The cats are the loyal friends of many animal lovers. But they always hide a little mystery: we discover some less known curiosity about cats.
As with dogs, cat domestication was based on mutual benefit. In the early days of agriculture, man was forced to face an unexpected consequence: rodents that devoured his crop and ruined his grain. Following their small footsteps voraciously there were predators such as snakes, owls and – above all – cats. The cats, who among the three predators had the friendliest attitude, were finally welcomed into human settlements, highly appreciated for their ability to drive away parasites. The domestic cat was domesticated by the African wild cat about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, and since then it has rarely moved away from our side, also being worshiped in some cultures as divinity, and insulted in others as manifestations of the devil himself.
10 curiosities about little-known cats
Cats were initially domesticated for their appetite for mice and rats. Today, the average owner of this pet furry is happy to have a kitten who does little more than a nap, but the cat still has a ferocious hunting instinct. Those owners who allow their cats to roam outside often find themselves receiving “gifts” on the doormat, the corpses of birds and rodents that their pet has hunted. Still today, cats are used to kill mice and rats in places like Disneyland and the State Hermitage Museum in Moscow, Russia.
Although history has probably made us have examples of even more voracious hunters, the World Guinness Book of Records recognizes Towser, the cat from Glenturret (a whiskey distillery), as a world mouse hunt champion. A long-haired tricolor female, Towser (who lived almost until her 24th birthday), lived in a distillery in Crieff, Scotland, home of the famous whiskey. During his reign, he killed around 28,899 mice (according to the Guinness record). Towser’s successor to Glenturret was a cat named Amber, who, despite a nearly twenty-year career, has become famous for not catching a single mouse.
A curiosity about cats forbidden to minors … Anyone who has ever owned an unsterilized cat can probably attest to the absolute misery of its heat cycles. The cat in those periods screams, and constantly tries to escape from home to meet with her suitors. Male cats who manage to sense his enthusiasm gather together waiting for their chance. The actual mating process is a vulgar exchange, so far from the romanticism that you imagine. The female launches terrible screams during the meeting, and for good reason: the sexual organ of a male cat is not so much an instrument of pleasure, as an object of medieval torture. He sports beards facing backwards, like fishing hooks, in keratin that rake the inside of the female’s vaginal canal. This distressing part of courtship is thought to lead to ovulation.
Probably, it is inevitable that at some point in your life, you will have some accident with an animal while driving. For most of us, it is a disgusting feeling and we will stop to do everything possible to help him, especially if the animal is also a pet. Unfortunately, there are many people (a shocking number!) Who will continue to walk even after hitting people, let alone an animal. In many countries, including Italy, it is illegal not to report a car accident involving an animal.
The love of milk
Even if the average cat will launch on a saucer of milk as if it were the sweet ambrosia, a very strange curiosity about cats is that these animals are lactose intolerant. Like some humans, when they grow up, cats stop producing the lactase enzyme, which processes breast milk. What our furry little friend will leave in the litter box after receiving this royal treatment with milk, will probably convince us never to give this food to our kitty again. Oddly enough, the cat (and its deadly nemesis, the mouse), has kidneys that are efficient enough to allow it to drink seawater to rehydrate, unlike most species.
Dogs are well known for stories of life-saving heroism, but most people think cats are generally too focused on themselves to value other people’s lives. But in reality, this is not the case. In 2012, a cat who had been rescued by the Humane Society just hours earlier managed to save his new mistress’s life when he had a diabetic attack. The cat jumped on her chest as she lost consciousness, touching and nibbling her face until the woman woke up. The cat then darted into his new mistress’s son’s room, and pestered him until he awoke to ask for help.
An even more incredible curiosity about cats comes from Argentina in 2008, when a one-year-old boy was found by the police in the city of Misiones, while he was being kept alive by a gang of wild cats. The boy, who had been separated from the homeless father, would probably have died without the intervention of the cats. The cats instead huddled around him at night to keep him warm and brought him fragments of food. As the police approached, the boy’s hairy guardians began to hiss and blow fiercely against them.
The tradition of mating domestic cats with their ancestors goes back over a hundred years ago, when the first Bengal cats (domestic felines crossed with Asian leopards) were produced. However, despite their exotic appearance, Bengal cats are for the most part many generations away from the jungle of their ancestors, and have a devoted and completely domesticated nature.
