If we define intelligence as “the ability to acquire information, retain it, and utilize it to solve problems,” the cat is clearly the winner of all our companion animals. Try putting an adult cat in a room in which he has never been before and watch how instinct-ally every nook and cranny is carefully examined. This need to do “basic research” as one behaviorist puts it provides the cat with valuable, even life-saving, information about his surroundings. Actually, curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it gave him a reputation for having 9 lives!
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When the tail is erect for its full length, it is used as a greeting to another cat or to a friendly human and is an invitation for contact rubbing. When a cats tail is vertical in the air with the inevitable question mark, they are happy and relaxed in their environment. This can also be a request for food. The tail flicks of a seated cat often indicates irritation, they are not sure of whats going to happen next. Tail wagging can range from small irritated flicks which may express indecision–wavering between two possible courses of action–or in its most pronounced form, it can be the prelude to a fight between two male cats and undoubtedly accompanied by growling
The Cat’s sense of smell, not vision, is its primary resource for identifying the individuals and objects in its environment. The cat’s visual acuity is 10 times less then that of humans. However, they have 200 million odor-sensitive cells in their noses compared to only 5 million for humans. Cats live in a sensory world completely apart from ours. The sense of smell plays a very insignificant role in human relationships and in our response to our environment, while for cats, it is all-important and may result in some puzzling and disturbing behaviors.
The cat’s outer ear (pinna) is connected by 27 muscles and can rotate 180 degrees to scan the environment or to direct its attention to a particular source of sound. Cats can detect higher frequencies than dogs (e.g., a mouse’s ultrasonic squeak). They can discriminate with 75% accuracy between two sound sources separated by an angle of only 5 degrees.
The location of the eyes in the front of the face (rather than at the side as in the rabbit or horse) enables the cat to calculate the exact distance it has to leap in order to catch prey or safely land. Its pupils dilate at night to let in as much light as possible and form a slit by day. The cat’s visual sharpness
Whiskers are extensions of the skin and not special hairs. Each whisker is an intricate receptor designed to detect even the most minute changes in the environment: tiny movements, air currents, changes in air pressure, temperature, or wind direction. They help the cat to navigate at night, acting as radar. They are double the thickness of the cat’s guard hairs and are embedded three times as deeply in the skin in order to translate the slightest contact to sensory cells at their roots.
Cats are a “contact species”
They enjoy being touched from infancy on–unless deprived of early touch of stimulation by humans. From birth the mother cat grooms her kittens–touch being the primal source of affection. Cats will often regress and behave like kittens when stroked–nursing, drooling kneading. Each hair has many nerves around it which sends impulses to the brain.
It is not generally known that just as people are either right-handed or left-handed, cats are either right-pawed or left-pawed. Out of every 100 cats approximately 40 are left-pawed, 20 are right-pawed, and 40 are ambidextrous. These findings contrast strikingly with the human situation where only 10 individuals are left-handed for every 90 who are right-handed.
Compared to humans, the cat’s sense of taste is weak. We have 9,000 taste buds, while they have only 473. They make up for this deficiency with a superior sense of smell. The preferred temperature for feline food is 86 degrees Fahrenheit–the same temperature as the cat’s tongue. Food straight from the refrigerator doesn’t appeal to Kitty, whose wild ancestors ate freshly killed prey.
Cats drink by converting their long tongues into spoons. The tip of the tongue is curled backward to create a hollow shape that acts like the bowl of a spoon. The cat actually drinks by curling the upper side of the tongue downward and then darts it across the surface of the water at a remarkably fast speed. This causes a column of water to rise up and the cat closes his mouth just in time to collect it before gravity allows the water to fall back down.
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