39 interesting characteristics of cats

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I don’t list here all the qualities of cats, why the cat lovers love them so much and why they are even so addicted to cats. The dog people would not understand it anyway. They judge a relation with an animal useful, only in the grade of how much the animal executes their commands. I will write about only about the most interesting aspects of cats. Pay attention that even not all the cat “owners” are aware about all these aspects. Only those who are able to establish a deep friendship relation with a cat, or those who observe the cat attentively, are aware about all these facts:

1) Cats are not “ruffian”.
A common opinion of people who doesn’t know cats, or who know cats only superficially, is that they are ruffian and opportunist. The cat meows and rubs its head on your legs lovely demanding food, and after the cat has eaten, it goes away instantly.
For cats, the body language is the most important way of communication, so they communicate their needs using that language, other than mewing. It has nothing to to with pandering. They can’t speak and that is their language. Cats are felids, and in the wild they doesn’t need to ask anything to anybody to survive. After the cat has eaten, its attention gets immediately focused on other activities (grooming, territory patrol, etc). They will come to show you their thankfulness later, with purrs and staying with you, when it is the right moment for the cat (and of course, if you was able to bound correctly with it).
Felids are not dogs and their attention is not focused on what you are expecting from them in a certain moment.

2 ) Cats “bond” to their home.
This is a false and partially misunderstood concept. Cats don’t get “fond” to their home. As already mentioned cats are “environmental analyzers”, they map every single square centimeters of their environment and of the house where they live in. They store the smell and position of every object and of every corner. They monitor and track every change in their environment during each patrolling round. So, when they are moved to a new environment, they have to map everything again and they have to store all this new huge amount of information in their small brain. It is a big effort and may cause a temporary stress to the cat. But cats are very curios and if their new environment is not smaller than the older one, and it is rich of stimulating things, the cat will be happy to stay in the new environment. My cats had no problems when moving every 4-5 moths to the home of my grandparents in the campaign. Already at their second visit, many months after the first short visit (only few days long), they remembered perfectly the position of the rooms, the way to the roof, and the position of their food bowls. I always wondered how they could store all those information in their small head.

3) Cats have a more refined and complex psychology than dogs.
I am not talking about intelligence. I am talking about psychology. You will be always surprised by the behavior of cats. Sometimes they are is very foreseeable, sometimes they are absolutely surprising. The same cat can behave either in extremely dumb, either in extremely clever way in different moments and in different situations, or even in the same situation. Mostly, cats behaves like dumb in easy situations, where you would expect a cleverer behavior, while they can behave surprisingly clever when you would not expect it, in other contexts.

4) Cats have much more articulated vocal and body language than dogs. Cats produce at least 30 different vocalizations and type of sounds (some experts say 100), while dogs only 10. Cats don’t use the meowing as communication mean among each others in the wild, they are mostly silent. Among each others they use mainly the body language and rough sounds when threatening. Cats use the meowing only to communicate with humans. When a cat meows to you or in your presence, it is never for nothing, it is saying something right to you.

5) Crawls are the cat’s fingers.
Anatomically they are nails, but functionally for cats, the crawls are their fingers! Cats, as all felids, are a masterpiece of softness and sharpness. The anatomical fingers of cats are the soft fingertips, where they put their body-weight on, when they walk. So their anatomical fingers are too short and soft, to be used to touch, feel and grab objects. Cats use their curved crawls instead. As our nails, their crawl transfer efficiently to the finger’s bone the tactile information about the nature of an object .We also use our fingers to feel more efficiently whether the surface of an object is textured or not. Cats use their crawls also on this purpose. You can observe how your cat pulls out the crawls partially, to touch gently an object, when exploring which material it is made of, and the properties of its surface. But since the cats’ crawls are sharp, it happens that they can hurt you unintentionally, but they are just touching you, or climbing on you 🙂 So, the cats’ crawls have also an important tactile function.
The other essential function is to grab objects, since they works as fingers. For these reasons it is extremely important never declaw cats (in Europe it is even forbidden). It is exactly like amputate all fingers on the human hands! Thus, also never cut the tips of the crawls to cats which have access to the outdoor spaces. They could not climb on trees when escaping form dogs and they would have no weapons for their defense! Crawls are essential for cats. If your cat damages too intensively your furniture, there are other ways to proceed. Do a search in internet.