The serval is a small African cat with leopard spots, weighing between 9 and 18 kg, perhaps most famous for its extremely long legs. Unlike many feral cats, servals can be good pets. In 1986, a first domestic cat was crossed with a serval, producing the Savannah cat. Since it became publicly available in the 1990s, Savannah has enjoyed increasing popularity.
The owners claim that Savannah cats have a similar temperament to dogs; they tend to follow their masters and can even learn to walk on a leash, and play to bring back objects. They have an incredible ability to jump and many seem to love water. Depending on the location, it may be illegal to keep one of these cats. Australia in particular, which already has a terrible problem with wild cats that decimate native fauna, has banned the importation of Savannah cats. And even if the regulations allow us to have one of these beautiful exotic animals, it is better to prepare to spend a lot, if we want one – depending on the amount of serval in the bloodline, they can be sold for around € 10,000 each.
“The Godfather” is recognized as one of the greatest films in history, winner of three Oscar awards, including Best Film, Best Actor and Best Screenplay, every aspect of the film has been studied thoroughly, especially the patriarch of the family, Vito Corleone. When this ruthless mafia boss is introduced to us, he arrives dressed in a tuxedo, celebrating his daughter’s wedding, carelessly stroking his cat. It is a powerful moment, the dichotomy of the ruthless power of the Don and his tenderness towards his pet. It was, however, completely accidental. The cat did not appear at all in the script: he was a stray who was wandering on the set. Marlon Brando picked it up to play with, and the rest is cinematic history.
The Black Death
Gregory IX was Pope from 1227 until his death in 1241, and his reign characterized by having provoked the crusades and brutal investigations against those who were believed to be heretics. He also seemed convinced that the people worshiped black cats as manifestations of the devil. Its influence led to large-scale massacres of cats across Europe, a campaign that would have had horrible and unexpected consequences up to 100 years later. At the end of 1340, when mice infected with the black plague escaped from Asia, they discovered that Europe was a real utopia, not protected by cats that would have reduced their ranks (and probably saved millions of lives). Fortunately, recent popes have been more tolerant of cats. Pope Benedict was known for having a particular affinity for the felines, who often followed him on the Vatican grounds.
Remove the claws
Like cutting the ears and anchoring the tails in dogs, the removal of nails in cats is a very felt problem in the pet community. Although many owners who found a destroyed sofa once they returned home may believe that this is a reasonable solution to their problem, the surgery needed to remove the claws is quite brutal. Since the nail grows out of the bone, the veterinarian is required to cut the end of the cat’s finger, something similar to removing the fingers on the first knuckle. Clawing is a relatively common process in the United States, with only a few localized areas banning it (such as the city of San Francisco), but it is seen as animal cruelty and is illegal in several countries around the world, including most of the world. Europe, Israel, Brazil and Japan.
We end our curiosities about cats with a classic. The phrase “cats have nine lives” has become such a common part of common language that few stop to consider its implications. The cat, with its speed and extraordinary agility, would seem to defy death at any moment. The greatest power of this animal would seem to be its ability to regularly survive falls from any height. Human beings, for lack of a different confrontation, are terrible to fall. Although there are cases of people who survive crazy falls (in 1972, the hostess Vesna Vulovic survived after falling over 9,000 meters from a damaged plane), a human being is generally in big trouble, after about three floors.
A falling cat has several mechanisms for surviving. It is probably above all his sense of balance that acts as a sort of internal gyroscope, called the “aerial straightening reflex”. After falling a few meters, landing on all fours is almost guaranteed. The cat’s large and muscular legs act as a spring when landing, distributing the sudden impact. Being relatively light, the cat has a much lower terminal speed (the maximum speed at which it can fall) than a human being: cats reach almost 100 km per hour; humans double it easily.
This is more than a mere guess; there are dozens of reports of cats falling from huge heights and moving away with little more than a few bruises. In 2011, an elderly cat named Gloucester fell from a 20-story height from an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with minor injuries. The following year, a cat in Boston, Sugar, crashed 19 floors and remained alive. In 2009, another Manhattan cat fell from a staggering 26 floors, this time with photographic evidence taken by nearby window cleaners. This lucky feline was called – in fact – Lucky.