1The Feline Facts With Catnip
You see the greenish-gray herb called catnip advertised everywhere. It comes dried and packaged in tubs in the “cat products” section, or stuffed inside toy mice for your cat’s enjoyment. There are even sprays with catnip scent available. And of course, fresh from the garden really get cats interested. Not all cats are affected. Kittens rarely respond before they’re six months old, and only two out of three cats will inherit the “catnip gene” that allows them to indulge.
“Cosmic Catnip” prepackaged dried catnip gets rave reviews from cats and is available at most pet supply stores. The company says it’s been specially prepared to preserve potency. It’s also available in a “spray bottle” application that’s great for gaining cat allegiance to a new scratch object.
Like other mints, catnip has a strong pungent odor. Susceptible cats sniff this scent, and it produces a reaction in the brain that prompts a loss of inhibition. Catnip-intoxicated cats may meow with pleasure, roll around, and act like furry drunken fools for five to fifteen minutes until the effects wear off.
Catnip is a great training tool. It can be used as a reward, or as a lure to get Kitty to scratch the right object, for instance. Cats do not become addicted. The herb is a great recreational indulgence, but the effect can wear off and be blunted if used too often.
Technical Stuff. The plant (Nepeta cataria) grows wild all over Europe, temperate Asia, and North America. It was introduced in America by early European settlers who brewed the herb into medicinal tea to settle upset stomachs. The plant grows two to three feet high in a mounded bushy shape, with heart-shaped, toothed leaves covered with a fine down.
Crushing the leaves by biting or rolling on the plant releases a volatile oil into the air that acts like a feline hallucinogen when it reacts with nerves in the cat’s nose and “scent center” in the brain.
2The Feline With The Catnaps
3The Dream Cats
Yes, cats (and kittens) do dream. We can only guess at what visions they see as their paws wiggle, whiskers twitch and tails lash with excitement. Perhaps he’s capturing visionary mice, or teaching the neighbor’s dog a lesson in manners. It’s likely they relive in their dreams those events of normal cat life.
Cat dreams are born during the deep, rapid sleep phase—that means kittens dream more than adult cats. Animals with the most highly developed brains tend to have the longest dreaming phase during sleep. People typically dream for up to two hours each day (whether we remember or not). Adult cats spend up to three hours each day indulging in kitty dreams.
4The Feline Facts With The
Cat eyes have fascinated us since the beginning of time, and are, indeed, one of the cat’s most striking features. They are said to be the window to the feline soul. In fact, nineteenth-century China gauged time by the dilation of the cats’ eyes. They believed the pupil grew narrower until twelve noon when they became a fine slit, and then began to widen again. On sunny days this truly works, since the brightest time of day likely falls during the noon hour—so the pupil would compensate and narrow to a fine line during this period.
Eyes come in three basic shapes, determined by the position of the upper and lower eyelids and position of the eyes. Round eyes are typical of the Persian, while many cats including most kitty-next-door types have oval eyes. Oriental-type cats like Siamese seem to have almond-shaped eyes because they are slightly slanted and set to the side of the head.
5The Feline Facts With The Eye Color
All kittens are born with blue eyes, and in most cases, the final eye color develops between three to seven months of age. One exception, however, is the Korat breed, which boasts luminous green eyes. It may take up to four years for the eyes of the Korat to develop true adult color.
Cat eyes come in nearly all the jewel-colors of the rainbow—from yellow-gold-amber-copper to all shades of green and blue. The color of the eye varies by breed and is determined by genetics. Not only the amount and position of the pigment in the iris—the colored portion of the eye—but the way light reflects off the eyes helps determine eye color. Some cats are termed “odd-eyed” which means each eye is a different color.
6The Feline Facts With The Glow-In-The-Dark Kitten Eyes
Shine a light toward any cat or kitten’s eyes in low-light, and they’ll reflect back an eerie glow. Ancient peoples believed that the bright night-shine that spills from the cat’s eyes at night was due to the light they drank during the day. This eyeshine comes from the mirror-like layer of cells, called the tapetum lucidum, at the back of the retina of the eyeball that serves to amplify existing light. That allows cats to see better in low-light than humans or many other animals. The domestic cat’s eyes use nearly fifty percent more available light than ours do, and require only 1/6th the illumination level. That’s why your kitten is so active in the evening and night hours when all you want to do is sleep.
7The Feline Facts With The Color Purr-ception
In the past, experts declared cats saw only in shades of black and white. Today we know that cats and kittens do, indeed, have the “equipment” to see color. Millions of light-receptor cells on the retina at the back of the eye gather information about patterns of light. Cells called rods allow the cat to see shades of white, black and gray. Cells called cones to detect colors. Cats have many more rods than people do, and that helps them to see in low-light situations.
Tests have shown that cats do have the ability to see differences between certain reds, greens, blues, and yellows.
People see combinations of red, blue and yellow—but cat color sense is based on a two-color (dichromatic) system of blue and green. That means in very bright light, green and blue look brighter than red or yellow to the cat because they have very few red-sensitive cones. That makes sense, of course, because cats evolved to see prey in the green/blue color schemes of grasses.
But bottom line, color probably doesn’t mean much to cats and kittens. They can see it—but don’t care much about it. The pattern seems to spark more interest in cats than colors do.
8The Feline Facts With The Hunting “Gifts”
9The Feline Facts With The Kneading Behavior
Kneading behavior harkens back to the cat’s babyhood. When a cat is born, she will press her paws rhythmically one after another in a treading action against her mother’s breasts, and this helps stimulate the milk to be released. Behaviorists believe that this action—called “kneading”—is a sign of feline contentment that reminds the cat of those feelings of safety, happiness and comforts the cat felt like a newborn being cared for by her mother. What an honor—your cat is calling you Mom.
You can read more about 11 cat behaviors that help you better understand your cats.
10The Feline Facts With The Mitten-Pawed Kittens
Kittens and cats normally have four toes on each hind foot, and five toes on each front paw. A mutation causes some cats to be born with extra toes—called polydactylism. Often the extras make the kitten look like he’s wearing mittens when it doubles (or more) the size of his “thumb” claw on the front or rear feet.
Mitten-pawed kittens and cats in the past have been thought to bring good luck. A polydactyl cat may have one extra toe on one foot or several extras on all four feet.
Usually, the mutation is harmless but it can result in smaller-than-normal toes with claws that may not retract, and so more care may be needed for appropriate kitty pedicures.