6) For cats you lay never in a superior hierarchic position.
When you establish a deep relationship with a cat, you will be considered at its same level. Even when you feed a cat since its birth, you will never be a superior in the hierarchic scale. You will be considered as a mother, but not a “superior”.

7) When the cat understands what you would like that he does, he doesn’t do it on purpose. All the contrary than dogs. When you call your cat it may come, it may not come, or often… it comes, but with delay. It comes some minutes later with nonchalance, like if it he would have come by chance, to don’t give you the satisfaction to have come “at your command”. So refined are the thoughts of cats… Other times when you give them a command and they understand it, they look at you whit that expression in their face “Wouldn’t you expect that I do, it right because you told it!”… like for example when you open the door to let the cat come inside or go outside. It is in the DNA of all felids, never give the satisfaction to do something “at command”,unless it is exactly what they would like to do in that moment, and they have fun with it.

8) Cats are very good actors in dissimulating their thoughts and their intentions. But when you know very good their body language, you can uncover them, very often.

9) The relationship with a cat is based on equality. Nothing is given for granted.
All the interactions between a cat and a Human happens always on spontaneous basis. All the interactions are not conditioned by a hierarchical factor. This is a huge difference to dogs and it makes all the interactions with cats more interesting.
More you show to understand the language (body and vocal) of a cat, more you try to interact with it, more you show to understand and respect its needs, more the cat will behave consequently toward you, and will bound to you. It will not bound to you just because you put food in its bowl.

10) Cats don’t like to stay alone. Unlike what is common though, the cats which live together with people and have a friendship relation with their human partners, hate to stay alone at home. Even if you have two cats and you leave them alone for 8-10 hours while your are at work, they are not happy. If you love cats you should never take only one cat and leave it alone when you are at work. Never! Some cats are even heard crying alone at home during the day, and when the “owner” is back at hone, he/she gets nothing about it.
Commonly, cats show happiness when you return back from work everyday, because they know that it is your routine. But if you let them alone for more days, as when you go to holiday, in the most of cases they show an apparent indifference to you and in some case even aggressiveness. This is right because they missed you so much during this your unexpected absence, that they got angry with you, and they will need time to forgive you. Yes, so “independent” and “disaffected” are cats.

11) Cats have a very intense mental activity. The 20% of the pumped blood by the heart flows into the brain (in the Human it is the 25%). The cat’s brain is in a continuous bubbling of thoughts. Its mental activity is so intense that it musts escape out in someway, and it vents out… into the tail!
Cats spend a plenty of time immersed in thinking. Probably they reflect about all what they seen or experienced during the day, or about what they would like to do as next activity. Especially when they are laying waiting to fall asleep, they are immersed in thinking activity. Very often you can observe as each movement of the tail of the cat corresponds to a sentence or a concept in the thinking of the cat. Of course they don’t think with words, but in the terms of concepts (like also we do, and all the other animals do too).

12) Cats have a lot of memory, but only for what they want.
In several occasions cats seem to don’t remember very simple and recent things. But they also show to remember perfectly a lot of things, like the positions of objects or of rooms in a house they visited only one time one years before. They map and memorize the position of all the objects inside their home and outside, in their territory. They check and memorize any change in the environment. With their fine sense of smell they memorize the smell of all objects they encounter. It is really amazing how many information they are able to store in their small and concentrated brain. It is really amazing how many information they are able to store in their small and concentrated brain.

13) Cats never sleep really
They just switch into standby mode. Even when the cat sleeps, its brain is active at 50%. The hearing is always active. The minimum sound which could be a danger is enough to wake the cat. When you go around in the room where your cat is sleeping, it is aware that you are there. If your cat doesn’t wake up, it is why he doesn’t consider you a danger. Try to approach a sleeping feral cat or a wild cat. He will wake up and escape much before you can reach it!
If your cat doesn’t wake up when you enter in the room with another unknown persons, it is because he trusts you so much, that if one person is together with you, he must be not a danger too. Also the smell stays quite active and can trigger the wake up.
Cats live in an almost permanent “alert status”. It is a part of their strategy of life, developed in their evolutionary history. If they don’t wake up, it means that they trust what they are hearing around them. 

