6 Odd Domesticated Cat Facts
Pet cats are strange, mysterious creatures. On the one hand, they’re small, fluffy little things that love a warm windowsill and the occasional scratch on their chin. But on the other, they are apex predators, honed by millions of years to be ruthless killing machines much like their bigger, wilder cousins such as lions, tigers and leopards. Here are 6 interesting facts about the furry enigmas.
1) Cats basically domesticated themselves
Dogs, as we know them now, did not exist in the wild. Every dog you see from a pug to an Alsatian comes from early humans domesticating wolves hundreds of thousands of years ago and selectively breeding them over time. But with the humble pet cat, this is a different story. Researchers theorise that wildcats in the Middle East found that human villages provided them with a much easier life than hunting in the wild – humans had clean water, would offer them food and often had safe, comfortable places to sleep. Over time, these wildcats became smaller and a little bit more docile and became the domesticated cats we know today. This would explain why your tabby is much more similar to a mountain lion, than a poodle is to a timber wolf.
2) Cats don’t meow to each other – only to humans
Cats make an awful racket when they don’t get along. They hiss, wail and screech at each other, but they very rarely meow to their own kind. In fact, researchers into the topic of this form of communication have put forward that cats, being the cunning animals that they are, have actually learnt to meow at a frequency and sound similar to that of a baby in order to get food or comfort from people by playing on their inbuilt child-rearing instincts.
3) They have an unusual skeleton
Sneaky, cunning, and able to fit into spaces smaller than they seemingly should be able to, cats are the perfect sneak hunter. You may have seen them squeeze through tiny gaps in fences or underneath a piece of furniture and wonder how it was physically possible. Well, the answer is because of two main reasons. First of all, they have floating collarbones unlike us which means that their front legs have a much greater range of flexibility. As well as this, they have a collapsible ribcage which helps them flatten themselves down. Basically, if there is a gap big enough for a cat’s head, its entire body can get through. If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that this makes them annoyingly good at hide and seek.
4) They are fussy about food for a good reason
Cats are notoriously fussy, known for often refusing food that they normally love for seemingly no reason. Whilst this might be irritating for an owner (trust me, it is), the cat is actually doing this because of its built-in survival instincts. As lone predators in the wild, cats have to make sure that what they eat is not going to make them sick and their heightened sense of taste and smell means that they can notice very small changes in food. Theories behind this behaviour seem to agree that cats are ‘fussy’ because they are programmed to avoid any food that could be potentially poisonous, even though they live in a totally poison-free flat in Bristol, not the ancient jungles of Bangladesh.
5) Cats can ‘parachute’ when they fall
The saying ‘a cat always lands on its feet’ is a pretty accurate statement. Cats have a very flexible spine that allows them to swing round very quickly in a fall, so they can land on their paws and brush it off as if nothing had happened. But they can also do one more spectacular thing to help them endure a fall from height and that is that they use their body like a parachute.
Big and small cats have always loved climbing up tree-trunks to relax in the safety of the branches and soak up the cool air, but occasionally they make mistakes. When an unlucky moggy misjudges a jump and ends up falling, it can stretch out its legs and the skin in between to create much more air resistance and to slow it right down. The flying squirrel does a very similar thing but much better than the humble pet cat, so it can glide from tree to tree effortlessly.
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