The Boston Cat Hospital

3840 Washington Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130



Feline Fast Facts

The Largest
The largest breeds of cats are the Ragdoll, Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest, with males weighing 15 to 20 pounds. In the majority of domestic cats, the average weight of the adult un-neutered male (tom) is 8.6 pounds, compared with 7.2 pounds for the un-spayed female (queen).


The heaviest domestic cat on record was a neutered male tabby named Himmy, owned by Thomas Vyse of Redlynch, Queensland, Australia. At the time of his death on March 12, 1986 at the age of 10 years, 4 months, he weighed 46 pounds, 14 1/4 ounces (neck 15 inches, waist 33 inches, length 38 inches).

Life Expecancy

Cats generally live longer than dogs. The average life expectancy of intact males raised indoors and receiving good medication attion is 13 to 15 years (15 to 17 for intact females), but neutered males and females tend to live on the average of one to two years longer. A well documented case was that of a female tabby named "Ma," owned by Alice St. George Moore of Drewsteignton, Great Britain. This cat was put to sleep on November 5, 1857 at the age of 34.

First Cat Show
The first major cat show was held in 1871 in the famed Crystal Palace of Great Britain, organized by cat enthusiast Harrison Weir. The first major cat show in the United States was in 1881 in New York City, at the museum of G.B. Bunnell.

A Rare Walk
Cats walk in an unusual way, moving both legs on one side forward, then moving both legs on the other side forward. The camel and the giraffe are the only other mammals that move both legs on a single side forward simultaneously. Both of these animals appear to have an odd, lurching gait. The cat's stride is smooth because its legs are also turned in under its body when it walks, thus the rear paw comes down in the same space vacated by the front paw on the same side. This provides smoothness of movement and contributes to the extraordinary balance that allows a cat to easily negotiate the top of a narrow fence.

In The Dark
A number of experiments have been conducted to measure the cats' night vision. The results have shown that cats' eyes are at  least six times more sensitive than human eyes to diffused light.




Seeing Red
Cats do see red, but not very well. It has been proven that cats can distinguish between red and blue, red and green, red and gray, green and blue, blue and gray, yellow and blue, and yellow and gray. Keen vision in dim light is what the cat's eyes are designed for. A cat needs only one sixth of the light a human needs to see the same shapes and figures. In other words, cats can see colors but they don't really need to for survival.

Left-handedness is much more common in cats than in humans. One study by a British physiologist, J. Cole, showed that fifty-eight percent of cats had a strong bias toward the use of one paw, with twice as many favoring the left paw.

Why cats chatter their teeth when they see a bird
Sometimes this is referred to as a "tooth rattling stutter," or a "frustrated chatter of the cat's jaws in the mechanical staccato fashion." Technically it is known as "vacuum activity." This behavior is mimicking the highly specialized killing bite the cat would use if it had already caught its prey. This particular jaw movement brings instant paralysis to the prey. The bite severs the prey's spinal cord, which keep the prey from injuring the cat.

Why cats rub against your legs
This behavior is a friendly greeting, a show of affection towards a loved one. However, it is also a way of implementing a scent exchange between you and the cat. The cat has scent glands at the commissure of the lips, the temples and at the base of the tail. By rubbing against you, the cat releases its scent on your clothing or person. This makes the cat feel more comfortable with its owners. Also, your scent is rubbed off on the cat. When he cleans himself, he can taste and smell your scent.

How and why cats purr
Cat purring is continuous during expiration and inspiration usually beginning at the time they are suckling their mother. The purring mechanism acts as an outward signal to the mother that "all is well" and that all the kittens are feeling okay. Purring as an adult seems to stem from this parent/offspring relationship. Purring to most individuals means contentment. However, purring also has been found to occur during times of stress and may be a signal to the owner that the cat needs comforting or is ill. Purring is thought to be a circulatory system sound that has nothing to do with the vocal cords. Researchers are still in disagreement as to the exact mechanism of this unique feline trait.

Why cats claw the furniture
Cats need to claw materials to help shed the old, worn-out claws for the new, sharper underlying claws. The cat's furniture clawing leaves behind the remains of old claws which become snagged in the fabrics. Cats also stroke things with their paws as a way of marking with their scent. There are small scent glands located under the cat's front paws. In addition, the pulling action of furniture clawing strengthens the retraction and protrusion apparatus of the claws for predation. Once a cat has established this habit of scratching it is difficult to change this behavior, however with environmental and behavioral modification it is possible.

Why cats bury their feces
Most cats bury their feces to avoid territorial conflicts. Feces burying by cats is a sign of a subordinate cat, fearful of social standing. They bury their feces as a way of hiding their odor display. The dominant tom cats actually display their feces as a sign of dominance over the other cats. The weaker, more subordinate cats are the ones who hide their feces. 

Why cats "spray" urine
Feline urine spraying helps define territory. The urine of the tomcat is very strong, even to the human nose, and the cats use this scent to mark their territories. They particularly like to mark anything permanent like fences, trees, walls, and furniture. They will also be sure to mark anything that has been marked by another tom.

What cats like about catnip
Some cats are crazy about catnip. Catnip is a form of mint which acts on some cats' sense of smell. It is a stimulant to those cats that are sensitive to it. Not all cats are sensitive to catnip. Catnip is not a drug and is not harmful to your cat. 

Why cats should drink water, NOT milk

It is not necessary to feed cats milk for their diet, even though a little bit shouldn't hurt then. It is possible to feed your cat too much milk. Milk can give your cat diarrhea due to the milk sugar and the relative deficiency of the enzyme lactose in the bowel.