• Like dogs, cats look very different from people but share many of our body’s characteristics, such as a circulatory system, lungs, a digestive tract, a nervous system, etc.
• There are many different breeds of cats, including Abyssinian, Himalayan, Maine Coon, Manx, Persian, Scottish Fold, and Siamese, to name a few. The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes about 40 distinct breeds. The most familiar cats are the domestic shorthair and the domestic longhair, which are really mixtures of different breeds.
• Cats generally live longer than dogs, and many live to be 20 years old or older.
• Cats have the same 5 senses as people do but to very different degrees. Some senses are much better developed than in people.
o Cats have keen vision; they can see much more detail than dogs.
o It is uncertain whether cats can see colors.
o Cats are very sensitive to sound. They can hear better than people and even better than most dogs.
• A unique feature of both canine and feline eyes is the nictitating membrane, which is also called the third eyelid. The third eyelid blinks up over the eye and extends up when needed to protect the eyeball from scratches or in response to inflammation or squinting.
• The semicircular canals, in the inner ear, are filled with fluid and are important for maintaining balance. These are highly developed in cats, accounting for their agility and excellent sense of balance.
• The sense of smell is less developed in cats than in dogs. Cats are finicky about odors and try to cover disagreeable smells. Odor is an extremely important part of taste. Cats that have lost their sense of smell due to illness often stop eating completely.
• Most cats are excited by the smell of catnip, a plant that is a member of the mint family. However, not all cats react in the same way. Some become manic, others roll and purr, others are minimally affected.
• The muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments, and spine of cats are extremely flexible, making them agile hunters. They can leap long distances and twist in mid-air to obtain a better angle of attack.
• Feline claws are very sharp and curved. The front claws are retractable, so that they do not get in the way or make noise when walking or running.
o Many cats frequently scratch or knead furniture, bedding, drapes, and other types of material as a way of removing the outer layers of the front claws and keeping them sharp.
o “Declaw” surgery is where the front claws are completely removed including the distal “fingerbone” up to the first joint of the finger, including the dew claw(s).
o The surgery is controversial and prohibited in some areas.
o If you choose to declaw your cat, this procedure should be done before the cat is around 6 months of age. It is not recommended routinely for adult or older cats.
o Declawed cats can have trouble climbing and defending themselves and should not be let outdoors.
• Cat fur protects the skin from sun, cold, scratches, and insect bites; helps regulate body temperature; and supports the sense of touch.
• Cats also have whiskers that are attached to nerve cells in the face.
• Cats shed hair naturally year round, although the rate of shedding depends on climate, nutrition, and general overall health. Outdoor cats shed more in fall and spring. Shedding may increase in all cats due to stress, such as a trip to the veterinarian. Excessive shedding and bald patches can be a sign of illness that should be investigated.