Friday, February 24, 2017

Cat Chat

Cat Chat by Meredith Phillips            32 pages                                    

What a nice chat about cats, truly!    It goes in to the history of domesticated cats as we know them today – spoiler alert – the ancient Egyptians domesticated African bobtailed wildcats 4,000 years ago.   Farmers near the Nile River liked having them around to keep the rats away and they found out cats are great at getting rid of deadly snakes, too.   Bonus.    The farmers and their families loved these furry little defenders of their food supply so much they started showing them affection.   The wild cats found out they liked people and the affection they bestowed.    The Egyptians revered these little furry superheroes so much they depicted them in their art, in the architecture and even in their deities.    Over the centuries, while the varying species of both big cats and domestic cats evolved, their skeletal structures remained the same.   Regardless of size (lion, tiger, cheetah, leopard, or tabby, etc.) the way all cats move, use their claws and attack are all the same.    The book states there are millions of domestic cats in the world and 50 types are pedigreed with papers on them showing their lineage these are the types of cats that are entered into cat shows and judged against a set of criteria unique to each breed with the ones deemed best of their breed winning ribbons and other prizes.   It discusses how cats come in all shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, long-haired, short-haired, slim, sleek, striped, some with folded ears, some with long tails some with bobbed ones, or no tail at all.    All are unique and beautiful with retracting claws that make them all great climbers.   Most domestic (house) cats weigh between 5 to 18lbs. whose bodies are roughly 2 ½ feet long with tails that extend their length by an additional 9 inches or so.     They use their tails to help them balance and their tails along with their flexible spines can help them to land on all 4 feet when falling.    It talks about how a cat’s whiskers serve them just like a human’s fingertips gives them sensory information at a touch.    It mentions how a cat will smell it’s human’s shoes/feet and the cuffs of their pants to see what is going on in the outside world.   Cats can rotate their ears 180 degrees to focus on a particular sound hence how they pick up the tiny sounds a mouse makes when scurrying around the house in what we think is silence.     Cats have all the cool attributes, motion detection, agility in jumping, terrific depth perception, and vision that not only allows them to see in very miniscule light, but also allows them to see everything around them except what is actually right behind their heads.    The book discusses many different breeds and what is specific to that particular breed.    It talks about how in the wild as a rule cats don’t live in packs, but, prefer a more solitary life with just their mate or young until they move on.     Domestic cats form a bond with the person who feeds and grooms them,  who takes care of them.     Cats are creatures of habit and don’t like change.     Grooming a cat will save them from getting hairballs or at least not as many.   GOOD TO KNOW.   I had never much thought about that.   I always learn from every book I read.   The book also goes in to how cats need meat to be healthy they are predators and carnivores afterall, but they also need crunchy dry food to keep their teeth strong and their mouth clean.   The amount of food they need varies with weather, activity level and age which are all good things to know, too.    And the book dispels the old wives tale that cats should drink milk.    While they like milk it is hard for them to digest the book says.   (Mine love milk and whipped cream, though their dalliances are few and far between – my rule – not theirs.)   Something a lot of people don’t think about – cats need to drink lots of water and they don’t always.   I learned you can entice them with a little juice from a can of tuna in their water.   Just a helpful hint.     Favorite cat things:  Sleeping, laying in the sun, being in high places, stalking prey or toys.    The book also tells about cat essentials, scratching posts, litter pan, beds either one for them or they will try to share yours, and toys.    Cats rule in the U.S.   The Humane Society of the United States estimates there are 73 million owned cats in this country making cats the most popular pet (that surprised me, I figured dogs had the edge).   In Japan there are waving cat statues for good luck.   The cat statures wave the owner out of harm’s way.   In India’s Hindu culture the cat is a sign of luck or plenty.   Each person is responsible for feeding a cat to extend the life of his or her human family members.   Many Indians also honor a cat god called Sasti.    There is a wealth of good information in this book on cats.    They can jump 6 times their length,  the growth hormone is released during sleep hence why kittens sleep so much.  The oldest cat known was 36 years old and lived in Devonshire, England, tiniest cat recorded was 2.75 inches tall and 7.5 inches long and weighed 1lb.6 ounces.    Largest cat on record, a tabby named Himmy, lived in Queensland, Autrailia and weighed 47 lbs.,  largest litter on record – 19 kittens,   most births over a cat’s lifetime recorded – 420 kittens!  ( There is an advertisement for spaying and neutering.)      And cats are like potato chips the saying goes, you can’t have just one but the Guiness Book of World Records has recorded a couple owning the most cats known so far as having 689!    Cats are superheroes if Europe hadn’t started associating cats with witches and killing cats off they wouldn’t have had to endure that unchecked RAT population that brought the bubonic plague.   From the cave cats known as Smilodons with huge incisors to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, “Cats”  from the pet cat muses of writers Colette and Cleveland Amory to the cartoon cat, “Garfield,” cats are friends, family and heroes (“Mourka” helped the Russian troops communicate by carrying messages back and forth across a dangerous street during the battle of Stalingrad and was recognized as a hero of WWII ).    This book is chock full of good cat information.   Excellent read.

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