ANSWERS TO THE TOP 10 QUESTIONS ABOUT CATS
Have you ever considered what makes a cat purr, what makes them knead, or why they seem to like sitting in boxes so much? If so, you’re not alone!
We have researched the 10 most frequently asked questions about your cat and come up with these startling facts to share with you about our feline friends:
1. Why do cats purr?
Research suggests that cats purr for various reasons, omitting a low-frequency vibration as they do so, sending out waves of calmness. Purring is generally associated with a happy cat, positive social situations and some kind of enjoyable activity like being stroked, grooming another cat, while nursing or when in a comfortable environment. A general happy murmur.
However, cats also purr when they’re sick, injured, or stressed using the soft rumble as a form of self-soothing or even self-healing. We understand that purring serves as a method of communication that kittens learn as early as a few days old, communicating when they are content while with their mother. What is even more fascinating about purring is that your cat can not control the signals from her central nervous system that allow her to purr, making her purring something that is automatically triggered when they are happy or self-soothing. Their purr comes from their voice box and studies have shown that purring can lower blood pressure and improve states of depression which is why cats are amongst the best therapy animals.
Fun Fact: the loudest purr in the world was measured up to 92 decibels which are as loud as a lawnmower!! Now that’s one happy cat!!
2. How long do cats live?
The good news is by taking good care of your cat they can generally live an average of 13 to 17 years with the average cat now living longer lives than ever thanks to better nutrition and up to date medical treatments which are now available.
The importance of vaccinations and annual health checks will allow any hidden illnesses to be caught early and treated, preventing long term conditions. Diet and exercise are also important in your cat’s health and should not be overlooked as cats need exercise and playtime to prevent boredom and maintain agility and being overweight or obese can shorten their lifespan by a few years. Some cats like Siamese live on average 12 to 20 years while the Sphynx is averaged at 10 to 15 years and a Main Coon, 10 to 13 years. Regrettably, outdoor cats’ lifespan tends to be shorter than that of indoor cats due to many factors. They live for around 2 – 5 years compared with the indoor cat. This is sadly due to the fact that outdoor cats are exposed to many more dangers and risks including being hit by vehicles, encounters with other wild animals, being poisoned, the availability of food, various diseases and parasites, and of course the elements.
Other factors that tend to negatively affect their lifespan are having no preventative care or nutrition available, and living a feral lifestyle which is why we place such importance on the care and protection of stray cats.
Fun Fact: One cat named Creme Puff made it to the grand old age of 38 so never doubt how many lives your cat actually has!!
3. Why do cats knead?
Your cat kneading on you is a sign of love and affection. The kneading should be coupled with purring and you can rest assured you are loved by your cat.
Kneading (also known as making dough due to the similarity) is when your cat pushes their front paws up and down on a soft surface, alternating between left and right and all the while retracting their claws. Not all cats retract while kneading though, some will simply give you a message if they are kneading on top of you.
Besides being another way to mark you with the scent glands on their paw pads, your cat is showing you they are comfortable and happy around you but be warned, the cats that are serious kneaders may require you to have a blanket on your lap to cushion the claws from your skin.
Newborn kittens will knead their mothers when nursing to stimulate milk production so the act of kneading is generally associated with comfort, contentment and attention-seeking.
4. Why do cats sleep so much?
Have you ever wondered if all the sleeping your cat does is normal? Did you know that cats spend an average of 15 to 20 hours sleeping or resting a day?
Cats sleep in short increments that alternate between dozing and deep sleep. Some cats, especially older cats, can sleep up to 20 hours per day! One of the reasons they sleep so much is because they are awake most of the night hunting imaginary birds or mice. Cats are crepuscular (active in the morning and evening) meaning they are generally asleep during the day as they spend their energy by night. You must have seen your cat do the mad dash around the house in the middle of the night? This is your cat releasing energy in short bursts and keeping to his ancient roots when he would be hunting by night and resting by day. Like many predators, they conserve energy by sleeping and saving their energy for these bursts when they will do their hunting. This sleep cycle is completely normal for a cat however most domesticated cats have adap[ted to our lifestyle and will happily hang with us humans during the day and sleep throughout the night.
5. Why do cats have whiskers?
So, what is the function of the gorgeous whiskers on kittens that made Julie Andrews, “Favourite Things” so relatable to all of us?
Whiskers are specifically tuned sensory equipment that guides a cat through daily functions. Also called vibrissae, they are very sensitive tactile hairs that connect to a cat’s muscular and nervous system providing them with information about their environment. These specialized hairs aid vision and help them navigate through their environments such as whether they can fit through a tight space and the distance they are away from an object. It helps determine air currents and is especially useful in low light or darkness. Although whiskers are called “tactile” hairs, they don’t actually feel anything, rather transmit information to the sensory cells when they detect movement or objects.
