I am really a dog person but have been ‘owned’ by cats in the past, and know a thing or two about them, and know that most cats have the opinion that they are doing you a favour by moving in and taking the best seats.
You may love your moggie, but you may not appreciate just how cool their species really is. For example, did you know that cats have an extra organ that allows them to taste scents? This is why your cat does that weird 9-yard stare with the curled lip and mouth open sometimes - they are tasting the air.
A house cat’s genome is 95.6 percent tiger, and they share much with their jungle ancestors – this includes scent marking by scratching, prey play, stalking, pouncing, chinning, and urine marking.
Clearly, there’s more to your little feline friend than meets the eye! Whoever would have thought that they were terrified of cucumbers? And amongst other things: balloons, dogs, and being stared at - and certain smells they aren’t keen on – anything citrusy, lavender, pine, rosemary and thyme. They are also afraid of water, which is surprising, as most cats are capable of swimming, but many choose not to, and this can lead to panic and even drowning. They love to be clean and are constantly grooming, and in fact spend up to one-third of their waking hours doing it. The grooming process stimulates blood flow to their skin, regulates body temperature and helps relaxation. Cats groom other cats too — and sometimes people — in a ritual called ‘allogrooming’.
Cats walk like camels and giraffes - they move both right feet first, then move both left feet. No other animals walk this way. Male cats are more likely to be left-pawed, while female cats are more likely to be right-pawed – but some are ambidextrous. They can jump up to six times their length, and have 18 toes (five toes on each front paw; four toes on each back paw), with claws curving downward, which means they have to back down trees. And just to confuse, some cats have more than 18 toes. These extra-digit felines are referred to as being ‘polydactyl’, and were considered lucky by sailors in days gone by. And if a cat hits you with retracted claws, they’re playing, not attacking.
Did you know that they developed meowing as a way to communicate exclusively with humans? Cats have up to 100 different vocalisations — dogs only have 10.
Behaviour and moods
Thieving behaviour is not uncommon among cats. They will often grab objects like stuffed animals and other things that remind them of prey, and will often attack your ankles when they’re bored. And will seemingly for no apparent reason casually knock something to the floor from a great height. Our reaction to this can influence whether or not the behaviour continues. Humans make great audiences - who doesn’t jump when that glass starts to go over the edge of the table? When cats want attention, they learn very quickly what gets your eyes on them.
Their long tails also balance themselves when they’re jumping or walking along narrow ledges. If your cat approaches you with a straight, almost vibrating tail, this means that she is extremely happy to see you, but a question-mark-shaped tail is asking, ‘Want to play?’ When dogs wag their tails, they may be expressing happiness, but when your cat wags her tail, it’s her way of warning you that you are getting on her very last nerve, so watch out.
You probably know that cats use their whiskers as sensors to determine which small spaces they can fit into, with these whiskers generally about the same width as their body. This is why you should never, EVER cut their whiskers.
Hissing is defensive, not aggressive, and is an expression of fear, stress or discomfort, communicating ‘stay away’. If cats are fighting, the cat that’s hissing is the more vulnerable one, and the yawn is a way to end the confrontation. Think of it as their dismissive ‘talk to the hand’ gesture!