Top Five Amazing Cat Facts

Top Five Amazing Cat Facts

Russian Blue cat

I used to think I was a dog person, which lasted right up until I adopted a cat. While I’m still a huge dog fan, I no longer believe you have to prefer one over the other. There’s a reason cats are the most popular pet kids in North America!

Yes, cats are nothing like dogs: they are enigmatic, independent, sometimes aloof and always entertaining. Their completely unique natures are, in my opinion, their most endearing feature. It should come as no surprise that in addition to their one-of-a-kind personalities, they also have some pretty exceptional physical features and roles to play in our society. As a veterinarian, writer and cat enthusiast, it pleases me to no end to learn more about these fabulous furballs. Here are just five of my favorite unique cat facts!

1. Cats can use their mouth to smell

Have you ever seen your cat take a big sniff, then pull their mouth back in what looks like a sneer? That’s called the flehmen response, and it’s one of the wonderful, weird things that makes cats so unique. Cats have a special organ called the vomeronasal organ wedged up between the hard palate and the nasal septum. The vomeronasal organ is used to analyze pheromones, which is an important means of communication in the feline world. If you’ve ever gotten a good whiff of cat urine, you may make the same face … but unlike us, cats are actually gaining extra information from that stimulus.

2. Cats are well adapted to high-heat environments

Have you ever seen a cat pant? Hopefully not, because they aren’t supposed to. We all know that dogs use panting to dissipate heat, while humans sweat. Aside from a negligible number of sweat glands in the paws, cats do neither! Evolved from desert-dwelling creatures, cats have extremely efficient kidneys that can concentrate urine to a very high degree, meaning they can survive longer than other mammals with less water without becoming dehydrated. I watch my dark-coated cat Penelope seek out blocks of sunlight all the time … like many cats, she thinks “The hotter, the better!” Meanwhile my dog is laying on the coldest spot of floor he can find.

Striped Cat

3. You can’t top a cat’s night vision

Cats are unusual in that they have both predator and prey adaptations. One of their most unique features is their slit pupil, which allows the pupil to contract more quickly than the circular pupils of dogs and humans. This means they adjust more quickly to changes in ambient light. They also have the largest eyes of any mammal relative to their size! They have several other adaptations meant to ensure they can see well at night, including more rods in the back of their retina as well as a tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer of tissue that gives their eyes that eerie green glow.

4. Cats could have changed the course of history

In the Middle Ages, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing off an estimated 25% of the continent. The causative agent of bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis, was found to be carried by fleas who moved about the countryside on rodents. During the Spanish Inquisition, cats were condemned as evil and killed by the thousands. This cat depopulation allowed the rodent population to explode, extending the effects of the plague. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if only cats had been spared and out hunting the plague carriers.

5. Hissing is a unique feline vocalization

Have you ever heard a happy cat hiss? Probably not. Though not all cats hiss, those that do are invariably upset or frightened. Experts believe hissing may actually have evolved as a mimicry of a snake hiss, a way to warn someone that whatever they are doing, the cat is not at all happy about it. If you have a cat who hisses, consider yourself lucky! It’s a clear warning to stop whatever is upsetting them before they escalate to the next level, something usually involving claws or teeth.

And that's just a few of the many amazing cat attributes. Do you have a favorite that didn't make this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Comments (6) -

  • Lester

    11/29/2016 10:02:25 PM |

    WOW! Fact number 4 is mind blowing to me.

  • Debie

    11/30/2016 11:12:52 AM |

    Very interesting.  #5 Is a warning.  I didn't know.  Good advice!!

  • kathy

    11/30/2016 12:53:34 PM |

    I have 3  Ragamuffin cat siblings -  2 boys and a girl.  The boys will be 17 and the little girl passed away last Christmas morning.  As a student of energy, I have learned so much from these 3 cats.  All cats are 7th or 8th dimensional - and are so much more evolved than the majority of humans on the planet which are 3 dimensional.  One of these 3 is far more evolved than the others - he is 11th dimensional - and teleports !  He started as a baby and has continued to this day.  I used to teach a meditation class - and often he would teleport to the class and be resting at my feet and when he felt he was done with whatever his mission was - he would leave and I would find him home - fast asleep !  So looking beyond the physical - they are truly exceptional gifts to our planet..... and to humanity !

  • Tammy

    12/1/2016 6:57:34 AM |

    Have a farm need cats in the barns 4he do keep rodents down. One or sometime two or three worm thier way into the house and our Harts at night. One named HiFi a female cat liked to put her paw up for you pet her. One Twitchy  a female backs to the wall twitches her tail. (Do not see spray) yes cat have thier own very individual character.

  • Nancy

    12/17/2016 3:44:11 PM |

    I was raised with dogs and always had a dog or two in my life. When I was working like a dog (very long hours) my mother took my dog to live with her in Delaware where she thrived on the beach all day. She loved life again! The opportunity to adopt a rescue cat arose and I adopted my first cat. I never thought I was a cat person until then. They are amazing creatures and add a whole new spin to life. I love dogs and soak up the love every opportunity I get when I'm around them. I will adopt another one some day. For now I am enjoying the cat love. I really enjoyed all the facts in this blog entry.

  • Charles Wilson

    1/14/2019 1:37:25 PM |

    I love cats so much I don't know what to do about it and dogs and most animals.

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