By Dr. Becker
Cats are captivating creatures, and so are the myths and legends that surround them.
Veterinary publication dvm360.com has compiled a wealth of fun cat facts, stats, and folklore from Facebook posts and Tweets, including the following entries.1
Feline Facts and Folklore from Facebook
- Cats Have Sharp Tongues
All feline tongues, from tabby house pets to 600-pound Bengal tigers, are covered with tiny barbs or hooks, giving the tongue a rough texture. These microscopic projections, called “filiform papillae,” face toward the cat's throat and are the tools that help it groom its coat. The barbs work like a comb, catching and cleaning the cat's fur.
- They Come Down the Way They Go Up
Cats can't climb head first down trees because every claw on the feline paw points in the same direction. To get out of a tree, Fluffy must back down.
- Some Cats Are All Thumbs
Polydactyl cats have more than the usual number of toes and are known by many names, including Hemingway cat, mitten cat, big-foot cat, six-toed cat, and even cats with thumbs.
- Some Are Lefties
A study in the UK found that, like people, cats are either right-handed or left-handed, though some are ambidextrous. Females are more likely to be right-handed while males are more frequently left-handed.
A study conducted at Turkey's Atatürk University showed that 50 percent of domestic cats are right pawed, 40 percent favor their left paws, and 10 percent are ambidextrous.
- It’s Not a Toomah!
In January 2012, the BBC reported that a British cat named Gemma went under the knife for removal of a tumor the “size of two cricket balls” that was preventing her from eating. Turns out it wasn’t a tumor – it was a 5-inch wide hairball that weighed 7.5 ounces!
- Male Calicos Are the Result of Quirky Genetics
According to cat expert Dr. Arnold Plotnick, approximately one calico in 3,000 is male, thanks to a genetic oddity known as “Klinefelter syndrome.” A kitty with this condition has X and Y chromosomes, making it a male, but he also has an extra X chromosome that allows for the expression of the calico coat pattern.
- Some Felines Apparently Float
It is said that Unsinkable Sam, a black and white cat also known as Oskar, survived the sinking of a total of three ships during World War II: the Bismarck, the HMS Cossack, and the HMS Ark Royal.
- Some Forecast the Weather
Once upon a time in America, a cat with its back to the fire foretold a cold snap; all four paws tucked under meant bad weather was coming.
- Hairballs Are Good Medicine
The scientific term for a hairball is trichobezoar. The root, trich is Greek for “hair.” A bezoar is any mass found in the stomach or intestines. It comes from the Persian word for “antidote.”
Animal hairballs were once thought to cure epilepsy, the plague, and poisoning. During the Middle Ages, hairballs were even set in gold.
- Speedy Cats
It has been reported that a cat can travel at a top speed of approximately 31 mph over a short distance. It has also been reported that domestic cats have a top speed of 29.8 mph.
#Cat Tweets from the Twitterverse
- Spy Cats
The CIA's Acoustic Kitty operation in the 1960s tried to use #cats to obtain secret recordings at the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. @DNews
- First Feline in Space
The first cat launched into space in 1963 was a French female named Felicette (a.k.a. “Astrocat”). We’re happy to report she survived the trip.
- Ferals at the Happiest Place on Earth
Disneyland keeps 200 feral #cats on hand to rid it of rodents at night. @CNN
- Sorry, Did You Say Something?
#Cats recognize their owners' voices, but may still ignore them! @dvm360
- Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor… uh, Never Mind.
In the 1870s, the Belgian village of Liège trained 37 mail #cats to deliver letters. It didn't last long.
#Cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day. @petmd
Although #cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, three-quarters of that sleep is snoozing, not deep sleep. @catster
- Open the Door. I Live Here Now.
59 percent of #cats are acquired without the owner's prior intent. @dvm360
- Let. Me. In.
Interrupted from his work at Cambridge by his #cats scratching at the door, lore tells us Sir Isaac Newton invented the cat door.
- Here Kitty Kitty
It is believed that #cats respond more readily to names ending in -ie or -y.
- Can I Get You Anything Else? A Nice Dead Mouse, Perhaps?
It was once believed #cats could start storms through magic, so sailors always made sure cats were content.