21 Unbelievable Facts About Cats

A dog may be a man’s best friend, but a cat will always steal your heart. While we already know a lot about their behavior and instincts, there are still many things we do not know about cats. This domesticated species of small, carnivorous mammal is famous for its playful nature, although some are known to display diva-like behavior. In this article, we get to know these furballs a little better.

1. Cats are the second-most popular pets in America. 

Cats are the second-most popular pets in America. 
Image: istockphoto.com / Stephanie_Zieber

According to the 2020 survey of the American Pet Products Association, cats are the second-most popular pets in the United States. There are an estimated 99.3 million cats in America. Fish are the most popular pets, at around 42 million freshwater fish and 9.6 million saltwater fish, while dogs clinched third place at 74.8 million. 

2. The most senior cat in the world lived to 38 years old.

Creme Puff, a domestic cat in Austin, Texas, is credited as the oldest cat that ever lived. She was born on August 3, 1967, and died on August 6, 2005. Before her, the previous record holder was Grandpa Rex Allen, who lived to 34 years old. Both cats were owned by Jake Perry. Foods often eaten by these cats were bacon, eggs, broccoli and coffee.

3. The first domestic cats existed around 9,500 years ago. 

French archaeologists in 2004 discovered a 9,500-year-old cat grave in Cyprus. This makes it the oldest pet cat in history, predating Egyptian cat art by more than 4,000 years. 

4. Cats spend at least 70% of their lives sleeping.

Cats spend at least 70% of their lives sleeping
Image: istockphoto.com / hamacle

You are aware that your cat likes to take cat naps, but you’d be surprised to know that they spend at least 13 to 16 hours a day, or a total of 70% of their lives, just lost in dreamland. Domestic cats sleep a lot to conserve energy to hunt, chase and kill their next prey, which is part of their instinct. These furballs are the real sleeping beauties!

5. The longest cat that ever lived, Stewie, measured 48.5 inches, while the tallest cat, Arcturus, measured 19.05 inches.

The average domestic cat is only around 18 to 19 inches long, but Stewie, a Maine Coon cat, was 48.5 inches long, gaining him the title of the world’s longest cat. Arcturus, an F2B Savannah cat, is famous for being the tallest cat, at a height of 19.05 inches. Arcturus died tragically in a house fire, while Stewie died of cancer in 2013 when he was only eight years old. 

6. House cats share a lot of their behavior, and at least 95.6% of their genetic makeup, with tigers.

A study by an international team of scientists, published by Nature Communications, states that house cats and tigers share 95.6% of their DNA, or genetic makeup. This finding was made possible by sequencing the genome of a Siberian tiger. Both house cats and tigers also share certain behaviors such as stalking and pouncing on prey, as well as scent and urine marking.

7. House cats can run at speeds of up to 30mph. 

House cats can run at speeds of up to 30mph
Image: istockphoto.com / disqis

Cats are natural climbers, but they are also exemplary runners, and can run at speeds of up to 30mph. Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time, is no match for your furball in a 200-meter dash. Felines are quick and athletic because of their muscle force and flexibility. Their limbs exert incredible force as they run, and their spines are capable of a wide range of arching and straightening, resulting in a powerful gait.

8. Cats have an average of 244 bones, while humans only have 206. 

Being natural athletes, cats owe their flexibility and strength to their strong bones. They have an average of 244 bones, although some cats may have 230 to 250. The number of bones depends on the number of toes and the length of the tail. Felines with extra toes, or polydactyl cats, have more bones, while those with long tails will have more bones than their tailless Manx cousins. 

9. Cats can drink salt water, unlike humans. 

Cats can drink salt water, unlike humans.
Image: istockphoto.com / AnnaVangorodska

Seawater is not suitable for human consumption: you cannot get rid of the salt in it. However, this is not the case for cats. They can drink seawater as much or as often as necessary to overcome a water deficit. They can also eat their food mixed with seawater in certain conditions when there is no freshwater.

