20 Little Known Cat Facts

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If you have a feline friend, you may watch their behavior from time to time and wonder why they do all the cute, mischievous, and funny things they do. Cats may seem strange to humans, but they're intelligent, loving, independent, and playful. Of course, every cat is different, but there are a few things every pet parent should know about them. 

Whether you're wondering why your cat behaves the way they do or why they like certain toys over others, you'll enjoy this list of little-known facts about cats, covering everything from basic cat behavior to strange and weird cat facts. 

1. Most cats are social animals

Most people think cats are highly independent and don't enjoy the company of others. However, this is entirely false. How social are cats? Most cats are social and enjoy the company of other felines.1 If you have multiple cats, you may notice them grooming or even sleeping together. Of course, cats can also be dominant, so you should always monitor your cat's behavior, especially when introducing them to new pets. 

Most popular cat names are Oliver and Luna

2. The most popular cat names are Oliver & Luna

If you're wondering what to name your cat, you might be surprised to find the most popular cat names are Oliver for boys and Luna for girls. Of course, there are many other popular names to choose from, or you can choose something completely original, depending on your cat's unique personality. 

3. On average, cat care is significantly cheaper than dog care

Cats are lower maintenance than dogs in several ways, and their vet care, food, and toys are even cheaper.2 Of course, every cat is different, and there are many costs associated with pet ownership, so if you're choosing between a cat and a dog, you should weigh all the financial decisions you'll have to make. In addition, you can make your pet care more affordable by investing in pet insurance that will cover accidents and emergencies.

4. Cats are nearsighted 

Cats have great night and peripheral vision, which makes them good hunters. However, they're nearsighted compared to humans, who can clearly see objects much farther away than cats.3 Still, cats can see much better in low light or darkness because they have slit pupils and a reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum in their eyes that bounces and magnifies light. This part of your cat's eyes causes glare when you take a photo of them with the flash on. 

5. Their tails express emotions

People often think of dogs wagging their tails excitedly to express emotions, but cats can do the same. When cats wag their tails, they're trying to communicate with their humans. They could be expressing everything from happiness to pain when they wag their tails, so it's a good idea to pay attention to your cat's body language. 

6. Cats express affection 

If you've ever wondered why your cat licks you, sleeps on your dirty laundry, or rubs against you, you may be surprised to learn that they have a few different ways to express affection. Of course, all cats are different; some are more independent than others and prefer to spend their time alone. However, even shy cats find ways to show you they love you. 

7. They can have extra toes

Polydactyl cats have more than 18 toes, and these cats are fairly common. Polydactyly is a harmless congenital abnormality that won't affect your cat's health or quality of life. 

8. They're not nocturnal 

Many pet parents mistakenly believe their cats are nocturnal because they become more active at night. However, cats are actually crepuscular, being most active at dusk and dawn.4

9. Cats are lactose intolerant

Despite what you're shown in movies and on television, cats shouldn't drink milk because they're lactose intolerant. Of course, kittens should drink their mother's milk, but cow milk is bad for cats since they don't have lactase, an enzyme that allows them to digest lactose in milk.5 

Cats spend an average of 15-20 hours sleeping per day

10. Cats spend most of their lives sleeping

Cats spend an average of 15 to 20 hours a day sleeping.6 Of course, there are many reasons for this, including boredom, relaxing, and saving their energy for dusk and dawn. 

11. Indoor cats can run up to 30 mph

The average indoor house cat is fast, reaching speeds up to 30 mph.7 Of course, they're sprinters, not long-distance runners, so they can only maintain this speed for a short time. 

12. Cats are ancient

Cats were first domesticated in 3600 BC, with burial in Egypt dated as far back as the 4th millennium, predating previous evidence of domestication.8

13. Cats mark their owners

When you think of a cat marking something, you may think they lift their leg to urinate on it. While spraying urine is one way cats mark, they also rub against things to leave their scent. Your cat marks you by rubbing against you to combine their scent with yours and claim you as their property. 

14. Cats only meow to communicate with humans

If you were looking for strange cat facts, you might find it odd that cats only meow at humans. Cats communicate with each other in many ways, but adult cats don't meow at other cats. Instead, this behavior is reserved for humans because it's their way of getting your attention.9

15. People allergic to cats are not allergic to fur

Many people who experience an allergic reaction around cats think they're allergic to cat fur. However, they're allergic to saliva, urine, and dander because of a protein called Fel-d1 found in all three substances.10 Since cats spend a lot of their time grooming themselves, allergens can get everywhere around the home, no matter how much you clean. Therefore, owning a cat might not be right for you if you're allergic to them. 

16. The most popular breed of cat in the US is the Ragdoll

For three years, the Ragdoll has been the most popular cat breed in the US.11 These cats are known for their long hair, soft coats, and calm personalities. 

