We may be a bit biased, but we find felines endlessly fascinating. Cats are enigmatic creatures—at times they want nothing to do with you, but at other times they cannot stop rubbing their soft furry heads against your cheek. Although you will never totally understand your cat’s behavior, you can always learn more about your whiskered wonder. Read our Just Cats Clinic team’s seven little-known facts about cats.
#1: Your cat is almost genetically identical to a tiger
If you have wondered about your cat’s—sometimes—wild behavior, you may be surprised to learn that, according to genome sequencing, your pint-sized purr machine shares 95.6% of their DNA with the world’s most formidable big cat—the tiger. But you have little to fear from your domesticated cat—10.8 million years and a few key genetic mutations separate them from the tiger, who is an obligate carnivore with powerful muscles, enabling them to pursue and subdue prey. Although your cat may expect you to honor their impressive heritage, you are not technically sharing your home with a tiger, despite the species’ shared DNA.
#2: The happiest place on earth for a large feral cat colony
Only cats would be capable of infiltrating a mouse-run fairytale kingdom, and successfully establish a nearly 70-year reign. Legend has it that during the late 1950s, Disneyland developers discovered a feral cat colony living in the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Rather than evicting these interlopers, Disneyland employees embraced them for their natural and effective rodent control. These cats are rewarded with more than all the rodents they can eat—in a true rags-to-riches tale, these feline squatters receive the Disney royal treatment, which includes routine veterinary care, spaying and neutering, food and water stations, and designated shelters throughout the park. Talk about having all your dreams come true!
#3: Polydactyl cats are also known as Hemingway cats
The average cat has five toes on each front paw and four toes on each back paw. However, a unique genetic mutation—polydactyly—causes an extra digit on the front or back feet, and sometimes both. While the extra digits are harmless, they do give a cat’s paws a charming mitten-like appearance.
Some people refer to polydactyl cats as Hemingway cats, because renowned American writer Ernest Hemingway was once gifted a six-toed, white cat—Snow White—with whom he shared his Key West island estate. Today, approximately 60 polydactyl cats still reside at the Hemingway home—many of whom are Snow White’s descendants. In honor of their namesake, The Hemingway Home and Museum staff provides dedicated care and support to these now-famous furry residents.
#4: Your cat is tracking you
According to one study, cats can map their owners’ location through sound alone (i.e., socio-spatial cognition). In addition to cats, other species—primates, meerkats, and domestic dogs—can form a mental representation of an object’s or being’s location without visual confirmation, a high-intelligence sign. According to the study author, the results suggest that cats are more invested in their owners’ whereabouts than once believed.
#5: The domestic cat is the only cat species that holds its tail upright
No other felid species recognizes the domestic cat’s tail-up posture, which is often appreciated during greetings. Unlike solitary-dwelling big cats, domestic cats evolved—living more closely to their own kind—and they required a larger body-language vocabulary. Domestic cats prominently display their tail to signal unmistakable amity and friendliness to fellow cats and people, and—depending on their familiarity with the other party—may follow-up the upright tail posture with additional affectionate behavior, such as nose-to-nose sniffing and body rubbing. A 1997 study reported that cats are more likely to respond in kind when shown a tail-up feline silhouette, but a tail-down feline silhouette triggered reluctance and aggressive postures.
#6: Cats rule—literally
Anyone can get elected these days—including a cat. During a 1997 mayoral election, citizens of Talkeetna, Alaska, were unimpressed by the ballot, and began a passionate write-in campaign for Stubbs—a bobtailed orange tabby. Having no campaign or platform, and giving no speeches, Stubbs won the mayoral seat—where he proudly perched for 20 inspiring years. Citizens loved Stubbs for his laid-back agenda, scandal-free lifestyle, and limited need for the spotlight. But similar to most career politicians, Stubbs had an unpleasant run-in with the opposing party—suffering a brutal dog attack in 2012. True to feline form, Stubbs nobly survived his severe injuries, and served another four-year term as mayor until his death in 2016.
#7: Cats sleep through a majority of their life
Unlike many of their owners, cats do not have a fear of missing out (FOMO). The average feline sleeps 12 to 15 hours per day, while senior cats snooze as much as 20 hours per day. A cat’s sleep pattern is a combination of deep sleep and brief cat naps that can range from 5 to 30 minutes. During a nap, your cat receives rest’s important benefits but remains on alert for potential threats. Napping cats rest in a defense-ready posture, in case they must leap to action quickly, and they often swivel their ears to nearby sounds, or keep their eyes half open. Cats in deep sleep usually choose a more comfortable position (e.g., curled up, closed eyes).
Our Just Cats Clinic team is dedicated to feline health and wellbeing, and as part of our commitment, we are always on the lookout to learn something new—a fun trivia fact or a revolutionary health breakthrough—about our favorite species. Rely on our Just Cats Clinic team for all your feline’s care and information needs, and don’t hesitate to schedule your cat’s appointment.