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Fascinating felines: 5 things you didn’t know about cats

If you are a devoted cat lover, you probably enjoy learning about their likes, dislikes, and what makes them so purrfectly perplexing. We’ve got some good “mews!” We rounded up five facts to help you discover a bit more about them.

It’s in the DNA

Throughout their lives, our cat companions face a number of serious health concerns, such as kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Now, 99 Lives, a genome sequencing research collaboration, is developing genetic tools for cutting-edge feline healthcare.

According to Leslie Lyons, PhD, professor of comparative medicine at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, the project is expected to not only prevent problems for future generations, but help to cure cats who are sick now. In doing so, researchers also hope to translate any gene and drug therapies they find for cats for use in humans and other species.

The analysis is expected to be completed this fall, but the project’s early success with trios—a duo of two siblings, two distantly related cats of the same breed with the same disease, and a single cat with a rare recessive trait—is proving the project’s dataset is becoming useful for a “precision medicine” approach for cats, Lyons said.

An aptitude for science?

We knew cats were smart, but wow! Research published in Animal Cognition tells us our feline friends are able to understand the principle of cause and effect and some elements of physics.

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan found that when cats combine these abilities with their keen sense of hearing, they can calculate where possible prey hides.

They wanted to know: Can cats infer if a container holds an object based on whether it is shaken along with a sound or not? They also wanted to learn if cats expect an object to fall out once the container is turned over.

In the end, researchers discovered that cats predict the presence of invisible objects based on what they hear, using a physical law to infer the existence or absence of objects based on whether they heard a rattle.

Sorry, they’re just not that into you

Of course your fluffy furball looks to you for security…or so you think.

While it is widely recognized that cats are more social than many had thought, a study at the University of Lincoln in the U.K. revealed that adult cats do not look to others to provide a sense of protection.

The study says researchers found that while cats might prefer to interact with their owners, they do not rely on them for reassurance in an unfamiliar environment. It may just be the nature of the little beasts as they are largely solitary hunters.

Soothing or stressful?

Oh, that feeling of pure contentment as you pet your cat. It’s great for you—but what about her?

Surprisingly, cats who reluctantly allow their owners to stroke them could be more stressed than those who carefully avoid being petted. That’s what a study by researchers from the University of Lincoln in the U.K., the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Austria discovered.

In a multi-cat household, however, things may work out well as cats who dislike being petted can often avoid it if they live with another who does enjoy it. Instead, researchers are more concerned about those cats with imposing owners. The bottom line: Let your cat choose if she wants to be petted.

The bitter truth

Is your cat a picky eater? Blame it on those bitter taste receptors.

Studies have shown that cats cannot taste sweet flavors, but research from the Monell Center in Philadelphia has also found that cats have at least seven functional bitter taste receptors. No wonder they are so finicky about food. 

While there does not appear to be a strong relationship between the number of bitter receptors and the extent to which a carnivore consumes plants, it is possible that bitter taste still has a protective function. Researchers suggest the bitter taste might cut down on cats’ intake of toxic compound from skin and other components of certain prey species, such as invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians.

On a positive note, the knowledge may lead to improved food formulations to eliminate any bitter tastes that have cats turning up their noses at dinner.

Award-winning writer Maureen Blaney Flietner has long known that while she finds her cats endlessly fascinating, they are quickly bored with her.

iStock.com/Sadi Ugur OKCu

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