14) Cats are energy savers.
(Another 5 minutes please…)
Cats spend 2/3 of the day in their standby mode, saving energy. On average 8 hours awake and 16 hours sleeping. 2 hours nip each 1 hour awake. All felids are efficient hunters, but each hunting session consumes precious energy, then they spend a lot of time by sleeping, keeping the energy for the moment when they will need to hunt. Cats keeps this behavior also when they no more need to hunt to survive. Felids are masters on the energy saving. They don’t do anything if it is not necessary. Each their movement is precisely weighted. This also contributes to give that harmonious look to their walk and movements in general.

15) Cats dream much.
Their mind is very active also during the standby mode. Everyone who has observed closely his/her cat while sleeping, knows how much cats dream.

16) Among cats, there is a so huge difference of character and personality, as how much there is among humans. You will never find 2 cats with the same character and personality, even among siblings.

17) Cats are so perfected in their evolution, that they are aware about this
They would like to be nothing else than cats. They know that they are not the strongest, but they are the most refined and perfected specie (see interesting species). Often, when they lay on the top of a furniture, they look at the humans in the room with their well known “superior glance”, wondering “How can a so clumsy specie get its food?” And it is the reason why many cats which have the chance to hunt, they bring some of their preys as gift to their incapable humans.
Probably cats would like only to have wings to can fly. They hate that other animals can observe them from a higher position. Maybe due to this reason, cats hate so much birds…

18) Cats are so satisfied and happy to be cats, that they spread this satisfaction
It is well known that cats photos and videos are widely spread and watched on internet. The reason is that cats act and look in a so relaxed and satisfied way, that they infuse this sense to the people who are able to capture these expressions. The cat haters instead, perceive this satisfaction with envy and they are unable to enjoy them.

19) Cats are relaxing
Felids are the masters of resting. No other species look so relaxed while sleeping, and no other species show to enjoy the rest so intensely and deeply as the felids do, especially cats. Cats are so satisfied to be cats, that hey radiate this satisfaction. Just looking a relaxing cat, gives you relax. But not only this. Even just keeping a cat laying on our thighs, it gives us relaxing feelings. The feline purring is a unique feature in the animal kingdom and has benefits also for humans. Try to lay your ear on the chest of your cat while it is purring… there is nothing more relaxing!

20) Felids are the only group of species which have developed the purring mechanism, and not all felids are able to purr. Cats are one of the few felids which can purr both on the inhalation and expiration phases. It is not yet completely explained how the purring works, how and why it appeared during their evolutionary history. The purring seems to have benefits in relaxing the whole organism and in recovering injuries at bones. A masterpiece of evolution.

21) Cats are sensitive to the magnetic field of the Earth.
As other animals can do (like birds), cat detects the direction of the magnetic field of the Earth and they use it to orientate. This could be due to specific neuron cells which contain some iron crystals. Cats which went lost hundreds or thousands Km from their home, were able to return back to home. A secondary effect of this capability could be the alleged ability of cats to be sensitive also toward electric fields, in a certain degree. But there are not yet official scientific studies about this.

22) Cats are masters of the physical contact.
Since cats have an extremely developed sense of touch along all their body surface, the most of cats like to be petted and enjoy it very much. But you have to do it in the right way 🙂 They don’t need and doesn’t like hurry caresses. For cats, the tactile contact is a communication mean. The way, you caress them is fundamental. Depending on the speed, pressure and how these factors vary during the caress, the touch has a different meaning. To pet a cat, is an Art. It is very relaxing for the both parties, when it is done in the correct way, cats bonds much more deeply.

