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There's nothing like a catnap
Domestic cats spend about 70 percent of their lives asleep. As you've probably guessed, most of those hours are spent in short snatches of sleepcatnaps, of course. That works out to be about sixteen to eighteen hours a day, or about the same as a newborn human baby.
A cat's heart normally beats between 140 and 220 times per minute, with a relaxed cat on the lower end of the scale. It's not unusual for the cat's heart rate to be high at the veterinarian's, because cats don't like being away from home, and they certainly don't like being poked and prodded by strangers.
You can take your cat's pulse at home, by the way. You need a watch that clicks the seconds off and . . . your cat! Put your hand over your cat's left side, behind the front leg. You'll feel the heart pulsing beneath your fingers. (If you can't, you might want to talk to your veterinarian about getting some of the fat off your cat!) Count the beats while fifteen seconds click off your watch; multiply by four to get the BPM, or beats per minute.
While you're at it, you might as well check out your cat's respiration rate. Step back and watch your cat when he's relaxed and standing. Count the number of times the abdomen and chest wall move in sixty seconds. A normal cat takes fifteen to twenty-five breaths per minute.
Normal feline body temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees, read from a thermometer inserted where the sun doesn't shine.
The mystery of the purr
It's not a mystery that caressing a purring cat is a pleasurable experienceit'll even lower your blood pressure. But what is a mystery, strangely enough, are the mechanics of purring itself.
In short, no one really, truly knows exactly how a cat purrs.
The most common explanation is that a purr originates in the voice box, with what are called the 'vestibular folds,' or false vocal cords. The passing of air across these structures is thought to get the engine running.
More interesting purr facts:
Purring is more than a sound of contentment. Cats also purr if they're injured, while giving birtheven when dying. British zoologist Desmond Morris has observed in his masterwork Catworld: A Feline Encyclopedia (Penguin USA) that purring is 'a sign of friendshipeither when [the cat] is contented with a friend or when it is in need of friendshipas with a cat in trouble.'
Purring starts early. Kittens start purring even before they open their eyes, rumbling while nursing in what must be a reassuring sound to their motherwho's likely purring herself.
Little cats purr, but big cats can't. Your cat has one up on the lion: cats purr, but lions can't. (On the flip side, lions roar, but cats can't.) No big cat can get his motor running the way our household kitties can, purring constantly as effortlessly as breathing, both in and out.
Tigers can rumble a tiger-sized purr-like sound, but on the exhale only.
Cats can't taste the sweet stuff
People crave sweets: cakes, candies, cookies, and sodas galore. But cats couldn't care less because the taste buds of a cat are incapable of detecting, appreciating, or triggering a craving for the foods we recognize as 'sweet.'
As 'obligate carnivores'meaning they need meat protein to survivecats don't need to have much to do with sweets. It's unclear whether the ancestors of cats had the ability to detect sweetness and lost it, or whether cats never developed a 'sweet tooth' because they didn't need it.
People eat a much more varied diet, and our taste buds reflect thatwe have nearly ten thousand taste buds on our tongues. No such variety for cats, who'd be happy to stick with small prey animals and need fewer than five hundred taste buds to figure what's good on the menu.
No doubt their limited abilities in this regard contribute to the well-known finicky nature of some cats.
Cats eat grass because . . . they like to
Most people believe that when a cat chews on grass it's because of an upset tummy. While that may factor into the urge to graze on some occasions, it's more likely cats eat grass simply because they like to. And the fiber probably helps with digestion.
It's not just grass, though. Plenty of other plants bring delight to cats. Many cats also appreciate alfalfa, rye, and wheat grass seedlings. You can keep your stem-chewing kitty happy by sowing seeds in a low, wide container and always having tender, young plants for nibbling on. Many cats also like parsley.
And don't forget catnip! Most people know about the amazing effect of catnip on many cats, but not many people know that valerian (Valeriana officinalis) also tickles a cat's fancy. Plant both of these in cat-proof areas or your pet may pull the seedlings out by the root! After the plant is large enough to withstand it, trim some of it and offer it to your pet.
Catnip makes some cats go crazy and mellows others out. But many cats aren't at all capable of enjoying the buzzabout half of all cats are genetically incapable of tapping into the joyful experience of meowie-wowie. And all kittens are immune to the 'nip,' with the ability to experience the catnip high showing up in susceptible cats around the age of four months.
©2008.Marty Becker, D.V.M., Gina Spadafori. All rights reserved. Reprinted from meowWOW!. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.