6 Sep 2013

The Facts About Cats

By Marie Powell

As the owner of two cats, I like to think I know a lot about them. I know what they like to eat, where they hide their toys, and how much trouble they can get into without really trying.

When I began writing "That Cat!" for my new "Word Families" series (Amicus Publishing, 2013), I found out how much I still had to learn about cats.

Writing a nonfiction book for children begins with research, so I pulled as many books as I could find from our library. I've included some of these books at the end of this post.

Here are just a few fascinating facts I discovered about cats:
  • Cats have 244 bones; people only have 206 bones.
  • Cats have 32 muscles in each ear; people have only six muscles in each ear.
  • Cats can rotate each ears by itself, and can even turn their ears 180 degrees in opposite directions. Cat hearing is so sharp that they can tell the difference between one person's footsteps and another's, and even between the sounds of different cars. (So they really do know it's you when they come running to the door!)
  • Cats walk on their toes: their heel bone is half-way up their leg.
  • Cats have scent glands on their paws, their foreheads, under their chins, and where their tails meet their backs. That's why they like scratching and rubbing -- and being rubbed, so they can transfer some scent onto you!
  • The sense of smell is very important to a cat. Cats even have an extra organ for smelling located inside their mouths, called the vomeronasal organ or Jacob's organ.
  • Cat tongues are rough because they have tiny, backward-facing spines made of keratin, called papillae.
An average cat, like our friendly Sabriel pictured here, has 24 whiskers or vibrissae on each side of his nose, as well as whiskers on his chin, above his eyes, and on the back of each foreleg. 
    Cats use their whiskers as part of their sense of touch. Their whiskers help them sense the direction of wind and air currents, measure distances, and navigate. 
As well, whiskers help show their mood. For example, the whiskers would move forward and down when relaxed, forward when aggressive, or flat when defensive.

Here are some of the books and resources on cats I used for these facts and more:
  • The Complete Cat by Vicky Hall (2008, Bantam Press)
  • The Secret Life of Your Cat by Vicky Hall (2010, Firefly Books)
  • Why do Cats Have Whiskers? by Elizabeth McLeod (2008, Kids Can Press)
  • Cat Care Essentials by Francesca Riccomini (2010, Hamlyn)
  • The Cat Expert by Rebecca Watson (2010, Transworld Publishers)
  • Pets 101: Cats, Animal Planet

Everyone loves watching cat videos, so just for fun, here are just a few of my favourites:

What habits and behaviours does your cat have that fascinate you? Please leave a comment -- or share a cat video!

Marie Powell is the author of seven books for children, including Dragonflies are Amazing (Scholastic) and a new six-book series of Word Families books published by Amicus Publishing

1 comment:

Paula said...

Something my cat did that amazed us was how she seemed to become heavier after she'd been asleep for a while on somebody's lap.
Shadow was a slim and light-footed cat, and when she stepped onto my lap she would feel like she weighed only a wiry seven pounds or so. She would curl into a purring ball, warm and comfortable. Then, as she dozed, she would become much heavier. It was as if she was twice her mass and much harder to lift or move than before.
We used to joke that Shadow knew how to turn up the gravity to keep you from getting up when she had a warm place to sleep. And sure, when anybody falls asleep on your lap they seem heavier, but it was amazing to feel the change in this little cat!