If you are lucky enough to own a cat—or describe yourself as being owned by them—you already appreciate their awesomeness. Cats are cute and cuddly—except when they’re not—and they have that je ne sais quois that’s completely irresistible. Cats are mysterious creatures, and researchers continue to learn more about their charming and complex personalities. While we have much more to learn about our feline friends, what we do know is pretty amazing. Learn more about these enigmatic creatures by reading our Bayview Animal Hospital team’s seven interesting feline facts. 

#1: Cats do not have a sweet tooth

You may have difficulty resisting sweet treats, but they do not tempt cats. Unlike other mammals, cats do not have the proper receptors (i.e., taste buds) to detect sweetness.  Two genes are responsible for sweetness detection, and in cats, one of those genes—Tas1r2—cannot make a crucial protein for tasting sweetness. Most researchers believe cats’ lack of sweet taste receptors is evolutionary. Cats in the wild are exclusively carnivorous, and do not need sweet-tasting food.

#2: A cat was the mayor for nearly 20 years

Despite his lack of experience—and opposable thumbs—Stubbs the cat was elected in 1997 as mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, whose voters were apathetic about their human mayoral candidates, and were looking for a good alternative. Stubbs, a ginger kitten without a tail, was found in a box of stray kittens, and quickly won the community’s hearts—and political backing. A group of citizens decreed a write-in campaign, and Mayor Stubbs the cat became the town’s leader for nearly 20 years. 

#3: Cats are closely related to tigers

Domestic house cats share about 95.6% of their genome with tigers. Although your sweet kitty may seem to be the tiger’s opposite, they share many similarities, such as:

  • Body shape — Despite their vast size difference, cats and tigers have a long tail for balance, small heads with sharp teeth, and retractable claws adapted for hunting prey.
  • Obligate carnivores — Similar to tigers, domestic cats are obligate carnivores, requiring meat in their diet. Both feline types can become deficient in certain necessary nutrients if they do not eat meat, which can cause a range of health issues. Tigers hunt for the food they instinctively know provides them necessary nutrition, while you serve your house cat a well-balanced commercial cat food that meets all their nutritional needs. In addition, keep in mind that your domestic cat still has a strong hunting instinct. 
  • Scent marking — Territory is important to tigers and domestic cats. To communicate their presence to other cats, both mark their territory by spraying, rubbing their facial scent markers on objects, and scratching around an area. 

#4: Most cats are lactose intolerant

Although humans often believe cats need milk, most adult cats are lactose intolerant. Nursing kittens’ bodies produce high levels of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose sugars in their mother’s milk. However, as they get older, cats’ bodies produce less lactase, and their digestive system can no longer process dairy foods. Ingesting dairy products can cause your cat to have an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

#5: A litter of kittens can have two or more fathers

Kittens from the same litter can look different from each other because they likely have different fathers. A litter of kittens with more than one father can occur because of superfecundation—a biological phenomenon in which two or more eggs are fertilized during a female’s heat cycle. When a female cat produces multiple eggs and mates multiple times, different males can fertilize the eggs.

#6: Some cats have extra toes

Ernest Hemingway’s first cat was born with polydactyly—a condition in which a dominant genetic trait causes extra toe formation on several of a cat’s feet. Any cat can carry the gene for extra toes, which is thought to bring their owner good luck. Cats with additional toes typically do not experience problems, people responsible for polydactyl cats’ grooming will have extra nails to trim.

#7: All cats need veterinary care

All cats—including indoor cats—should receive regular, preventive veterinary care at least once per year. However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), cats are examined by their veterinarian less often than dogs. All cats need wellness examinations that focus on maintaining their optimal health and identifying potential issues early. Many common conditions, such as diabetes, dental disease, arthritis, kidney disease, and thyroid conditions, are more treatable when your veterinarian detects them in their earliest stages. 

Now that you know additional facts about your fascinating and fun feline, you likely admire them more. At Bayview Animal Hospital, we love our cat patients. To ensure your cat lives a long and healthy life, contact our team to schedule a feline wellness exam.