Book Preview: Cats live longer than most other house pets, including dogs


On average, dogs live 12 years and cats, 15 years. For comparison, pet rabbits max out at around 10 years, guinea pigs 5 years, and mice at 4 years.

Just how old can dogs and cats get?

Eighteen dogs age 20 or older have been confirmed. The oldest, an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, lived for 29 years, 5 days.

But 40 cats age 21 or older are known. Fourteen of them reached their 30s, including Guinness-World-Record-holder Creme Puff at 38 years, 3 days.

To put that into perspective, 30 cat-years are equivalent to 120 of ours.

Doesn’t one cat-year equal seven human-years?

Short answer: It changes over time, starting out at around 1 (cat)/16 (human) and eventually reaching 1/3 to 1/4.

Details: There are a lot more numbers coming up, so it’s important to start out with the reminder that everything isn’t as cut and dried as it looks–animals actually pass through these stages gradually, and at their own individual pace, just as we go through our own lives.

Too, environment and food sources usually determine how long animals can live. Stray urban cats, for example, only survive for about two years, while residents of a feral cat colony are lucky to see 10 years go by.

Here, we’re talking about ideal conditions–pets that have been kept indoors and well taken care of all of their lives.

Longevity varies a bit by breed, but this is nowhere near as dramatic as in dogs (where small breeds generally outlive the large ones).

The following AAFP/AAHA (American Association of Feline Practitioners/American Animal Hospital Association) stages of development fit most pet cats: Continue reading

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Book Preview: A cat’s world is centered around territory.


Getting territory and holding onto it stresses any cat. They may seem laid back and care-free, but millions of years of evolution have hardwired into all cats the need for their own space.

This even shows up indoors. In multiple-cat households, for instance, the best of feline buddies still spend as much time as possible out of each other’s line of sight, even when just a few feet apart. They also respect one another’s favorite sleeping spots or other core areas (or else!).

What is a domestic cat’s territory like outside?

Short answer: It’s very similar to any cat territory, but it doesn’t correspond to the owner’s property.

Details: Congratulations! You’ve just moved into a quiet suburban neighborhood with lots of fenced-in back yards that contain sheds, trees, and other artificial and natural structures that add three dimensions (and more potential territory) to a cat’s world.

As you and your kitty relax by the window, you note three other cats out there: a white one two yards down, sitting high up on a shed roof; a ginger cat walking along the fence across the alley; and a furry melange of calico spots that just ducked under the laurel bush in your new back yard–ah! there it goes up a tree. What a large, healthy-looking cat!

Good! you say to yourself. With all these neighbors, Fluffy won’t be lonely while I’m at work.

Meanwhile, Fluffy is seriously considering switching over to 100% indoor living. Enormous Spots out there obviously owns the back yard; all the other cats must be faced, too. Continue reading

Book Preview: Cat breed facts: D. Rex is not a dinosaur


This is another of those rewritten blog posts. Hope you like it! (I won’t be using videos in the final ebook, but it’s nice for this blog post.)


It’s awesome to say “rex mutant” when somebody asks what kind of cat you have.

Even better, these mutants and their unusual fur coats can only take over the cat fancy, not Planet Earth.

This look comes from gene mutations that are rather complex. All we need to know is that experts are still trying to understand the LaPerm’s coat, while Selkirk Rex, Cornish Rex, and Devon Rex fancy-cats all have different mutations.

And the Devon Rex–a top-ten breed in the Cat Fanciers’ Association–has also inherited its moggie ancestor Kirlee’s elfin good looks.

Breed type:

All rex fancy-cats are mutation breeds.

Appearance and Personality:

Body build in these kitties varies from big-boned and sturdy (Selkirk Rex) through typical house cat (LaPerm) to whippy and sleek (Cornish Rex). But at first, no one looks at anything but the animal’s fur.

