It’s a well-known fact that as cat owners, we need little encouragement to celebrate our feline pets. In honour of National Pet Month in June, James Wellbeloved has rounded up the top ten most fascinating cat facts, some of which might surprise you.
Archaeological excavation in Cyprus suggests that humans have kept domesticated cats as pets for as many as 9500 years. In 2004, French archaeologists uncovered a burial site in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, once inhabited by humans during the Neolithic (Stone Age) period. They discovered the buried remains of not only a person, but of what is likely to be a pet cat buried beside them.
It was the Ancient Egyptians who took cat appreciation to a divine level, famously worshipping the cat-goddess Bastet. From the 5th century BCE, the cult of Bastet sanctified the feline as a protectress of royalty and fertility. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travelled to worship at her temple in the city of Bubastis, leaving her offerings of cat statues in tribute.
Did you know that the English language abounds with fascinating terms for our feline friends? You may well know that a group of cats is called a clowder. But did you know that it can also be called a glaring- and that a group of kittens is a kindle? And, in early-modern England, a rather fantastical term for a cat was a grimalkin.
Recent scientific experimentation suggests that contrary to popular belief, cats may be as intelligent as dogs. In 2017, Japanese psychologists discovered that cats have episodic memory, which means that, like humans and dogs, they can recall enjoyable experiences. The team further concluded that cats match dogs on various mental tests, such as responding to human facial expressions and gestures.
Not for nothing do we call a midday snooze a catnap; evidence shows that cats sleep for an average of fifteen hours a day. This means that the average cat sleeps for two-thirds of their lives! However, this sleep is necessary for the health of your cat. Cats must conserve their energy for their nocturnal predatory excursions; chasing and hunting prey requires a lot of energy.
From the Middle Ages, Christian Europe increasingly condemned cats as agents of witchcraft. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX’s Vox in Rama identified black cats as possible manifestations of the devil in disguise. Do you remember the term grimalkin we learned earlier? A cat named Grimalkin appears in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, belonging, naturally, to one of the three witches.
In 1963, a French kitty called Félicette became the first cat in history to travel to space. She was plucked from the streets of Paris and purchased by the French government to advance their position in the Space Race. Félicette spent thirteen minutes in orbit, experiencing five minutes of weightlessness, before being parachuted safely back to earth.
A US cat named Stubbs served as the honorary mayor of an Alaskan town for twenty years. Mayor Stubbs served the 900 citizens of Talkeetna from 1998 until his death in 2017. When not tackling his civic responsibilities, Stubbs reportedly enjoyed drinking catnip and water from a margarita glass.
A cat from Exeter, Devon currently lays claim to being the oldest living cat in the world. Rubble is currently 31 years old, which in human years is around 150. However, he still has a while to go before beating the record of the oldest cat in history. The American cat Crème Puff, memorialised in the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records, lived to be 38 years and 3 days old.
A ten-year study by US stroke researchers suggests that cat owners show a 30% lower risk of death by heart attack than non-cat owners. Why? Heart attacks are linked to psychological stress and anxiety, and the researchers suggest that petting a cat relieves stress and frequently lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
Ultimately, these cat facts confirm what we at James Wellbeloved already suspected; cats are intelligent, they’re good for our hearts, and they make ambitious, if sleepy, associates. It seems only fitting if some of these facts have surprised you; after all, it is our cats’ ability to keep us on our toes which has made them such rewarding companions over the centuries.