17. Cats don't have a sweet tooth

Recent studies have suggested that cats don't have a sweet tooth because they lack the proper receptor.12 If your cat seems interested in something sweet, it's likely because you're eating it. Of course, you should consult your vet before you share any human food with your cat. 

18. Orange cats are almost always male

Orange cats are almost always male because their coat color is linked to genetics. The Y chromosome can't carry the orange gene, so female cats can only be orange if they receive the gene from both parents.13 Calico cats are almost always female for similar reasons. Ultimately, coat color is determined by the coat color and genetics of the parents, so while an orange female is possible, they're incredibly rare. 

Only 50-70% of cats positively respond to catnip

19. Not all cats love catnip

Catnip benefits cats because it can act as a sedative to reduce anxiety and stress. However, it also provides mental stimulation when used with a toy, giving your cat something to do to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. However, it's a common misconception that all cats go crazy for catnip. Some cats are more sensitive to catnip than others, which is hereditary. Only 50-70 percent of cats have a positive response to catnip, so don't be surprised if your cat isn't interested in it.14 

20. Purring is healing 

Many of the cat facts you didn't know on this list are interesting, but this one can benefit cats and humans. The sound of your cat's purr is calming to you for many reasons. Firstly, you love your cat, so any sound they make is likely to calm you. In addition, it's a soothing sound, but it's much more than that. 

When your cat purrs, you might think it's because they're happy or content. While it is true, their purr may also be a healing mechanism. The vibrational frequencies of a cat's purr can be used to promote healing and bone growth while reducing pain.15 If your cat is purring more than usual, you may want to have them examined by a vet to look for signs of illness or pain. 

Cat owner booping cat on the nose

Final Notes

Hopefully, these little-known cat facts can help you learn more about your feline friend, their behaviors, and their health. Everything from a cat's instincts to their nutrition can affect their mental and physical health, so it's important to learn everything you can about your pet. 

In addition to learning strange cat facts, you should invest in your cat's quality of life. Stress, poor nutrition, and lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation can reduce your cat's lifespan, make them develop undesirable behaviors, and affect their overall health and happiness. 

Working with a vet is the best way to ensure your cat's health and wellness throughout their lives. Talk to a Dutch vet or read other resources for cat owners today to learn more about cat health and behavior. 

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References

  1. "Cat Behavior: Facts and Myths." ScholarlyCommons, https://repository.upenn.edu/bellwether/vol1/iss4/8.

  2. "How Much Do Americans Really Spend on Their Pets? We Asked 1,300 Owners." Money, https://money.com/dog-cost-and-cat-cost/.

  3. Ghose, Tia. "Feline Vision: How Cats See the World." LiveScience, Purch, 16 Oct. 2013, https://www.livescience.com/40459-what-do-cats-see.html.

  4. "Cat Keeping You Awake? How to Manage Night Activity." Animal Humane Society, https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/behavior/cat-keeping-you-awake-how-manage-night-activity.

  5. "Vet Q&A: Can Cats Drink Milk?" PDSA, https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/blog/vet-qa-can-cats-drink-milk.

  6. "Why Do Cats Sleep so Much?" PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/cat/behavior/evr_ct_why_do_cats_sleep_so_much.

  7. Bradley, Colette. "30 Cat Facts for Happy Healthy Cat Month." Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, 3 Sept. 2020, https://www.hsppr.org/30-cat-facts-for-happy-healthy-cat-month/.

  8. Van Neer, Wim, et al. "More Evidence for Cat Taming at the Predynastic Elite Cemetery of Hierakonpolis (Upper Egypt)." Journal of Archaeological Science, Academic Press, 27 Feb. 2014, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440314000636.

  9. "Meowing and Yowling." ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/meowing-and-yowling.

  10. Bonnet, B., et al. "An Update on Molecular Cat Allergens: Fel d 1 and What Else? Chapter 1: Fel D 1, the Major Cat Allergen - Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology." BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 10 Apr. 2018, https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13223-018-0239-8.

  11. "The Cat Fanciers' Association Announces Most Popular Breeds for 2021." The Cat Fanciers Association Inc, https://cfa.org/cfa-news-releases/top-breeds-2021/.

  12. Knox, Richard. "Cats Can't Taste Sweetness, Study Finds." NPR, 25 July 2005, https://www.npr.org/2005/07/25/4766556/cats-cant-taste-sweetness-study-finds.

  13. "X-Inactivation Marks the Spot for Cat Coat Color: Science Project." Science Buddies, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/MamBio_p022/mammalian-biology/x-inactivation-cat-coat-color.

  14. "Why Do Some Cats Not React to Catnip?" PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/news/view/why-do-some-cats-not-react-catnip-37525.

  15. Muggenthaler, Elizabeth von. "The Felid Purr: A Healing Mechanism?" Scitation, Acoustical Society of AmericaASA, 1 Jan. 1970, https://asa.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1121/1.4777098.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.