23) Cats can change very quickly their mood.
Many cats’ owners experience that some times while they pet their cats, the cat suddenly stops to purr and scratch them. Many cats’ owners don’t know the reason, but it is simple. Cats have a very developed and sensitive sense of touch, along their whole body. Some parts are extremely sensitive and rarely they like to be touched. Many cats like to be pet, but due to their highly sensitive sense of touch, the tactile stimulation can turn very quickly from pleasant to unpleasant, triggering an “alarm” reaction. The cat reacts very quickly to this unpleasant sensation and the result is a scratch. It is rather an instinctive reaction, it is not because cats are “jerks”. Cats give also warning signals before this reaction happens, but the owners are often not able to catch these signals, especially children. Often the cat withdraws the position of the head and starts to move the tail, short before to scratch. But some times this unpleasant condition comes so quickly to the cat, that there is no time to give warning signals.

24) Cats appreciate when you talk to them, especially if you change your voice in a higher pitched tone. Cats hear better the higher frequencies of the human voice, and above all, they know that when you are speaking in that way, you are talking right to them and not to other humans. They appreciate this attention to them. Of course cats don’t understand the words you say, except their name, and other specific words you could have taught to them. Cats pay attention to the intonation of your voice and how it varies with words. They understand whether you are talking friendly, lovely, and they feel good or bad accordingly to the intonation. Cats like also when you talk by whispering at their sensitive ears. Speaking with your cat, reinforces your bond with it.

25) Cats appreciate when you lay down at their level.
Cats are not hierarchic in relation to humans, so they show to appreciate when you put your face near to their level. When your cat lays on a carpet or on the floor, sometime lay down with your face near it. It will appreciate. To watch you always only from the bottom. from the ground, or from a lower point of view is not a pleasant for them.

26) Cats assisting their humans on the toilet, and reading books.
A very common behavior of cats is to enter in the bathroom every time their human sits on the toilet doing his/her business, and they watch their human for the whole time. Some cats purr demanding to be pet, other cats watch their human staying sit on the floor. This behavior hasn’t been yet completely cleared by the ethologists. It is not because the cat thinks that you are giving them food soon afterward, as you do in the early morning. They are not so stupid. They know that it is not a meal time every time you go to the toilet.
Knowing quite good the psychology of cats, I think that the right reason is that the cat is supporting you in you, in your physiological business…
The cat knows what are you doing when you sit on the toilet. It recognizes the king of your business also through the smell 🙂 Cats are also able to read the facial expression of their humans. You might not notice it, but while you are doing your business your face assumes a “suffering” expression. Cats do their business too, and they know how it works. So, they want relief you with their presence and their cuddles, to make your job less “suffering”… It its actually an act of love toward you. Some dogs have a similar behavior, but dogs tend to follow their owner normally everywhere.

        (source here)
The same reason is also why cats often put themselves between the face of their human and the book he/she is reading, or a notebook. The most of the times it is not because they want get attention. Only when they are bored and demand to play, the reason is this. The most of the times the reason is that also while you are staring at a book or notebook, your facial expression looks so unnatural, in someway “sad”, and “abducted” by something they can’t see. The cat is just worried about you and tries to distract you from the object which seems to set you in that strange status, staring strangely at something they don’t understand. It is a lovely attention toward you. Some cats even get worried when their human is talking by telephone, because they don’t understand with whom their human is talking!

27) cats bring their preys to you, because they love you.
Many cats’ “owners” are disgusted when their cat brings them a dead (or still living) pray. Cats observe everything what their humans do, but they can’t explain where the humans get their food from. They never see their human hunting their food. When cats bound to humans, they consider them as cat-comrades, unable to hunt. For this reason, cats bring some dead prays as food-present for you! Or even a still living prey and they show to you how to grab and kill it. It is indeed a love act. Some cats even calling their human meowing, using the same meowing which the cat mutters use to call their kittens when they bring them food! In that moment you are a “kitten” of your cat.
You should never yell at your cat for this. Instead, you should show thankfulness to it, giving it some caresses. Throw the prey in the trash, or set it free, if the prey is still alive, only without to be seen by the cat, or it would took offense!
If you yell at the cat and you throw away respectless its present, you will damage the bound with your cat, and it will not stop to hunt prays. It just will no more bring them to you, and you will not have the chance to save them. Cats are not dogs, you can’t stop their wild feline nature. Inside, they always remain a wild specie and they need to keep their hunting ability trained, even if you provide food to them daily.

