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Cat factfile

Domestic cats (Felis catus) are thought to originate from the African Wildcat and retain much of this species’ biology and behaviour.

Insight into the biology and behaviour of cats can help you to understand your pet better, so check out our top ten cat facts!

1. Cats have highly developed senses
Cats can detect higher frequencies of sound than dogs or humans.
Cats have an excellent sense of smell, superior to humans.
Cats can see better than humans in dark and dim light.

2. Cats are expert hunters
Cats hunt alone and predation is time-consuming; a cat in the wild needs to spend 6-8 hours a day hunting to meet its nutritional needs.
Cats have evolved to eat lots of small rodent-sized prey items a day, each prey item providing a small amount of energy.
Special sensory adaptations help cats hunt:

  • Cats are particularly sensitive to the high pitched frequencies used by small rodents for communication.
  • Cats whiskers, or ‘vibrissae’, are highly mobile and sensitive to vibrations, helping them to detect prey.

3. Cats are agile
Cats have powerful, tightly controlled muscles and fast reflexes that allow them to move quickly and gracefully.
Cats are skilled at running, jumping, climbing, and stealthily stalking prey.

4. Cats use a range of methods to communicate
Normal cat behaviour and communication methods are often misunderstood by humans.
Cats use a variety of sounds to communicate, including purrs, ‘meows’, trills, chirrups, growls, yowls, and hisses.
Cats communicate visually using different body postures, facial expressions, ear and tail positions, as well as visual markers such as scratch marks or the deposition of faeces.

5. Cats are independent
Survival is a solitary affair for cats; they are self-reliant for food, shelter, grooming and territory defence.
Cats can be social but prefer to choose their own companions.

6. Cats are territorial
A cat’s territory is an area that is defended, aggressively if required, by a cat against other cats.
Cats use a range of methods to mark their territory, including scratching, spraying urine and depositing faeces.

7. Cats are meat eaters
Eating meat is important for cats; they cannot survive without the nutrients found in animal-derived materials.
Compared to other carnivores, cats have fewer teeth. For example, the dog has 42 teeth, but the cat only has 30 and most of its teeth are adapted for eating meat.

8. Cats love cat naps!
Domestic cats sleep for 12-18 hours a day!
Sleep allows energy resources to be replenished so is vital for a predator that needs to be ready to hunt whenever it detects prey.

9. Cats are playful
Cats are intelligent and need both mental and physical stimulation.
Play is an important aspect of both kitten and adult cats’ behaviour.
Play has various purposes in the cat, including improving motor skills so the cat becomes a more efficient predator, brain training and as a social behaviour.

10. Cats are clean animals
Cats are well known for their cleanliness. Tiny abrasive hooks, found on the centre of cats’ tongues, help them to groom themselves very efficiently.
Grooming keeps a cat’s coat in good condition and also helps to remove fleas and other parasites.

Article replicated with kind permission from the National RSPCA website

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