Cats are among some of the most popular pets in the world, and they’ve been so for thousands of years. While some superstitious people may consider them to be bad luck due to their ancient association with witchcraft and magic, others simply cannot get enough, going so far as to be dubbed a ‘cat lady.’ In fact, there are more than two million cat videos on YouTube—way more than any other nonhuman animal—and watching cat videos has been said to be an extremely calming exercise. Who knows, maybe they do have powers we don’t know about.
Whatever you may feel about cats, you can be sure that they don’t feel that much back toward you, or indeed toward anything. As any cat-owner can tell you, you never really own a cat. They own you. These majestic creatures, from the largest tigers to the smallest Singapura cat, have captured imagination with their natural, predatory grace. They are also not without their oddball moments. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but we don’t blame you for getting curious about these meowing mousers. In appreciation of our feline friends for World Cat Day on 8 August, we’ve put together a list of 12 little-known cat facts:
1. Ever dream about cats? People believe that when cats appear to you in a dream, you are in danger of treachery. Moreover, to some dream-analyzers, cats are a symbol of independence, intuition, and creativity. If your dream cat appears unhealthy, this may be a hint that it’s time to have more confidence in yourself.
2. Cats are an important figure in Egyptian religion, with many deities associated with various forms of felines: the warrior goddess Sekhmet with the lioness, the goddess Pakhet with desert wildcats, and Bastet—goddess of protection—as a cat. Devotion to Bastet—and, of course, the usefulness of cats as destroyers of vermin—brought about the popularity of having domestic cats as pets. In fact, Herodotus writes that cats were treated as a family member so much that when they passed away, their human friends would shave off their eyebrows in mourning.
3. You think cat-worship is over? Think again. A cat named Stubbs has ostensibly been honorary mayor of the town of Talkeetna, Alaska, for the past sixteen years. In Japan, Tama the cat served as official station master of the Kishi train station for eight years. They don’t always win, though. In 2013, Morris the cat ran for the mayoral seat in a city in Mexico but lost out to a human competitor.
4. All members of the feline family like boxes. Yes, lions and tigers, too. Having a cozy hiding place reduces their level of stress and helps them avoid being social—something cats generally do not like to do. Moreover, cats are used to a warmer climate than us humans, and a warm box is the perfect happy-place for insulation.
5. Cats spend 70% of their life sleeping, and for nearly 50% of the hours awake, they spend it grooming. Sometimes, they even groom you. Grooming a human is a show of affection from a cat, as they are marking you as family and treating you fondly, as a mother cat would lick her young or litter mates would nibble each other.
6. It’s a cliché reinforced by many films and stories that cats are often ‘familiars’ of witches; demons who take the form of small animals and accompany and serve witches in exchange for comfort and the occasional sacrifice. However, cats are not by far the only familiars. Hare, dog, and toad familiars are said to be just as common.
7. Meow? The inability to roar marks the difference between big cats and small cats. In small cats—the bobcat, cheetah, and domesticated cats—a U-shaped bone in the throat area called hyoid is hardened, breaking down their voices into less menacing purrs. In contrast, big cats that do roar—lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars—can emit a deafening growl that can be heard five miles away.
8. While dogs are often more well-trained and responsive to commands, it may be that your cat understands but simply doesn’t care. Studies have shown that cats’ brains contain twice as many neurons as dogs’ brains, giving them far better skills at complex problem-solving and memorization. In fact, a cat’s brain is more similar to a human’s than to a dog’s. Dogs may have higher EQ, but cats win hands-down at the IQ game. If they feel like playing, that is.
9. The Iberian lynx is the most endangered wild cat. Due to persecution from the Spanish government and disease greatly decimating their preferred diet of rabbits, there remain only around 600 of these threatened cats.
10. We all know about bulls and bears, but cats and dogs, too? What a very zoo-like place the financial market is. Asides from meaning a downpour, ‘cats and dogs’ also refer to speculative shares, or penny stocks, that are offered by smaller companies and can create gains or losses in a shorter period of time.
11.Two of the most fascinating breeds of cats are the Khao Manee and the Ukrainian Levkoy. The former, also known as the Diamond Eye Cat, often have two solid, odd-colored eyes: gold and silver or sometimes green and blue, resembling precious stones. The latter is a type of cat with no fur whatsoever. They often appear bony or wrinkly, and do not need brushing. Obviously.
12. A female cat is called a ‘queen’ or a ‘molly,’ while a group of cats is called a ‘clowder.’ A lover of cats is called an ‘ailurophile,’ while the opposite would be an ‘ailurophobe.’
Featured image credit: Two Young Cats by Petr Kratochvil. Public Domain via Public Domain Pictures.