Let's differentiate cats into two different groups. Longhair cats such as the Persian cat and short hair cats such as Bengal.. Cats are little furry creatures who, upon first glance seem to do nothing but eat and sleep all day. There are in excess of five-hundred million domestic cats in the world, making them the world's favorite companion. Humans and cats go back a long way. Throughout history there are records of their close relationship. Ancient Egyptians worshipped them. So what is it that makes these carnivorous mammals so appealing?
Well cats do sleep for seventy percent of their lifetime. Many sleep for around sixteen to eighteen hours a day. This may sound lazy, but it's actually part of their nature and a key part of their evolution. You see cats are natural hunters in the wild. In order to survive they would need to stalk, pursue and catch their prey. This uses a lot of energy, so sleep is necessary to ensure they have the vigor to chase down their next meal. Cats are light sleepers. You may notice that although their eyes are closed, their ears are frequently moving. This is because they still have to listen out for larger predators higher on the food chain who may be hunting them.
Sleeping so much makes cats perfect pets. They require so little from us. Our other favorite companion, the dog, constantly seeks our attention. The dog barks at any sound and whines when we try and leave the house without him. The cat just gives a cursory glance every now and again, to check there isn't a more comfortable spot available to snooze on. There is a health benefit to this. When our feline friend settles on our lap, we stroke them and they purr. This makes us feel calm and in turn reduces our blood pressure. Their special breed of intimacy makes us feel better and reduces our chances of suffering from heart disease. Owning a cat can reduce your risk of strokes or heart attacks by more than a third.
Stroking your cat can also reveal how they feel. If they roll over on their back and expose their belly, it shows they trust you. Rubbing their face up against yours is a sign of affection, as is slow blinking. The cat's tail is a good indicator of its mood. The cat is uncomfortable or feeling anxious when its tail is between its leg. If its tail is wrapped around you, the cat is feeling friendly. If its tail shakes like a rattle it means the cat is excited, they often do this when anticipating food.
There are other benefits to keeping a cat around the house. The night vision, keen sense of smell and acute hearing that makes them such effecient predators in the wild will also help you to keep your home free of rodents. No need to call the exterminator. No need to spend money on traps. Your cat will revel in the duty of keeping the place free of unwelcome critters. If you specifically want a "mouser", look for an older cat who would have already developed its hunting skills. Also get the feline neutered so it is not focused on mating. A cat who has been living as a stray will be a better mouser as it has been fending for itself and will be better versed in providing its own meals.
One thing that cats love to do is play. This again is part of the hunting instinct as a way to hone their skills. This makes them a hell of a lot of fun. It is interesting to observe their behaviour. When stalking, cats tend to step in the same spot with their back paws as they do with their front paws. This helps them make less sound and leave fewer tracks on the ground. Cats sometimes look like they are fighting when at play, but you can tell the difference by the amount of noise they make. Playful cats are mostly quiet, fighting cats hiss and spit. Toys are a good tool to use to watch the cat stalk and pounce on its prey and also a lot of fun for you and for the cat. Playtime is very important for indoor cats as it is key to keeping them fit and healthy. Activity improves their circulation and eases feelings of boredom or stress.
Cats are beautiful, graceful and amazing animals. They are well designed to be agile and nimble. Their whiskers are cute, but are also very sensitive. If you touch your cat's whiskers it will shake it's head. The cat's whiskers are designed to grow to the same width as the widest part of the animal's body so that it will know if it can fit through tight spaces and avoid getting stuck. They also enable the cat to visually judge space and distance. They are receptors that send information directly to the feline's sensory nerves. If you have kids, make sure you don't let them try and trim the cat's whiskers as they will become distressed and disorientated, losing some of their environmental perception. They do grow back!
Great balance is something cats are renowned for. They have a very flexible spine which enables them to flip or turn easily. This explain the saying that cats always land on their feet. They have adapted shoulder blades and lack a proper collarbone so they are able to place each foot directly ahead of the other when walking. This unables them to delicately saunter across fences and tree branches. They also have highly advanced, semi-circular ear canals that improve their overall sense of balance. It enables them to leap around, engage in random acts of acrobatics and generally do crazy things.
Next time you watch a cat, observe it's subtle nuances and realise it is showing you affection. As it delicately maneuvers across the edge of a crowded bookshelf, appreciate the cat's heightened balance and perception. When it uses it claws to scratch at the sofa, know that it is refining it's primal hunting instinct. Most importantly when your cat rolls over and stretches out next to you on the sofa, know that it loves you and you should love it back.