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Fascinating feline


Domestic cats (Felis catus) are small carnivorous members of the family Felidae — the only member of that family that has deigned to join humans in domesticated bliss!


For millennia, cats have coexisted with humans. They likely began frequenting human grain stores, attracted by mice and other vermin, and eventually spread around the world as sailors brought them aboard ships.


Today, cats still help humans control vermin and provide companionship. Over the past few centuries, humans have selectively bred cats to exhibit specific traits, such as hairlessness, resulting in the creation of stablishing dozens of cat breeds. With their charming mix of aloofness and goofiness, cats amuse and fascinate us in equal measure.


Many people dismiss a cat’s uncanny knowing as superstition or myth, but the ancient Egyptians revered cats as sacred animals, believing them to have magical powers. In those times, cats were treated with the utmost care and respect as representatives of the goddess Bastet.


Modern-day moggies seem to channel this god-like quality with ease, along with their reputed sixth sense. Anyone who lives with a cat has a tale to tell of telepathy, clairvoyance, or mystic encounters. There are many reported instances where cats have apparently predicted events before they happened, such as sensing when their owners are about to come home or anticipating a change in their routine.


Cats have been observed to drastically alter their behaviour prior to natural disasters such as lightning, volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides. Some cats have even alerted their owners to an impending epileptic seizure, hypoglycaemic attack, or pre-cancerous state.


A cat’s extraordinary senses can explain some of these seemingly psychic acts. They can pick up on subtle changes in body language and scent, detect changes in air pressure, see and hear beyond our limited range and react to stimuli we don’t even recognise. Their long, stiff hairs (or vibrissae) – located on either side of the nose, above the eyes, and on the chin -are super- sensitive helping them to navigate their surroundings and detect changes in their environment. But a lot of what they do is still wonderfully inexplicable.


When a cat stares fixedly into space and then suddenly pounces into action, has he seen a ghost or is he just messing with us?



Cats have eyes that are specifically adapted for hunting in low-light conditions, which is why they are often considered to be crepuscular animals (more active during twilight). Their pupils can dilate much larger than human pupils, allowing more light to enter the eye. They have a reflective layer at the back of their eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which amplifies available light, enhancing their ability to see in the dark.


Also, cats have a larger number of rod cells in their retina, which are responsible for detecting light and motion. This gives them incredible visual acuity and allows them to track the movement of prey with outstanding speed and accuracy.



A cat’s sense of smell is up to 14 times more powerful than our own, thanks to the presence of a specialised organ called the Jacobson’s organ (or vomeronasal organ). It is in the roof of the mouth and is responsible for detecting pheromones and other chemical signals that can’t be detected by a cat’s regular olfactory system.


When a cat detects these chemical signals, they will often display the Flehmen response – curling back their upper lip to draw the odour directly into the Jacobson’s organ for more detailed analysis. With such a finely- tuned nose, its no wonder cats can detect even the faintest whiff of their favourite food!



It’s not just cat’s vision that’s impressive – they also have a phenomenal sense of hearing. Their ears can swivel independently of each other to pinpoint the source of a sound with amazing accuracy. Their ears are so sensitive that they can hear a grasshopper rustling in the leaves from several metres away and can even hear the click of a butterfly’s wings!



Cats use their sense of touch in all sorts of ways, from grooming themselves and each other to communicating with other cats. Their paw pads are covered in tiny receptors called mechanoreceptors that help them feel texture, temperature, and pressure. This is important for gripping surfaces, detecting prey, and communicating with other cats through physical contact.



Arthritis is the bane of any golden oldie – whether human or animal – and especially for a former ninja. Cats have a flexible spine, allowing them to contort their bodies in ways impossible for other animals. Combined with powerful leg muscles, this makes them exceptionally agile climbers and acrobats with lightning- fast reflexes. They can jump several times their own height, run at speeds up to 48km/hr and change direction quickly and effortlessly.


Most cat lovers freely admit to being willing slaves to their pets, so perhaps their greatest talent is the way cats have managed to domesticate humans with their playful, affectionate, independent, and quirky personalities. Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how extraordinary these animals truly are!