Inspired by a National Geographic story on some weird animal questions of the week, we're here to give you a quick run down of some of the most common Q&As about cats. Read on as we share with you!
Cats and belly rubs
Ah, the cat belly rub. Why is it that cats hate the thing most dogs beg and beg for? Well, there are always exceptions to the rule, but it goes for most cats that they truly hate a belly rub. Why?
There are a few thoughts on this. However, the one that pops up most frequently is that a cat feels most vulnerable in this area as it is so close to its vital organs. Even if you and your cat are inseparable and there's endless trust, it's more than likely your fur baby will not want nor appreciate such a pat. Feline instincts usually prevail in this situation as a means of survival and protection.
Additionally, Lena Provoost, an animal behaviorist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, tells National Geographic that hair follicles on the belly and tail area are hypersensitive to touch. Therefore, petting this area can be overstimulating.
"Cats prefer to be pet and scratched on the head, specifically under their chin and cheeks,” Lena says.
The chin and cheeks are also where scent glands are located. Rubbing up again other cats, as well as humans, is a way of them sharing their smell and knowing who forms a part of their colony.
Unless your kitty is an exception to the rule, we suggest avoiding the stomach area and stick to the classic purr activators.
Why is my cat's belly fur so thick?
Talking of the stomach area, you may have noticed that your cat's fur is much thicker around the belly. If so, you'd be correct.
In fact, adult cats are said to have approximately 60,000 hairs per square inch on their body, while their bellies are said to have double that. Now that's about 40 million hairs give or take!
Similar to belly rubs and protecting vital organs, it is said that a cat's extra volume of hair around the stomach plays a part in helping to protect against injury. Wild cats, or those who fight regularly, often attempt to injure one another on this part of the body. They use the classic "bunny kick" method, which gives them full mobility and strength to use their legs, as well as their teeth. Extra 'padding' can help to protect this area.
However, one of the primary reasons for the extra amount of belly hair is said to be due to a cat's integumentary system. An animal's integumentary system consists of the hair, feathers, scales, hooves, and/or nails, and helps to protect the animal's vital organs, body temperature, and visibility to predators.
Keeping warm in winter and cool in summer is, of course, vital to a cat's survival. The extra hair keeps the cat warm in winter, provides additional protection to its vital organs, and, yes, even assists with camouflage.
So what about the summer months?
Countershading: a lighter-coloured belly
You might have noticed that many bi-, tri- or multi-coloured cats have a lighter coloured belly. In fact, this can be seen across a large number of mammals including lions, wolves, chipmunks, and even whales.
This 'countershading' feature is said to help with three key factors: 1. Aiding in body temperature regulation; 2. Protecting against ultraviolet light and harmful sun rays; and 3. Enhancing visual camouflage.
A lighter coloured belly will also help to keep a cat cooler in warmer months; the hair will neither heat nor retain this heat as a darker colour would. A cat keeping cool in summer will often be seen lying down with part of its stomach pressed against a cooler surface as part of this process.
Of course, lighter-coloured bellies do not apply to all cats. However, these cats will have other various protective adaptations.
Drinking from the tap
Many of you will know this story all too well.
You're about to get a cat so you head to the shops or jump online to purchase all the various 'cat things' you'll need. While often inexpensive, a water bowl is sure to be on your shopping list. However, since your new cat's arrival, they've never drunk from it. Instead, they insist on drinking from the bathroom or kitchen tap. Even the toilet! Sound familiar?
It's not uncommon for cats to only want to drink from a running source of fresh water. Water left in a bowl can very quickly become contaminated and or change in taste making it unappealing to a cat. Instincts dictate this behaviour and you'll notice your kitty steering clear of the water bowl.
A water bowl that sits directly next to the cat's food bowl will also likely go untouched, even if topped-up regularly with fresh water. Instincts tell the cat that water close to a food source (dry or wet) can be contaminated, especially as meat in the wild can quickly become spoiled and riddled with bacteria.
A water fountain can be an option for kitties who insist on drinking from a running source. It gives them a chance to paw / play with the water, while also satiating their thirst for fresh, clean water.
Otherwise, if you're happy to share your sink or bath with the cat, then this may be your best bet!
My cat's eating grass...
For those perplexed by the sight - yes, cats eat grass. And yes, it's very normal. In fact, grass aids in the digestion of food. It also helps to eradicate those pesky furballs (for them, less so for us).
Cats can groom themselves anywhere from 5-10 hours per day. This regular, self-cleaning regime means that our cats are almost always clean and require minimal to no assistance from us in the grooming department (longer-haired breeds may need a little extra of our time). However, with all this grooming comes the build-up of hair in the digestive system. Enter the hairball!
As you're probably well aware, cats often expel hairballs to avoid excess quantities of hair from travelling through the digestive system. And funnily enough, it's easier to do this after snacking on grass.
Cats are unable to digest grass fully, therefore they will regurgitate most of it once chewed. Hair and any other unwanted bones or feathers swallowed after eating wild prey will also be encouraged to come up with the grass. Additionally, some juices from the grass will pass through the digestive system and help to break down any remaining hair that travels with it. Clever!
For those who live in apartments, cat grass can also be purchased from pet stores. This is usually a combination of barley, rye, and wheat grasses and does the same trick as fresh grass.
Why do cats suddenly go crazy?
Also known as a zoomie, it can be rather unexpected but also entertaining when our cats suddenly break into a manic dash-and-sprint spell. What on earth is going on?
While some may think there's a ghost in the house, sudden bursts of such activity can be put down to a few factors.
Cats spend a long time sleeping, meaning pent-up energy needs to be spent. It's not unlike an excited high or spate of giddiness we as humans sometimes experience. Young cats can also experience a classic 'teen crisis', including plenty of zoomies of hormonal energy.
Meanwhile, some cat parents also notice their cat's zoomies happen more frequently as the seasons change; a change in smells, sounds and temperatures can trigger a cat and invoke a random burst of uncontrollable energy.
So never fear, your home-dwelling ghost is just your kitty having nothing more than a simple zoomie!
Why do adult cats only meow at humans?
Yes, this is true. Basically.
When we start reading to our children, we often start with the basics such as the name of an animal and the sound that it makes. Naturally, we teach our kids that cats go "meow". But interestingly enough, adult cats only usually go "meow" at humans - not other cats.
Kittens learn to communicate with their mothers during nursing using a combination of purring, meowing and nuzzling. This allows a kitten to communicate its needs while also learning about life from its mother. But some weeks later, a kitten will stop meowing to its mother and siblings, and will instead communicate with other cats using body language, scents, territory markings, and other sounds.
You might say that cats also meow at each other while fighting - this is in fact called yowling. They might also hiss or growl.
As cats have long been domesticated, the most successful form of communicating their needs to humans has been to use vocal calls to express themselves. While they also use body language as a primary means of communication with us, meowing allows them to grab our attention instantly.
You might hear your cat meowing to say hello, seek attention, demand food, ask for cuddles, or to express pain or discomfort. They have adapted to use this form of communication with us having been exposed to our behaviours over hundreds and even thousands of years.
On that note, we'll add 'goodbye' to the above list and say "meow" for now.
Source: National Geographic