much water. However, fresh water should always be available.

Can a cat get sunburn?
Not only can a cat get sunburn, but he can get a serious form of skin cancer as a result. White faced cats and/or pink nosed cats are especially susceptible to solar dermatitis. If not treated, it can induce squamous-cell carcinoma, a form of cancer. It's best to keep all cats indoors.

What's the average length of a cat's life?
The average life span of a cat has nearly doubled since 1930; most indoor cats live 16 to 20 years. There are countless documented examples of cats who have lived beyond the age of twenty. Outside cats who fend for themselves on the streets, on the other hand, live only 3 to 4 years, searching for food and dodging predators - human, wildlife, vehicular, etc.

Who was the oldest cat?
The all-time senior citizen cat record is still held by Puss, a cat who lived with Mrs. T. Holway of Devon, England, until she died on November 29, 1939 - just one day after her 36th birthday.


Reference Resources:
Cat World Desmond Morris



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