28) Cats run under stress much easier than dogs.
The feline nature is completely foreign to the concept of adaption to the will of another specie. Every excessive or prolonged pressure against its nature or its will, causes stress to the cat quickly. It may results also in very unpleasant behaviors. Don’t get a cat if you are planning that it should adapt to your needs. It simply doesn’t belong to the feline nature. Except few things, you will have to adapt to its needs.

29) Don’t choose the cat, let the cat chooses you.
Cats have a very strong sense of sympathy and each cat has its own criteria to decide who is sympathetic to it and who isn’t. The cat will not bound to you just because you provide it food. It is not automatic.
When you are in a shelter looking for a cat to take in adoption, don’t choose the cat on basis of its fur’s color. Approach all cats and pay attention to those which interact more with you. Chose one of them. You will have great satisfactions.
Of course it is a good thing also to choose a scary or shiny cat, but never choose a cat only on base of its color. You could get very disappointed. Take a cat which chooses you. It will be a love story.

30) Cats’ smell sense is more sensitive than those of dogs toward some substances.
Dogs have an excellent smell sense on a wide range of substances. Cats’ smell sense is a little less sensitive on average, but it is however one of the finest in nature. The smell of cats is more selective. It is more sensitive than dogs toward some specific substances. For example toward the nitrogen compounds which are characteristic of food in decomposition phase. For this reason, cats refuse food easily, if it is no more fresh. They fall back on rotting food, only if their hunger is at dangerous level. Male cats ere extremely sensitive toward the pheromones of female cats in heat. The can smell a female cat in heat from 3km distance. Cats have also a supplementary smelling organ, which dogs haven’t. The Jacobson’s organ, which contains sensor cells, specific to detect some substances. Cats use this organ when they make that characteristic face expression, which the humans wrongly understand as “disgusted”, but they are actually only only analyzing the smell through the Jacobson’s organ. Also several herbivores and snakes have it.

31) Cats have the longest canine teeth among all felids, in relation to their body size.
Cat teeth (left), tiger teeth (right)

32) Cats have the longest whiskers among all the felids, in relation to their body size.
The cute whiskers of cats are not an aesthetic decoration, they are extremely sensitive tactile sensors. Their root sinks in the skin much deeper than the normal hair piles. Their nerve endings are also connected to the cerebral cortex area which is responsible for the sight. Whiskers allow to the cat to “see” an image of their pray and follow its movements in the complete darkness. Whiskers detects so weak vibrations in the air, that they can feel the movements of a mouse inside of its lair.
Whiskers are not only at the sides of the nose. There also some on the sides of the head, above the eyes (the eyebrows), below the chin, and on the lower side of the limbs. All these sensors allow cats to detect the presence of obstacles in the darkness, before to touch them. The whiskers below the limbs detect the distance with the ground, before to touch it with paws, allowing them to move exceptionally carefully and silently during the hunt.
Avoid to touch the whiskers of your cat. Some cats have even problems when eating from deep bowls, because the whiskers crawl continuously on the walls of the bowl, and this give them a hurting stimulation. This is also why cats commonly leave not eaten food on the sides of the bottom.
  It is not a meme. If this bowl is empty to your cat, it probabaly stresses its whiskers. Try with a larger bowl and with less high edges.

33) Cats ears are mobile
Cats’ ears are pyramidal shaped with triangular base. They are equipped with muscles which can rotate the ears of almost 180°, allowing to capture sounds coming form behind of them, without to move the head. The cat rotate the ears independently between each other.

