Felines have an air of mystery, although cat owners know that once you befriend a kitty, they can be major goofballs — a far cry from that initial impression of aloof mystique. But there are so many interesting traits that set cats apart from all other animals. The more scientists uncover about our feline friends, the more amazing they seem.
The skin on a cat's nose has a pattern of bumps and ridges that's as unique as a human fingerprint. You can look closely at your pet's nose leather with a magnifying glass or the macro setting on your phone's camera. However, it doesn't appear that nose-printing will soon replace micro-chipping for identifying lost cats.
If you watch closely when your cat strolls past you, you might notice how your pet's limbs move in unison in a way that they share with very few other animals on the planet, namely, the camel and giraffe. The legs on the left side of their body move forward, and then the legs on the right side of their body move forward. Cats also walk on their tippy-toes, another trait they share with camels.
Cats have very few sweat glands, and the ones they do have are present in hairless places, like their paw pads and lips. That's why cats tend to leave little visible paw prints when they walk across smooth surfaces. Since their sweat glands have such a small surface area, cats can be prone to overheating if they overdo it on a hot day.
Most of us know that dogs and cats both have way better senses of smell than we humans, but you might be surprised to learn that cats outrank dogs when it comes to distinguishing one scent from another. Cats use their powerful sniffers to detect food, mating partners, and potential enemies. It helps them keep track of their territory and enables them to know if you were out petting another cat behind their back.
Cats are unable to taste sweetness — while they have the genes responsible for detecting that taste, those genes have a defect that renders them useless. However, cats really aren't missing out by not being able to taste sweetness. They are obligate carnivores that need meat, meat, and only meat to survive, unlike your dog, who might act like they're going to die if you don't give them a lick of your ice cream cone.
Some cats seem to have oversized egos for their small size, but there could be a good reason for that! Domestic cats and mighty tigers shared a set of great-grandparents about 10.8 million years ago, and today, the pint-sized and giant felines still share 95.6% of their DNA — that much of their genetic building blocks are the same. Interestingly, cats and humans share about 90% of their DNA. Compare that with humans and chimpanzees, which have a 99% similarity.
According to cat behaviorist and author John Bradshaw, it seems that cats view humans as large, clumsy, not-very-bright cats. Apparently, it's our uselessness at hunting small prey that leads cats to believe they're the superior species. Bradshaw suggests that's why cats sometimes bring owners gifts of mice or birds — cats think it's what we want, but we just don't have the skills to do it for ourselves.
Just like dogs, a cat can learn to recognize and respond to the name their owner gives them. A 2022 study shows that cats also learn and recognize the names and faces of other cats in their household. When cats were shown a photo of a cat they knew but heard the wrong name spoken at the same time they saw the picture, their reaction demonstrated that they knew it was not right.
Did you know that cats can favor one paw over another, similar to humans and their hands? It seems that male cats are most likely to be left-pawed, and females tend to be right-pawed. However, a good percentage of cats are ambidextrous and show no paw preference. Watch your cat closely next time they play to see if they use one paw more than the other.
Research shows that petting a cat has a calming effect on humans. Just watching a cat curled up asleep makes people want to snuggle up and take a nap themselves. But one study says that the relaxation effect adds up to big benefits over time. Kitty cat owners were 30% less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke than people who led meow-free lives.
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