We all know that cats love tuna, hate water, and spend most of their time sleeping. But here are eleven strange facts about our fuzzy feline friends that you may not have known.
1. The picturesque scene of a cat lapping up a bowl of milk… can lead to a brown stain on your carpet. It’s true. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Milk gives most adult cats the runs. This is because their adult bodies stop producing the enzyme that digests milk sugars. Instead of being digested and absorbed, the milk just, uh, runs out of the cat. Onto your carpet. So you might want to think twice before handing out that saucer of milk.
2. Siamese cats won’t let you get a word in edgewise. The Siamese family of cats includes the breeds Oriental, Colorpoint, Balinese, Javanese, and, clearly, Siamese. All of them are well-known chatterboxes. But why, you ask? Well, various theories exist as to why some cats are more vocal than others. It may be breed specific; higher energy equals more talking; or it may relate to how much the owner talks to the cat. The more the human chats, the more the cat meows. Talkativeness understandably bothers some cat owners, but not me. (Which is a good thing, considering that my cat, Autumn, meows constantly.)
3. This cat is naked! And covered in grease! It’s fairly common knowledge that cats can be hairless (think of Fleshy the Cat in the Monty comic strip). One breed of hairless cats is the Sphynx. However, what some people don’t know is that a Sphynx’s skin can rapidly become greasy. This is because the oils that cats normally produce goes into making their hair silky soft. But the Sphynx has no hair, and so it just gets oily skin, which has to be washed every week. Sorry for that nasty mental image.
4. A perm. A perm on a cat. And it’s literally, physically permanent. I think we can agree that the ‘70s were a dark time for fashion. Therefore, a lot of us breathed a sigh of relief with the death of ‘70s hairstyles, such as the mullet and the perm. But the perm is not dead. It lives on… on cats! The breed is called, naturally, La Perm. La Perm cats have short, curly hair. This is not a good look for a cat, in my opinion, because it reminds me of an uncombed bed head. On the other hand, they are reportedly quite the affectionate breed.
5. Tortoiseshells are for females only. Tortoiseshell cats are often mistaken for calico cats. And they are very similar, except that tortoiseshell cats have no white patches, only black and orange/red. The black color gene is carried on the X chromosome and the red gene is on another X chromosome. Female cats have XX chromosomes, while males have XY chromosomes. Therefore, in general, only females can have both the red and black colors required to be a tortoiseshell cat. And yes, my cat Autumn (pictured) is a tortoiseshell.
6. Blue eyes? Pure white coat? Your cat may be deaf. This fact surprised me. My Grandma took in a stray cat named Snowball, who was (you guessed it) white with blue eyes, and she never acted deaf. But the statistics don’t lie. 17-22% of white cats, and 65-85% of white cats with two blue eyes cannot hear.
7. Speaking of blue eyes, the Charteux cat is born with blue eyes, which turn either gold or orange as adults. This color change while growing up is actually very common among kittens. Most kittens are born with blue eyes. Those eyes are immature, and as they develop, melanin pigment is created. Melanin controls eye color, and how much is created determines what the color will be. Very little melanin means green eyes, while lots of melanin means brown, or, in this case, orange eyes. The Charteux cat also has a smoky gray coat. Combined with the pumpkin orange eyes, this cat is perfectly and petrifingly dressed for any Halloween party.
8. Eyes can be mismatched. Cats can have many combinations of colors for their eyes. Nevertheless, their vision does not seem to be hindered by the lack of color coordination.
9. Many toes. Most cats have four toes on each paw, but not all. Some have one, two, three, even four extra toes per paw. Despite the weird appearance, many-toed cats seem to suffer no ill effects from it (yes, this is a theme: weird-looking things don’t cause problems, even though they look, well, weird). Many-toed-ness is called “polydactyly”(poly-dactyl[as in teradactyl]-ly[as in lovely]), which means “many fingers”. I recommend using this term when you want to impress your friends.
10. The tabby gene is in all cats. Tabbies are cats with a striped coat. Yet every cat carries this gene, even if he looks nothing like a tabby. For example, two recessive genes give black cats their one-color coat. However, if you examine that solid-color coat under a bright lamp, you can see faint bands. Those bands are called ghost markings, and are proof of the tabby gene’s universality.
11. The hooks of a cat’s tongue are made up of a bone-like material. You read that correctly— a cat’s tongue is cover in backward-pointing spikes that are designed to, and I quote, “remove flesh from bone”. Yikes! And what does the cat use this fearsome tool for? A hairbrush, mainly. Before you laugh, know that some of the earliest hairbrushes were made from bone. But anyway. So yeah—bony spikes, which can remove flesh from bone. Truly, it is a labor of love when an owner puts up with his cat’s licking; it is lovingly meant, but certainly doesn’t feel that way.
- Picture of cat Lapping Up Milk. Found on http://en.tubgit.com/bowlcat-lapping-milk-food/
- Picture of cat with Mismatched Eyes. Photo is of Lilly the cat by Jason Farmer on flickr.com/photos/23975475@N04/
- Picture of cat’s Tongue. By torbakhopper – tongue like a combUploaded by Fæ, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22959045
– ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats: Everything You Need to Know About Choosing and Caring for Your Pet by James R. Richards
– Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
– Animal Planet.com