Friday, April 2, 2010

How Much Do You Know About Felis Domestica, a.k.a. Cat?

By Julia Williams

On any given week, this blog might be exploring important issues of responsible pet ownership such as grooming, training, health and behavior issues, nutrition and exercise. For varieties sake, we also include profiles of special canines and felines, like Surf Dog Ricochet, Nora the Piano Cat, and Scout, an Avalanche Rescue Dog sponsored by CANIDAE. Lastly, we’re not above having fun, which is why today’s article is a lighthearted presentation of cat facts. So read on and afterwards, use your newfound knowledge of felines to impress your friends!

Does size matter?

The average weight for domestic housecats is 9-12 pounds. The world’s smallest housecat is the Singapura. A full-grown Singapura weighs on average 5 to 8 lbs– but many weigh a mere 4 pounds!

The largest domestic cat breed recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) is the Maine Coon, one of the oldest natural breeds in North America. Maine Coons are tall, muscular, big-boned cats that weigh from 9 to 20+ pounds. The second largest cat is the Ragdoll.

The tiniest cat on record was Tinker Toy, a male Himalayan-Persian from Illinois who weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces fully grown, and was 7.25" long and 2.75" tall.

How do you say meow?

Cats have the ability to make over 100 different vocalizations, while dogs only have about 10. The most common cat sound is the meow. There have been 30 or more types of cat meow sounds recorded, and each means something different. Curiously, cats only meow at people, not at other cats!

The French word for cat is “chat” (pronounced like shah or baa), and kitten is “chaton.” The German word for cat is “katze.” In Spanish, cat is “gato” and in Italian, it’s “gatto.”

How fast can a cat run?

The fastest feline is the Cheetah, which can run at speeds up to 60 MPH over short distances. However, housecats are no slouch in the speed arena either, and can actually run faster than humans can. The top speed for a human is 27 MPH, whereas cats can run up to 30 MPH.

The fastest domestic breed is the Egyptian Mau, a small, short-haired cat with longer hind legs that provide greater length of stride. The Egyptian Mau is the only naturally spotted breed of domesticated cat.

The “tails” have it

Humans have “mood rings” and cats have tails. Okay, I made that up, but cat owners wanting to know their feline’s mood should look at the tail. When a cat swishes its tail slowly and gently, this usually means it’s happy. If the tail is whipping back and forth, beware – kitty is warning you to leave her alone. A quivering tail means your cat is very glad to see you. Incidentally, the domestic cat is the only feline species that holds its tail vertically while walking. All wild cats hold their tails horizontally or tucked between their legs.

Love them…or loathe them?

Ailurophobia is “fear of cats” while Ailurophilia is “love of cats.” Napoleon, Charles XI and Julius Ceasar all feared cats. Among the historical figures who loved cats was Abraham Lincoln, whose cat Tabby could be considered the very first “First Cat.” Mary Todd Lincoln, when asked if her husband had a hobby, purportedly replied, “cats.”

Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, shared his home with 14 cats. Upon his death he left money for the cats and the attendants specially appointed to care for them. Ernest Hemingway supposedly had some 30 cats at his Florida home, while Florence Nightingale is said to have owned more than 60 cats in her lifetime. Lastly, gifted scientist and inventor Sir Isaac Newton is credited with inventing the cat door.

Can you train a cat?

Gretchen Lamont’s book, The Mail-Carrier Cats of Li├Ęge, was inspired by a supposed true event that took place in Belgium in 1879. City officials attempted to train 37 cats to deliver mail to outlying villages. Considering the independent nature of cats, it’s not hard to see why this plan didn’t pan out. However, with a great deal of patience and cat treats, you can train your kitty to do tricks. For pointers, read How to Train Your Cat to Perform Tricks.

Your feline’s trick list will likely not be as lengthy as those of the Moscow Cats Theatre, a Broadway show that featured cats climbing poles, jumping through hoops, twirling batons, riding tricycles and other impressive feats. Nevertheless, you might be able to teach your cat to sit, shake, and roll over on command.

Miscellaneous cat trivia

A group of kittens is called a “kindle,” while a group of adult cats is a “clowder.”

Every behavior of domestic cats has a parallel in the wild.

Cats spend 30% of their waking hours grooming themselves.

A cat’s body has 230 bones (humans have 206).

Cats are sometimes born with extra toes; this is called polydactyl.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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