The Scientific Explanation Behind Cats And Their Strange Behaviors

Cats are pretty difficult to figure out. They can be playful and sweet, then vicious in a flash! With so many bizarre characteristics, we have to wonder: what exactly makes a cat so complex? 

The mysterious world of a feline is certainly exciting to explore, but you may be surprised at just how complicated these pets really are. By the end of this list, you will have a newfound respect for the tabby curled up on your bed! 

1. Yes, your cat CAN bend that way. They actually have 53 vertebrae on their spines, while a human only has a measly 34. So stop trying to best your kitten during morning yoga — they’ve got you beat by 19 vertebrae!

2. If cat vs. dog intelligence has ever been debated, consider it resolved: Cats have 300 million neurons in their brains, while dogs have just 160 million. In fact, a cat’s brain is considered to be extremely similar to a human’s brain, so expect a feline uprising any day now.

3. Since whiskers detect distances and movements by the air’s vibration, they’re actually crucial to a cat’s survival in the outdoors. So don’t be too scared if your cat runs off — they have survival tools built right into their bodies!

4. What’s the deal with cats and catnip? Cats naturally have the scent of catnip binded to their nasal passages, so when they get a whiff of the herb, it stimulates the sensory receptors in their brains — and makes them act a little lovey-dovey.

5. It’s no secret that cats spend a majority of the day sleeping. We’re actually pretty jealous of just how long a cat can sleep for, which is at least 12-16 hours a day. Cats just don’t know how lucky they are! 

6. Did you know that cats have dominant paws? Females are more likely to use their right paws while males usually prefer their left. No word yet on if the whole “right brain, left brain” thing exists with cats!

7. The rumors are true, cats can change color! Well, maybe not in the way you’re thinking. Siamese cats have a gene modifier that technically makes them albino, but when they’re introduced to high temperatures, portions of their fur turns gray or even black. 

8. If you want your cat to stop leaping onto the kitchen table, try spraying them with lemon water. Cats are picky eaters and are especially sensitive to bitter and citrus-y flavors, so they’ll quickly learn to avoid the lemony spray. 

9. The next time your partner scolds you for taking too long in the shower, bring up this fact: cats spend 30%-50% of the day cleaning their bodies! Much like us with showering, grooming improves a cat’s circulation and prevents any unseemly odors. 

10. A purring cat can be totally soothing when you’re in a bad mood, but the sound has other surprising healing properties as well. Purring can be restorative to a cat’s health, and it even helps heal problems with bones and tissues. 

11. Be careful when considering a major lifestyle change with your cat. Studies have shown that something as simple as a change in routine can negatively impact a cat’s immune system and make it sick. Even a healthy cat can be affected!

12. Cats really do have 9 lives, and it’s thanks to their interesting bodies. Cats have a “straightening reflex,” meaning that some of the tiny balancing-organs in their ears help tell a cat when they’ll hit the ground and how to land on their feet. 

13. At night, cats often choose to sleep in spots that are high-up and hidden in an effort to remain unseen by potential predators. This is just more proof that modern-day cats are not so different from cats in ancient times!

14. We all know that people can be allergic to cats, but did you know that some cats can be allergic to people? It’s estimated that approximately 1 in 200 cats suffers from asthma caused by dusty and unkempt living conditions. Luckily, cat inhalers exist.

15. If you’ve stepped on your cat’s tail, the high-pitched shriek and bared fangs you get in return is exactly what you’d see in a stray. A cat’s DNA never changes, so when threatened they revert right back to the wild ways of their ancestors. 

16. Humans are unique in how we all have different fingerprints, and the same can be said for cats…sort of. Believe it or not, the sure-fire identifier for a cat is actually its nose! Who knew those little noses were so complex?

17. It may sound like the only thing your cat does is meow and purr, but felines can actually produce about 100 sounds! This certainly furthers the “cats are smarter than dogs” argument, considering how dogs only produce about 10 sounds.

18. Cats need seven times less light than humans to see, especially during the daylight hours. This explains why some cats naturally gravitate towards dimly-lit rooms or closets. It’s also why they’re more energetic at night — they can simply see things easier!

19. There’s another reason cats are so bendy, and it’s not because they’ve been exercising! Felines are born without clavicles, which means they don’t have to worry about bulky bones impeding their movement. This makes them experts when it comes to slinking through narrow passages!

20. If your cats aren’t BBFs, there’s a reason why. Cats develop a “secret language” with humans, a language they do not share with any other cat living in the same space. This means no cuddling and no mingling — they’re basically just acquaintances!

Plenty of cats share their living spaces with a dog, too, because there’s a lot of overlap with cat and dog people. That’s why even feline aficionados are brushing up on these wild dog facts.

1. The word “puppy” is a relatively new addition to the English language. A variation on the French word “poupeé,” meaning doll or toy, it caught on in the late 1500s. Before that? Britons referred to baby dogs by the not-so-catchy term “whelps.”

