7 things you may not know about your cat
Andrews McMeel Syndication
You don’t have to know much about cats to know they’re among the best companions you can have. But the more you know, the more you’ll enjoy their unique traits and entertaining company, and the more you’ll be amazed by the peculiarities people have ascribed to them over many millennia.
I’m a 43-year veteran veterinarian, a lifetime cat lover and the author of 23 books on dogs and cats. While I still continue to learn feline facts, tips and tactics, I’d like to share with you some things many of you might not know about your feline family members.
1. The cat walk. If you’ve ever watched dogs walk, you may have noticed that they alternate sides when they step. In other words, the right front paw steps forward at the same time the left rear paw does. Their natural gait is a trot. Cats move differently. They step with both left paws, then both right paws. Their natural gait is called a pace, and camels and giraffes are the only other animals with the pace as their natural gait.
2. Cat feces Rx. The ancient Romans believed feline feces had healing powers. They used a concoction of honey, cat dung, spices and fat to heal burns and wounds. The Romans also thought drinking from lead cups was a great idea, so I don’t recommend trying this ancient burn ointment at home.
3. A hairball can help you win at Scrabble. Cats are great self-groomers and have a very raspy tongue (I often joke that it feels like a caterpillar wearing golf shoes) that can pull out a lot of hair, which the cat then swallows. Hair is indigestible, so when it enters a cat’s stomach, it has two exits: up or out. When it comes up, it’s a hairball (though it actually looks more like a slimy cigar).
The scientific name for a hairball is trichobezoar: “tricho” from the Greek word thrix, meaning hair, and “bezoar” from the Arabic word bazahr or Persian word padzahr, both meaning antidote. Bezoar is a great Scrabble word -- 17 points based on letters alone!
In early times, as far back as 1000 B.C. and continuing to the 11th century and beyond, trichobezoars were thought to have medicinal properties, especially for counteracting poisons as well as treating such diverse maladies as plague, dysentery, epilepsy and venomous bites. As with the aforementioned Roman remedy, I don’t recommend this treatment.
4. Why cats don’t need sunglasses. Cats are different than humans, dogs and most other animals in that the pupils of their eyes reduce to slits rather than tiny circles. Because the cat’s eyelids close at right angles to the vertical pupil, a cat can further reduce the amount of light entering the eye by bringing the eyelids closer and closer together. This works similar to the shutter on a vintage camera.
5. Who hears better? If you compare a human, dog and cat, the cat wins. Cats can hear nearly 3 times more frequencies than humans can. Technically, human hearing tops out at 20 kilohertz, a dog’s at 45 kHz, with cats at 80 kHz. Cats are able to hear a mouse walking 30 feet away or a bat in flight.
6. Do cats age seven years for every human year? No. In fact, dogs don’t either. A 1-year-old cat has reached full adult size and sexual maturity. This would be the equivalent of an 18-year-old human being. After the first year, a “four equals one” rule works pretty well. So a 10-year-old cat would be the equivalent of 54 human years: 18 (the first year) + 36 (4 x 9 years) = 54.
7. What are a cat’s whiskers for? A cat’s whiskers are deep-set, highly sensitive hairs called vibrissae (another great Scrabble word). These sensitive detection devices can perceive wind direction, help the cat gauge if they can fit through an opening and are important for body language signaling. If the whiskers are forward, the cat is friendly or curious. If they are pinned back, don’t approach or touch.
Do dogs get
Q: I saw an old news story on social media about a woman whose dog caught the mumps from her. Do dogs get the mumps, and could they really catch them from a person?
A: Crazily enough, it can happen, but it’s extremely rare, in part because vaccinations protect humans from getting the mumps.
What the heck are the mumps? This viral infection (known as a paramyxovirus) of the parotid salivary glands gives human sufferers -- usually young kids or high school or college students who haven’t been vaccinated -- the look of a chipmunk whose cheeks are stuffed with nuts.
In rare instances, dogs who are exposed to people with the mumps can develop a crossover infection. Signs in dogs are fever, lack of appetite and swelling below the ears, the result of those swollen parotid glands.
Other paramyxoviruses include measles and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Dogs with the mumps typically recover in five to 10 days. They need to drink plenty of water and keep up their food intake. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions of special dog-friendly meals you can give to encourage them to eat. Foods that are soft and easy to swallow may be a good choice. If your dog isn’t drinking enough water, subcutaneous fluids can help them to stay hydrated.
Dogs with mumps may have a fever. If it’s high, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help bring it down. Don’t give your own over-the-counter medication for fever, as these drugs can be toxic to dogs. And remember that antibiotics won’t help because this disease is caused by a virus, not bacteria.
If a member of your family has the mumps, protect your dog by keeping them apart until the infection has run its course. By the way, there’s no evidence of people getting mumps from dogs. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
How to teach
dogs their name
-- It’s important for dogs to respond to their names, especially when you need to get their attention quickly. Teach them to tune in by saying their name once and following up with a treat or a quick playtime with a favorite toy. If your dog doesn’t respond immediately, up the ante by using a high-pitched, happy tone of voice, inviting body language or the sound of a crinkled treat bag. Play the “name game” at random throughout the day, including at mealtimes just before you put down the food bowl, or when it’s time for a walk.
-- A pet may need to have a limb amputated if they are hit by a car or have developed bone cancer or a nervous system disorder. You may be anxious if your pet needs to have a limb amputated, but animals have two advantages over humans facing amputation: It’s easier for them to adjust because they start with four legs instead of two, and they don’t have any preconceived notions about their appearance or their ability to get around with only three legs. Most animals adapt rapidly to losing a limb, although recovery may take longer for seniors or pets with cancer. Learn more here: fearfreehappyhomes.com/pet-losing-a-limb-how-to-help-him-get-back-on-his-feet.
-- Never underestimate your cat’s (or dog’s) ability to pull a zipper open, especially when they’re riding in the car in a zippered carrier. One cat lover recalls the time she was driving in the fast lane and suddenly heard the sound of passenger side window being lowered, followed by the sound of wind rushing into the car. Her feline passenger had unzipped the carrier from the inside, climbed out and opened the window when she stood on the control while looking out the window. Now she puts a safety clip on every zipper on every carrier. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.