Here’s why rex cats look so strange to us. Continue reading

Book Preview: Fancy Breeds Fit Into At Least One of Five Informal Categories


This post, adapted from one of the facts in my upcoming ebook “50 Facts About House Cats (And Where They Come From),” builds on last week’s post on moggies and fancy-cats.


Purebred dogs get genetic testing, yet no cat registry requires DNA tests to validate identity, pedigree, and parentage.

That’s because geneticists are struggling to identify feline fancy-breeds in the lab.

One problem is that all cats look alike under the skin. Yes, that’s hard to believe, considering all the various feline looks today . . .



. . . but it’s true. Almost all of the genes in these animals are the same.

Another problem for researchers: cat breeding hasn’t been around long enough for clear-cut genetic breed differences to accumulate.

They’re working on it, though. Four different regional genotypes have been found, as well as multiple domestic cat “races.”

This all helps the boffins categorize the forty-plus modern cat breeds.

What are the five informal categories?

Short answer and details are best combined here.

While this isn’t formalized in the cat fancy, a review of scientific literature finds the following (exactly which breed goes where depends on the study; Menotti-Raymond and others, in the source list, used these examples–your mileage may vary):

1. Mutations: A spontaneous genetic change produces an interesting look that cat fanciers develop into a new breed.

Examples:

  • Scottish Fold
  • Selkirk Rex
  • Sphynx

Continue reading

Book Preview: The Recipe for Fancy-cat Starts With a Moggy


This is another of those old posts that I had to rewrite into a book chapter. Hope you like it!


Fancy-cats are the beautifully groomed felines you’ll see at a show. The other 80% of the world’s cats are unpedigreed (but equally beautiful) moggies.

Once upon a time, there weren’t any fancy-cats. And most moggies were striped tabbies. Today’s fancy-cats are sometimes tabbies, but fanciers prefer to build a cat breed on some unique feature.

Like floppy ears.

This works for the Scottish Fold–Internet celebrity cat Maru’s breed.

It’s a good example of the pleasures and perils that happen when you turn a moggy into one of the most popular breeds in the cat fancy.

What are cat breeds?

Short answer: For many centuries, people across the world collected moggies whose appearance attracted them. When the cat fancy arrived in the Victorian era, it brought these enthusiasts together. They formalized the various looks into pedigreed breeds.

Details: Any dog in the street might be a mutt, with quite a mixture of canine purebreds in its background. That’s because humans have bred dogs for various purposes since mid-Neolithic times, while mongrels happened on their own.

Cats have followed a completely different path, with street cats eventually ending up as prize-winners. Continue reading

Book Preview: There’s more to cat memes than Internet LOLcats


What’s slowing down completion of the ebook, with 50 facts about domestic cats and where they come from, is that these last chapters I had intended to base on blog posts, and those old posts just aren’t that good; I’m having to rewrite almost every one. Here’s the final version of the one on cat memes–hope you enjoy it!


Does your phone or tablet have curved edges? That’s a meme.

According to the website Know Your Meme, Apple came out with curved edges on its iMac G3 in the late 90s. Everybody loved the look and everybody copied it. Today all portable computers must have curved edges, even though there’s no practical use for them.

Memes are a cultural thing that catch on and persist. The word comes from the same root as “mimic,” and that’s what we do–see something we like, copy it, and share it with other people.

Add in cats, and you might break the Internet!

What are LOLcats?

Short answer: Images, often captioned in broken English called “lolspeak,” of funny-looking cats. The earliest ones, without lolspeak, are from the 1870s; true LOLcats became an Internet phenomenon in the 21st century.

Details: Whoever introduced Happy Cat–the image of an eager-looking gray-blue British Shorthair–in the early 2000s probably wasn’t thinking about the Victorian era at the time.

And when someone captioned Happy Cat with “I Can Has Cheezburger?” in 2007, they pioneered both LOLcats and the Cheezburger meme-making website; however, they likely were unaware that someone in England had published almost 200 similar images over a century earlier.

Back in the 1860s, Victorians were wild about both cats and a new technology called photography.

