Dogs may be ‘man’s best friend’, but cats are fast becoming the preferred pet.
As of 2004 there were approximately 77 million pet cats in the U.S. and only about 65 million pet dogs. In Canada, the ratio is 4.5 million cats to 3.5 million dogs. The numbers have changed drastically since 2000 when roughly the same number of cats and dogs had homes in the U.S. (approximately 62 million of each). Why the change? If you own a cat, you probably know the answer:
- cats are easier to care for because they don’t need to be walked or let outside,
- cats can be left for a longer period of time on their own,
- cats tend to cost less than dogs since the majority of dog breeds eat more, require more grooming and on average require more vet trips, and
- cats are also affectionate, intelligent and playful pets.
Cats can also do amazing things like:
- jump five times the height of its tail,
- run about 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour, and
- make about 100 different vocalization sounds.
Cats have highly developed senses which, combined with an acute sense of body orientation, allow the average cat to balance on fences, jump from one improbable location to another, often at top speed and sense prey from long distances.
More than a dozen muscles in the ear are used to precisely control movement, including the ability to independently rotate each ear to listen for prey or danger.
A cat’s sense of smell is the main way it identifies objects (or people). There are 200 million odor-sensitive cells in a cat’s nose, compared to only 5 million in a human’s nose.
A cat can see in one-sixth of the amount of light a human requires. Cat pupils can dilate to 90 percent of the eye area, and also close almost entirely in bright light. The eyes protrude to give a cat superior peripheral vision, but a cat’s overall sense of vision is actually five to ten times less acute than a human’s. Cats see less detail than humans.
A cat uses its whiskers almost like a personal radar system. Whiskers are extremely sensitive to air movement, so the cat can detect an object’s presence from a distance. Cats also use whiskers to determine the size of objects or openings. From tip to tip, a cat’s whiskers determine the smallest gap he can comfortably get through. Since they are such a finely-tuned sensory system, whiskers should never be cut or trimmed.
Land On Its Feet
Probably the most widely known feline attribute is the “righting reflex” – the ability of a cat to right itself during a fall so that it always lands on its feet. It’s an automatic sequence of movements that take only a moment: first the cat adjusts its head to an upright position and its body follows by twisting or rotating to match the head. The cat’s tail is the final ‘rudder’ to ensure balance and a perfect landing are attained.