34) Cats’ view field is narrower than the official measurements.
Despite it is officially measured that the view field of cats is about 200° width (wider than that of the humans, about 180°), in my experience in the real life I could always observe the opposite. I always observe that when an object (or even another cat) slowly, silently is approaching a cat cat, laterally form behind, the cat doesn’t notice the approaching object until it is almost front of it. The approached cat turns the head in direction of the approaching object and gets surprised to see it. The cat notices about it much later than if the actual width of the sight field was actually 200°. Of course the wind doesn’t blow in direction of the cat, impeding to bring the smell of the object or of the other cat.
So it looks that cats in the real life get aware of approaching objects only when these are almost already in front of their muzzle. This would explain why cats are very easily subjected to be hit by cars. Therefore, drive slowly and carefully when driving on urban streets surrounded by houses, where commonly live also cats.

35) interspecific friendships:
Cats are not only very curious, they are also a very “enterprising” specie. They have a very strong sense of sympathy. They don’t care about which specie an animal belongs to. Depending on the sympathy for a specific specimen, cats establish friendship relations with specimens of any kind of specie, not only Humans. In these cases, the cat-haters can’t claim that the ground of these friendships is the providing of food…
They even can be species which normally are enemies, predators or preys.

36) Cats can see “invisible” objects…
A very common behavior of cats is that often they stare at empty walls, or they follow apparently invisible things, moving their eyes and head. Many people believe that cats are seeing spirits, ghosts, or alien presences… (because people would like to have second better life after the death…).
Well, the answer is much more simple as people imagine. It can be also true that cats might see some ultraviolet light that we don’t see, but the most common cause is probably another. The eyes of cats, like of the humans and any other animal equipped with eyes like ours, are affected by the phenomenon of
floaters. Flaws in the fluid which fills the eyes’ cavity. They can clump up to form darker spheres which move across the whole visual field.
Cats are extremely curios animals, equipped with highly sensitive senses. They are “environmental analyzers” as I like define cats. Nothing escape to their attention. They observe and monitor everything what happens in their environment. They follow and examine everything is moving. Therefore, when cats see these small objects moving across their visual field, they observe them, they study them. They may try to follow them across the room and try to grab them with their paws.
In fact, floaters can be better observed when looking at a wide and bright surface, better if with homogeneous color (like a white wall or roof).
But not only floaters. The whiskers of cats are also extremely sensible tactile sensors. Especially along the edges between wall and floor and in the corners, the air which circulates in the room creates small vortexes, which are perceived by the cat’s whiskers as ascending or descending “moving balls”, especially if the room is running the heating system in winter, or fans/ air conditioners in summer. Not by chance, the dust balls tends to form and accumulate along the walls and in the corners.

37) The instinct is stronger than the immediate learning.
Many cat “owners” may experience how long time a cat needs to learn a simply thing, for example to get trust with someone. It is not because cats are stupid, but because the instinct plays a primary role, in the feline nature. Felids rely much on their instinct when they have to choose the right prey and the right moment to start the attack. It is required to keep the success rate high. Therefore, the information which come from the rational learning, have a secondary rank in the learning process. A common example is approaching an untrusty feral cat. You may be able to approach the cat and caress it, but 10 minutes later it hisses you again and escape, as if it nothing happened. You have to repeat the experience many time in order that the learning will overhelm the instinct and will be stored in its mind permanently. Some untrusty stray cats which had been rescued and adopted took months and even years before to let the humans petting them.

38) In some problem solving tests, cats are more clever than dogs.
At last, as mentioned in the page about intelligence and evolution, it is obvious that dogs have an average a higher grade of cognitive intelligence, because they need it to survive. As already explained I don’t care about abut the “intelligence” degree of a specie. There are much more interesting parameters and aspects to be observed. But since for many Homo Sapiens the degree of “cognitive intelligence” plays a central role everywhere in nature, it is fair to mention that in some specific tests, cats behaves more clever than dogs.
There are also important differences in how cats and dogs use their own intelligence.

39) Cats are moving artworks.
Anything they do, they look always like artworks. The few photos in this page should give already a clear overview 🙂
Cats are masterpiece of the evolution, the latest evolution of the felids. With their elegance, their feline moving, their complex psychology and behavior, cats have been and are a great inspiration source for artists, poets and writers.

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