10. The loudest purr of a cat was recorded at 67.8db(A).

Cats purr to communicate emotions. Most purr at a volume of around 25db, but Merlin, a black and white cat from the UK, took it to the next level with purrs reaching 67.8db(A). This is said to be the same volume as that of a shower. 

11. Didga, a clever cat, can perform as many as 20 tricks in a minute.

If you thought all cats just eat, sleep and play, you’d be wrong. Some cats are extraordinarily gifted, like Didga, a rescue cat from Australia, who made it into the 2017 Guinness Book of World Records. She performed 20 tricks in one minute, including shaking hands and performing a hippy jump on a bar while riding a skateboard.  

12. According to historical records, family members in ancient Egypt shaved off their eyebrows as a show of mourning when their cat died.   

Cats were revered by the ancient Egyptians as magical creatures that brought good luck to their owners. When they died, the Egyptians went to great lengths to mourn them. They would shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning, and would continue to mourn until their eyebrows grew back. 

13. A cat was able to go to space in 1963.

French scientists launched a rocket into space on October 18, 1963, carrying a cat named Felicette. She was also fondly called “Astrocat”,  and she is credited as the first and only cat to go to space. 

14. Cats have a unique way of walking, like camels and giraffes. 

Cats have a unique way of walking, like camels and giraffes.
Image: istockphoto.com / elilena

Cats have a unique walking sequence, walking with both right feet, followed by both left feet. That is, they move their front and back legs on one side and then on the other, moving half of their body forward at once. The only other animals that do this are camels and giraffes. Cats also walk on the tips of their toes instead of on the soles of their feet. 

15. Cats cannot climb down a tree head first. 

Cats cannot climb down a tree head first
Image: istockphoto.com / helen2552

Cats are excellent climbers and are fond of hanging out in high places to have a view of everything and for safety. They have curved claws that can easily hold onto tree trunks as they climb. However, a cat’s claws are not designed to help it climb downwards, and a cat cannot climb down a tree head first like a squirrel can. A cat’s claws all point in the same direction, making downward climbing a bit of a predicament, especially from a great height. 

16. Cats have unique nose prints, just like human fingerprints. 

If you look at a cat’s nose under a magnifying glass, you will see that it has little bumps and ridges. These patterns are distinct for every cat, just as every human has unique fingerprints. No two cats have the same nose print, which makes it a great way of effectively identifying cats.

17. Cats are the reasons at least 63 animal species are now extinct.  

Cats may be cute and fuzzy, but they also have their bad side. They are natural predators, and outdoor cats target birds and other small prey like squirrels. They are the reason that at least 63 species of birds, mammals and reptiles are extinct. They also kill at least 2.4 billion birds each year in America alone. 

18. A cat’s mentality and learning style are equivalent to that of a two- to three-year-old child. 

Cats have the so-called intelligence, or IQ, of a two- or three-year-old child. They have a similar brain structure to humans, and their cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that handles decision-making and problem-solving, has 300 million neurons. Felines have short- and long-term memory and tend to learn by doing, rather than seeing. Some of the most intelligent breeds include Siamese, Bengal and Abyssinian. 

19. Cats see people as big, hairless cats. 

According to John Bradshaw, a cat behavior expert and best-selling author, there is plenty of evidence that indicates that cats see people as big, hairless cats. However, cats also see their owners as a source of comfort and security and can form close bonds with their humans as well. 

20. Cats cannot distinguish the taste of sweetness. 

Cats cannot distinguish the taste of sweetness
Image: istockphoto.com / Lightspruch

Some studies have proved that cats are not able to taste sweetness. Being strictly carnivores, they are so-called ‘sweet blind’ because they lack the receptor for sweetness. Cats and other carnivores cannot taste things the way other animals and species do. 

21. Cats have 100 different vocalizations. 

Cats may seem aloof, but they are actually quite chatty. They have at least 100 different vocalizations, although some are quite hard to identify. Kittens usually meow to their mother, but adult cats are more likely to meow in the presence of humans. Just some of their common sounds include the trill, chatter, purr, hiss, spit, howl, yowl, scream and growl.  Some of the most talkative breeds include the Siamese, Burmese and Sphynx.