Obviously, the best known cat fact of them all is simply that cats are just the greatest, what with their little toe beans and their head boops and their contented purring face. You know it, I know it, and the cat certainly knows it. But the fun facts I’m going for are more objective in nature, and can just serve as reinforcement for that statement above. Here are 25 cat facts to bust out the next time you’re out, or to simply to increase your own personal knowledge store about all things cat!
1) While it was initially thought that cats and humans have been living together for around 4000 years, that number has been revised to 10,000 years, with some even putting the figure at up to 12,000 years!! That’s a long history of meowing to be let out and then let straight back in again.
2) There are over 500 million domestic cats in the world. This includes feral cats and strays but still! Can you imagine the sound of the combined purring? It’d move mountains!
3) A popular theory is that cats domesticated themselves! How, you ask? Well, when people started settling in villages and towns with big ol’ stockpiles of grain, this brought some long tailed rodents a’scurrying. Seems our beloved kitties just waltzed on in to these fine new hunting-grounds and never left. Humans were so pleased with their new portable rodent control system that they made the wee hunters welcome.
4) We all know that the ancient Egyptians loved cats, right? But did you know that to be convicted of killing a cat in such a time and place meant the death penalty? Bastet was a goddess with the head of the cat so this affiliation made any cat-related offenses even more shocking.
5) In a complete 180°, they were then demonised in Europe in the middle ages, due to their perceived alliance with witches. The massacre of hundreds of thousands of cats at this time is believed to have helped to spread the bubonic plague by allowing the proliferation of rats in the absence of their predator.
6) Cats were vikings! Traders from the middle east, where they were popular, took cats to Rome. The legions immediately saw their usefulness in guarding food stores and keeping rat populations down. They took them on campaign with them, through Gaul and eventually to Britain. When Rome imploded and the soldiers left, they left behind a pretty purring legacy. The vikings arrived about 1600 years ago, took one look at the mini-warriors with knives on their paws and fell in love! These viking cats were taken back to Norway and thus completed their European conquest!
8) In an adorable turn, cats use their whiskers to measure if they are able to fit through a space. This is why cats prefer wide flat drinking bowls, as they are able to raise their eyes/head easily to see around them, and their whiskers remain unperturbed. Doesn’t account for why they love to drink out of human glasses though...
9) Astonishingly, purring isn’t the exclusive domain of cats. Animals as far ranging as gorillas, squirrels, and even elephants are all getting in on the act too!
10) They are such great low-light and nighttime hunters because their eyes can see clearly in 6x lower light than humans.
11) Cats can rotate their ears 180 degrees, like little, adorable antennae. This allows them to hear, identify and locate any little bumps or squeaks that may be coming from the walls. In fact, a cat’s hearing is much better than a dog’s at the higher end of the scale, and just loses out on the lower end.
12) The uneven wee things have five toes on each front paw, but only four on the back ones. One cat had 32 in total though, that’s eight on each paw! This isn’t unheard of, with many cats having one or two extra. Count up those toe beans next time you get a chance and see if you’ve got a record breaker!
13) Have you ever seen your cat smell something and then bare its teeth? This is what happens when they’re using their Jacobson’s organ, which is an extra organ cats have in the roof of their mouth. It sits behind their front teeth and is used as another means of smelling things. There’s debate over what they use it for, specifically, with smelling food, detecting sexual scents, and as a way of sensing unusual vibrations or sounds like earthquakes the frontrunners.
14) One of the reasons that cats are so super stealthy is because their back paws land on the exact same spot as their front paws have just vacated when they’re walking. Sneaky!
15) Adult cats don’t meow at other adult cats. We can’t actually hear their natural vocal range. Meowing is the natural domain of babies who are signaling to their mother, but they grow out of this. Cats have learned to meow at humans, most likely because they’ve figured out that when they meow, we fetch. Or open door. Or pat. Or open door again. Or help them get down from that place.
16) A cat that’s got the cream is the stuff of sayings and legend. Cats are drawn to whole cream because of its high fat content. Fat is one of the main substances necessary in a cat’s diet (along with protein) so a bowl of cream smells good. Most cats are lactose intolerant though, and this can cause them stomach upsets. Add to this the fact that modern milk contains very little fat and it’s just not a winner. Kittens lose the ability to digest lactose when they are weaned, like most animals.
17) Chocolate is no treat either. Cats can’t perceive sweetness in taste, unlike dogs and humans. Their natural diet as obligate carnivores mean they never needed to crave anything sweet, as there’s nothing candy-like in a juicy bird or mouse!
18) The tiny geniuses have incredible inbuilt compasses. There’s an idea that this is through a combination of the Earth’s magnetic field, the angle of the sun and their own biological clock. Oh and they also have pretty killer memories. This solves the mystery of ages of how a sleeping cat in a car could find its way back to its old home, many miles away, despite not having any knowledge of the route.
19) Because collective nouns are always great: a group of cats is called a ‘clowder’, a ‘clutter’, or a ‘glaring’. A male cat is called a ‘tom’, a female cat is called a ‘molly’ or ‘queen’, while a group of kittens is called a ‘kindle’. Finally, and rather awesomely, a group of wild cats is called a ‘dowt’ or ‘destruction’.
20) The Mayor of the Alaskan town of Talkeetna was a stable and long lived red-haired guy called Stubbs. He was also a cat. From 1997 - 2017, when he died at the ripe old age of 20, Stubbs ran a benevolent reign over the town.
21) As portable weather predictors, cats go all right! Their tendency to lick their fur in one fashion to cool themselves down, and in another to insulate their fur, means they respond to changes in the weather. People used to watch them to see what was coming!
22) In ‘Project Acoustic Kitty’ in the 1960s, the CIA spent $20 million training cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. A small transmitter and microphone was inserted into one cat for its first mission, after five years of training. However, it was run over by a taxi almost immediately on being released toward its first target. Poor baby!
23) Cats are believed to be the most popular pet in the world. In many areas of the world, dogs are perceived as a less clean animal and it is here that cats take over. There is also a tendency for a household that has one cat, to have several, upping the numbers.
24) A cat’s hairball is technically known as a ‘trichobezoar’. The word simply breaks down to mean hairball. Bezoars were once thought to possess certain magical properties by acting as an antidote to some poisons (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, anyone?).
25) Cats can drink seawater. They are able to filter the salt from seawater in their kidneys, making them the perfect companions for long sea voyages. Although they shouldn’t be drinking super salty water on the regular, they are able to make do in a pinch, in a way that humans just can’t.
So the next time you want to wow someone with your words or simply make your friends go ‘huh, didn’t know that’, you can throw one of these excellent cat facts into conversation.