15 Unique Cat Facts in Honor of International Cat Day

Mysterious Cats are Celebrated on International Day of the Cat. Photo by Lee Rennick.

August 8, 2023 is International Cat Day. In honor of our feline friends, here are 15 unusual facts about cats and their long history of co-existing with humans. And it is a very long history. In 2004, a French anthropologist discovered the first recorded cat grave, which was 9,500 years old. The first appearance of cat domestication was in 3,600 B.C.

While cats have a reputation for being aloof, they are in fact very devoted to their human families. There are stories of them waking people up to get out of a burning house, chasing away perceived predators, saving people from committing suicide, and in one embassy in Russia they “told” the staff about electronic bugs in the walls.

They have always been somewhat mysterious and otherworldly. In fact, according to Hebrew legend, God created cats to help Moses protect the food supply on the Ark. Through time they have been seen by many religions as a psychopomp, an entity that guides the dead into the afterlife.

Cats are, in fact, currently the most popular pet in the United States. There are 88 million pet cats in the country. Some famous cat lovers include Taylor Swift, Abraham Lincoln, and Florence Nightingale, who said they had more sympathy and empathy than most human beings.

Charlottesville Cat Care Clinic, The Drake Center, and the Georgia Veterinary Association all have blogs sharing many fun facts about cats. Here are some fun and unusual facts that most people probably do not know.

  1. Cats have two times the number of neurons in their cerebral cortex as dogs. Perhaps this is why cats have more than 100 vocalizations versus a dog’s ten. After all, cats created meowing exclusively to communicate with humans. And they do get their feelings hurt, which is why they may act aloof, as they have nearly identical sections of the brain that control emotions as humans. When they reach out to touch you, they may be left or right handed, again like humans.
  2. While a cat may have come out of a lion’s mouth according to Hebrew legend, domestic cats are 95.3% tiger genetically. They can run 30 mph over short distances. They have 230 bones versus a human’s 203, this includes the 53 vertebrae that make their back so flexible. Humans only have 34 back bones.
  3. Ancient Egyptians revered cats because they were seen as earthly manifestations of their god, Bastet. She protected her followers against disease and evil spirits. When an Ancient Egyptian family’s pet cat died, they would shave their eyebrows in mourning and often the cat would be mummified and buried with family members in their burial chamber. It was a capital offense to kill a cat during this time. The Egyptian Mau cat is the oldest living cat breed.
  4. Blackie is the richest cat that ever lived. When his human, Ben Rea, a British antique dealer, died in 1988, he was left Rea’s entire $12.5 million fortune.
  5. The oldest recorded cat was named Cream Puff. She lived from 1967 until 2005. She was 38 years and three days old when she passed away. Cats are living longer according to a study done by Banfield Veterinary Hospitals. Between 2002 and 2012, the lifespan of cats increased by a year.
  6. Spaying and neutering can actually increase the life of a cat. Male cats, on average, live 62% longer, and females live 39% longer after the procedures. It also cuts down overpopulation of feral cats. Cats can become pregnant as early as four months, so it is best to get domesticated cats spayed or neutered before they are 5 months old. With a 65-day gestation cycle, they can multiply quickly. There are currently 700 million feral cats in the United States, about 200 of them live at Disneyland.
  7. In 1995, a green cat was born in Denmark.
  8. Onions, chives, garlic, grapes and raisins are toxic to cats.
  9. Each cat’s nose print is as unique as a person’s fingerprint.
  10. All of the actors in the movie “Cats” had to go to “Cat School” to learn how to move and act like a cat.
  11. Seventeen-year-old Stubby, an orange tabby, is the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska.
  12. Never cut a cat’s whiskers. They act like sonar for the cat. Being near-sighted, they use their whiskers to read their environment. Cats have whiskers in their cheeks, over their eyes, and on the backs of their front paws.
  13. Never have a cat’s front claws removed. Not only are they their main form of protection, they are what they use to climb to freedom if chased. Removing a cat’s claw is equivalent to cutting off a human’s finger at the first knuckle.
  14. Cats show affection in many different ways. A slow blink is considered by cats as a kiss. Sticking their butt in your face is another sign of affection. Rolling over and showing you their tummy means they trust you. Purring and making biscuits are signs that they are happy with you.
  15. Cats are very complex creatures. They have an extra organ that allows them to taste scents, which is why they sometimes open their mouths and get a glazed look when smelling something good in the air. And, humans still have no idea how cats make their purring sound.

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