The Top Ten Most Searched Cat Questions
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
In this day and age of the internet, knowledge is closer than ever before but you can’t believe everything you read (even if you see it more than once!). We try to provide educational posts, blogs, and helpful links to additional websites on our hospital website at http://www.elginvethospital.com and on our hospital Facebook page, but we know many people still search Google for information when it comes to their pet. These are the ten most-searched questions pet owners asked about their cats last year using Google with some added information to help get to the bottom of your most pressing cat questions! Also, always remember that if you ever have a question regarding your pet never hesitate to contact us. We are always here to do our best to answer your questions!
1. Why do cats purr?
Purring occurs as a result of vibration of vocal cords due to neurological stimulation from brain activity. The purpose of purring is uncertain, but it does seem to be associated with pleasurable activity (such as being pet, rolling around, rubbing against things, or being in a familiar environment where they can peacefully drift off to sleep). Cats are also very smart and typically purring makes owners happy and results in getting more loving from the owner so your cat may also be purring for your benefit (and to get more petting time in)! Cats generally purr when in contact with someone they love or when nursing a kitten or greeting another animal who they care about. However, cats are also known to purr when ill or injured which has led some people to think that the frequency of the vibration can be associated with greater healing in times of poor health.
2. How long do cats live?
With all the advances in medicine these days, cats are living longer and longer. While the average life span in cats is around 12 years old this can vary widely depending on the health of the cat, the quality of nutrition provided and the preventive care he/she receives. As a general rule outdoor cats live much shorter lives than indoor cats due to the dangers outside (from other predators and trauma to the increased risk of exposure to deadly viral diseases and parasites). Being overweight or obese also shortens life and results in a large number of health issues – such as diabetes, liver failure, heart disease, and joint disease. Regular health care, physical examinations, parasite prevention and vaccinations provide protection against many threats to life and health.
3. Why do cats knead or make biscuits?
Kneading behavior in cats is a reflection of instinctual behavior from kittenhood when kittens knead the mammary glands of their mom to stimulate milk production. In cats that are not kneading for the purpose of stimulating milk, they often knead when settling down to rest (as seen by kneading soft places to prepare it for them to be able to lie down more comfortably). This also may be an instinctual behavior from a time when vegetation would be knocked down to make a safe sleeping place when cats were out in the wild. Another theory is that kneading cats are marking their territory with special scent glands located in the paws. Also, kneading may be a form of stretching or maybe it just plain feels good – if only cats could talk and confirm which reason they have for kneading!
4. Why do cats sleep so much?
Cats sleep an average of 16 to 18 hours a day and one of the major reasons is energy conservation. Cats use a special form of sugar to fuel their short bursts of activity and it takes a while to restore this energy. However, cats often they appear to be asleep but are instantly awakened and this type of sleep varies from the deeper sleep that helps them to recharge. Cats also tend to sleep in short increments of 10 to 30 minutes, so they are probably not sleeping as much as we think. Cats sleep in these short increments because naturally cats are most active at dawn and dusk but they have to balance their natural instincts with our human schedules (which are generally not nocturnal) so they end up taking lots of “cat naps” in order to keep up with us!
5. Why do cats have whiskers?
Whiskers are very sensitive organs and tell a cat a lot about his/her position in space, air movements, and what is going on around him/her. They appear to be particularly useful in low light and darkness, times when other organs cannot collect as much information. Whiskers may also be used to gauge whether a cat can slip into a tight space – generally if a cat can move into an area without making contact with their whiskers, they know that the rest of their body will also fit. Whiskers can also convey information to us, such as if a cat is nervous or scared then the whiskers will be pointing forward at a potential threat. Keep in mind how important whiskers are to a cat, so do not ever trim or pluck whiskers and be sure to keep flames from candles away from curious cats so they do not get singed.
6. What does catnip do to cats?
Catnip is an herb and only about half of cats are genetically predisposed to respond to active oil in catnip. The gene that makes a cat respond to catnip is an autosomal dominant trait, so that is why not all cats are sensitive. It is not certain what part of the brain is stimulated by this ingredient but we do know it is not harmful and can be used to help increase use of items like scratching posts. The aroma of catnip for cats is thought to be quite pleasurable.
7. Why do cats hate water?
Contrary to popular belief, not all cats hate water. In fact, there are many types of breeds of cats that are comfortable around or in water – such as the Turkish Van and Main Coon Cat. You can also see many cats in the wild that will actually fish for food and may even immerse themselves in it. Many indoor cats actually prefer running water to water in a bowl for drinking and will play in the water from a dripping faucet. For cats that do not like water, it may be related to the way their fur is constructed. Fur is not made for being drenching and can become quite heavy when it is, which may be uncomfortable to cats.
8. Why do cats eat grass?
There are a lot of theories as to why cats eat grass. One theory is that it is an evolutionary adaption to intestinal parasites and may serve as a purging mechanism. Most veterinarians agree grass eating seems to be the way for cats to relieve gastrointestinal symptoms. However, some cats may eat grass simply because they like it. This is supported by the fact that cats often more commonly eat new spring grass, which is thought to have a sweeter taste.
9. Why do cats like boxes?
Most cat owners have learned they can spend a fortune on cat toys and their cat will enjoy playing in a cardboard box more than that expensive toy! Cats like to hide and be able to see what is going on around them. Being tucked away in a box with an opening that gives them a view, but having the protection from the sides of the box makes them feel protected from being seen by predators. Even though they have been our household pets for as long as we can remember, they have the same instincts as they did 10,000 years ago when they hunted and had to avoid predators to survive. Cats were a prey species and so being protected in a box makes them feel safe (not to mention cozy!).
10. What is a group of cats called?
A group of cats is called a clowder or a claring. Clowder originates in Middle English from the term “clotter” which meant “to huddle together”. A group of related kittens is a litter. A few litters are referred to as a kindle.