They held the first cat shows in London’s Crystal Palace–a gorgeous glass/iron/wood exhibition hall that just had been featured in a popular photographic essay.

This being Victorian England, society people used formal visiting cards. Now, everyone wanted photographs on those cards, and a cat lover/retired soldier in Brighton named Harry Pointer opened a studio, thinking that visiting cards with cat images would sell well.

He was correct.

Pointer’s cat pictures range from traditional poses to silly things like cats rollerskating. Some have captions, generally greeting-card sentiments like “Happy New Year,” but occasionally humor like “Bring up the dinner, Betsy” on an image of three cats sitting by an empty dish.

In the early 20th century, another Harry, an American named Harry Whittier Frees, Continue reading

Book preview: Cats and people have shared the planet for at least two separate ice ages


How far back do people and cats go?

Too far for a written record of their origins. Still, we need to get both species onto the scene before describing how cats were domesticated.

In lieu of human writing or art, today’s experts use fossils and molecular markers to “read” the past. They’ve found that most modern land mammal groups have survived multiple ice ages.

The relevant deep-freezes for us are the last one–the Wisconsin/Würm glaciation (named after where it was first identified)–and the one before that, the Illinois/Riss.

There was more than one ice age?

Short answer: There have been dozens. It all began, for complex reasons that aren’t yet fully understood, two and a half million years ago. This was around the time that our close ancestors and those of the domestic cat first appeared.

Details: Against a background of 4.5 billion years’ worth of Earth history, the ice ages aren’t that big a deal. Our planet has seen colder, as well as warmer, times.

But 2.5 million years is too long a stretch for most of us to grasp, so let’s put a face on this story–a round, furry little face.

Continue reading

Book Preview: Fact #35: Cats Are Placental Mammals


A few mammals lay eggs, believe it or not (duck-billed platypus); others carry their young around in pouches (marsupials like the kangaroo)

But most of us, including cats, keep our unborn young inside, connected to Mom’s bloodstream through temporary tissue, called a placenta, until they’re ready to meet the world.

Placental mammals are dominant everywhere today except Australia–and it’s all because of the K/T (K/Pg) extinction.

Somehow.

Continue reading

Book Preview: Fact #18. The cat-dog split goes almost all the way back to the K/T (K/Pg) extinction.


Cats and dogs are with us today; that is, they’re domesticated animal members of the human family.

But they are also predators by nature, just like their wild relatives, which include but aren’t limited to lions, tigers, wolves, and bears.

These particular members of the order Carnivora all have claws, fangs, and powerful hunting instincts, but a few others get by without such tools. This is why biologists trying to classify animals look for a set of specialized meat-slicing teeth (called carnassials) that all carnivorans have.

That’s just step #1. The boffins then must file each of the world’s 280-plus carnivoran species (and over 350 fossil groups) into one of Carnivora’s two natural suborders: feliform and caniform.

“Form” here doesn’t refer to the animal’s outward appearance. It involves some dental features as well as certain cranial structures around the ear and skull base that only a zoologist or paleontologist could love.

These anatomical details are all one way in cats and other feliforms and all another way in caniforms, including dogs.

Scientists don’t understand why such a difference exists. But they do know that it has been around for more than 60 million years.

Do cats and dogs go back to the K/T extinction?

Short answer: No, but Carnivora probably does (its origin story isn’t completely known yet). However, while early small, weasel-like carnivorans already had some feliform/caniform distinctions, they had to play second-fiddle to a group of apex predators called creodonts for tens of millions of years.

Details: Today, Feliformia includes hyenas, oddly enough, as well as civets, meerkats and other mongooses, Asiatic linsangs, and a few other groups in addition to the cat family Felidae.


A young Asiatic linsang:


Caniforms other than dogs include, but aren’t limited to, bears, raccoons, skunks, weasels, foxes, otters, badgers, and (believe it or not) seals and walruses.

Continue reading