If Our Pets Could Talk
By Jackie Kellum
I try to keep a balance giving equal time to cats and dogs, but this month’s column is more specifically for cat lovers-owners. But some dog lovers might have both cats and dogs in their household, or may find some of this interesting also.
We talk about a cat having nine lives, but figuring out your cat’s age equivalent in human years is a bit complex. The first year of a cat’s life is similar to a human at 10 - 15 year’s development. At cat age 2 years it’s approximately a 25 year old human. After that, cats tend to age about four or five human years per every 12 months. With this age ratio it is understandable how a cat could develop arthritis, some decreased organ function or neurologic changes in what appears to be a short amount of time and cat age.
Save those cardboard boxes. It may be trash to you, but it’s Heaven to your cat. The major reason for this affinity to them is that it offers the cat a sense of safe protected retreat and security. They can see us, but we cannot see them, so they feel in control, safer and calmer. In fact, a group of cat behavioral scientists even did a study about this. One group of cats was given boxes and another did not have boxes. They found ‘the box-group’ had less stress, and adjusted to their environment better and more quickly. As a side benefit the box offers comforting warmth. A cat’s normal body temperature ranges from 100.5 F to 102.5 F degrees, [37.8 – 39.1 C] which is higher than humans. Cats are more comfortable in settings anywhere from 86 F to 97 F [30 – 36 C] degrees.
Don’t think your cat is smart? Then look at its brain. The cat brain is comparatively smaller than that of other species, but relative brain size isn’t always the best indicator of intelligence. Brain surface folding and brain structure matters more than brain size. Both cat brains and human brains have similar structures. Their brains are separated into different areas, each performing specialized tasks. These areas are all interconnected and can easily and rapidly share information. This exchange of information gives your cat a valuable perception of his surrounding environment and allows him to react to and even manipulate his environment. Cats have the ability to store both long-term and short-term memories. Cats do dream while sleeping and undergo both REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. During REM sleep your cat will dream, and may twitch, flicks its tail, or make sounds - this is normal behavior. Cats like humans have binocular vision, which enables them to perceive depth. This depth perception is, in part, what makes your cat a successful hunter and stalker.
If you have ever owned a cat, you know cats love to eat grass. The annoying part is that they never seem to vomit it outside where they ate it, but come inside and do it. This grass eating behavior has been studied, and experts theorize it has benefits. Vomiting may eliminate all indigestible matter from the cat’s digestive tract, making it feel better. Grass juice contains folic acid. This is an essential vitamin for a cat’s bodily functions and assists in the production of hemoglobin, the protein that moves oxygen in the blood. There is a theory that grass eating also acts like a laxative, it helps break down and move fur balls out of their intestine.
Words of caution: check that all of your household and outdoor plants are of the non-toxic variety, and do not use animal harmful pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals in your yard.