When a cat is scared or threatened, their whiskers tend to be pulled back against their faces but when happy or excited, they tend to pull them forward.
Just one of the reasons “whiskers on kittens” are one of our favourite things.
6. What does catnip do to cats?
If you have a cat then you probably have a supply of catnip at home which your cat will display an obvious reaction to most of the time. There will generally be a show of extreme interest at the scent, rolling on the floor and getting quite excited similar to a female in heat. There are a few things that will evoke this kind of behaviour but catnip is one of them. Though it may look like your cat is getting “high”, catnip does not appear to be addictive or harmful to cats and lasts for only a short period of time before your cat becomes immune to its charms rather quickly.
Catnip is a herb in the mint family, and whether or not a cat responds to it actually depends on its genetics as surprisingly, only about 70% of cats have this gene. Researchers believe that the smell of catnip triggers receptors in a cat’s brain that make them feel stimulated and happy. While it is not a true pheromone, as it is produced by a plant, it has a pheromone effect. If your cat likes catnip, you may find it helpful when teaching them to use a scratching post or encouraging them to play more.
There are several other plants containing compounds similar in structure to catnip like valerian root, Tatarian honeysuckle and silver vine which should all evoke a response from your cat.
7. Why do cats hate water?
Many cats dislike water for a few reasons and here we shall look at some of the theories why. Firstly, most cats’ spend a lot of time grooming themselves and don’t like anything that doesn’t smell “normal” to them on their fur. This will cause them to over-groom and the whole point of bathing them becomes pointless from their point of view. Their fur also isn’t designed to repel water so it becomes overly heavy when it gets too wet and your cat would probably not like the feeling of having their body drenched and weighted down.
The descendants of cats have typically come from dry and arid areas and have never learned to swim due to there being no revolutionary need for it and this behaviour has been passed on to modern-day cats.
Fun Fact: Not all cats hate water. There are certain breeds of cats that love water, such as Abyssinians who initially arrived in Europe by boat, Turkish Vans which have been nicknamed “the swimming cat”, and Maine Coons who have a water-resistant coat and were historically trusted pest exterminators on sailing ships.
8. Why do cats eat grass?
Most cats have at some time or another been seen eating grass and then probably vomiting it up again shortly afterwards. There are a few reasons that cats do this which we shall explain to you.
Grass contains a nutrient called folic acid which helps move oxygen around the bloodstream.
Most veterinarians think cats like to eat grass to relieve gastrointestinal issues or to get rid of parasites since the grass has a lot of fibre, while some believe they eat it to intentionally vomit. As cats lack the enzymes to break down a lot of grass, your cat may eat it to induce vomiting and clear out indigestible materials like fur and small bones from their stomachs. In addition, they may also eat grass to help move material through their digestive tract, thus using the grass as a laxative.
Just make sure your cat isn’t eating any toxic plants or grass that was treated with chemicals, and if you notice they’re eating unusually large amounts of grass, talk to your vet because there could be an underlying problem.
9. Why do cats like boxes?
How gorgeous does your cat look in that cardboard box? You had it ready for recycling and suddenly there is a cat in the box. Did you know cats like boxes because it makes them feel safe and warm?
Cardboard can provide insulation that helps a cat retain their body heat so when cats are outdoors they may look for shelter from the elements in a cardboard box. Cats get comfort and security from enclosed spaces and when in the wild will look for places like this to protect them from being seen by a predator or having one sneak upon them while useful when being equally useful when stalking prey. Cats associate small spaces like this with safety and cardboard boxes are helpful in times of stress. They also provide a warm, cosy place for them to sleep. A great way to provide your cat with a box and help them overcome their fear of the carrier is to leave the carrier somewhere in your home where your cat likes to spend their time, open the door or take it off, and place bedding inside of it for them. At their own pace and time, they will be able to familiarise themselves with the carrier and enter without fear of having been left to their own devices.
10. What is a group of cats called?
A group of cats is called a clowder, cludder or clutter and a group of kittens is called a kindle but if they are siblings all born together they are called a litter.
A group of stray or feral cats however are considered “community cats” or “colonies” also known as dowt or dout and destruction.
Yes, that’s right, destruction of feral cats wandering around the market.
A male cat is a “tom” but a neutered male is a “gib”,
A female cat is called a molly, an unspayed female cat is called a queen and the term Dam is used for a rare or purebreed female cat and is used for cat breeding.