Etsy

2. Puppies sleep a ton — sometimes up to 20 hours per day — and for good reason. Rest is essential for their developing body and mind. Even when they reach maturity, dogs catch quite a few z’s each day, usually between 12 and 14 hours.

3. Just like humans, young dogs have baby teeth that fall out and eventually get replaced by an adult set. However, there is still no evidence that any kind of dog tooth fairy exists.

4. Depending on the breed, dogs can have vastly different sized litters. Bigger canines usually have bigger litters, as a rule of thumb. A Neapolitan mastiff owns the current record for giving birth to 24 puppies in 2011.

The West Australian / Ian Munro

5. Can dogs inspire great works of art? Hamilton composer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda would certainly say so. His stage ballad “Dear Theodosia” started out as an ode to his dog Tobillo, a stray pup he adopted in 2011.

6. If you’ve ever met a newborn puppy, you’ll notice that their eyes and ears don’t open for a couple of weeks. This is because, compared to other mammals, gestation periods for dogs are pretty short. As a result, puppies are born not quite fully developed!

7. Rolling Stones guitar hero Keith Richards smuggled a number of things past customs, cough cough, but his cutest contraband was a puppy. After sneaking it past British authorities, he named the pooch Ratbag and treated him to a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

Bent Rej

8. Sure, your dog is friendly, but have you ever worried that they’d like any old stranger just as much as you? One 2005 study will put your mind at ease. Researchers observed that canines are most responsive to their owners, proving there is a definite bond.

9. Sports teams aren’t the only ones with dog mascots. The Spanish city of Bilbao is synonymous with West Highland Terriers thanks to Puppy, a gigantic sculpture outside the Guggenheim Museum. The statue weighs 17 tons and is covered in living flowers.

10. Just like in humans, yawns are contagious among mature dogs — probably as an embedded form of social empathy. Curiously enough, this isn’t the case for puppies! They are undeveloped enough to not react to their owners’ yawns at all.

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11. For famed novelist John Steinbeck, a dog really did eat his homework. In 1936, his teething puppy tore apart his lone manuscript for Of Mice and Men. The frustrated author had to rewrite those chapters, much to the delight (or chagrin) of students everywhere.

Playbuzz

12. Even though puppies from the same litter are similar, it’s extremely rare to find identical twin canines. The first confirmed case didn’t come until 2016 when a South African veterinarian determined two pups were genetically identical from sharing the same placenta.

Semantic Scholar

13. But twin puppies aren’t the only genetic canine copies out there. Scientists successfully cloned the first dog in 2005, and that practice has expanded into a niche industry of cloning families’ beloved pets — for the hefty price of $50,000.

EPA

14. It’s no coincidence that dogs seem sadder whenever you’re eating. They’ve evolutionarily adapted to raise their eyebrows and make their eyes bigger to improve their chances of guilting humans into tossing a scrap of food their way.

Entrepreneur

15. Seeing eye dogs aren’t the only employed pooches out there. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has trained a puppy named Riley to sniff out species of moths and beetles that destroy priceless artwork.

Smithsonian Magazine

16. Attention Dalmatian owners: don’t freak out when your puppies are born without any of the trademark spots! Those only start to pop up as the breed gets older. And Dalmatian puppies aren’t the only ones who’ve surprised owners with their coats…

17. In 2017, several dogs in the UK made headlines for giving birth to green puppies. Was this a rare mutation? Were the pups celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? No, it turns out their fur was temporarily dyed by biliverdin, a pigment naturally found in dog placentas.

18. Don’t freak out if your boss catches you scrolling through dog photos at work. A 2012 study concluded that looking at pictures of cute animals can actually help you concentrate afterward.

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19. There was one warm and fuzzy result of the Cold War. Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev knew that President John F. Kennedy was curious about Strelka, the Russian dog that went into space. As a gift, he sent JFK one of Strelka’s puppies. The Kennedys named her Pushinka, after the Russian word for “fluffy.”

Wikimedia Commons / Cecil W. Stoughton

20. JFK’s one-time political rival Richard Nixon also had a historical puppy moment. While running for Vice President in 1952, Tricky Dick came under fire for using campaign contributions for personal use. He denied these claims in a televised speech and said that the only gift he accepted was their family dog, Checkers.

21. Dogs don’t curl up while sleeping just to look cute, or even to feel more comfortable. This tendency is actually rooted in their instincts to protect their vital organs at night (and to stay warm, of course).

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22. Some recent studies have found that dogs usually try to “go to the bathroom” in such a way that they’re aligned with the earth’s magnetic field. Both sexes defecate in the north or south direction, but only females prefer to urinate that way, too.

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23. The idea that dogs only see in black and white is a total myth. They can actually perceive a wide range of colors, although it’s more limited than the spectrum that humans can see.

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