Every kid knows that cats are adorable, fluffy creatures with a penchant for mischief. They make great companions and playmates, but there’s so much more to them than that.
Bringing a cat into your family is a big change but it can be incredibly beneficial for your children and your family as a whole.
Having a pet teaches your child valuable life lessons about empathy and responsibility as well as unconditional love. With time and effort, your children can bond closely with your new cat, but it doesn’t hurt to help them learn everything they can about cats in the meantime.
15 Interesting Facts About Cats To Share With Kids
There’s a lot to love about cats and a lot to learn about them! We’ve compiled a list of fun, kid-friendly facts to help you and your family appreciate and understand your furry friend.
1. Cats Are Meat Eaters.
All the animals in the world are divided into categories based on what kind of food they eat. Herbivores only eat plants and carnivores only eat meat. Omnivores fall somewhere in the middle, eating both kinds of food – generally whatever is available at the time.
Your cat is what’s called an obligate carnivore. This means that he doesn’t just prefer to eat meat – his body requires it.
All animals need a unique blend of nutrients and, for cats, those nutrients can only come from animal flesh. Plants simply don’t provide enough nutrients for cats, and they can be difficult to digest. Cats have a much shorter digestive tract than humans – or even dogs. Animal products don’t take nearly as long to digest as plants, so feeding your cat a plant-based diet could be very problematic.
The best diet for a cat is one that is made primarily with animal ingredients. Animal protein from sources like poultry, meat, and fish is incredibly important, but cats also need healthy animal-based fats.
2. Cats Spend Most of Their Day Sleeping and Grooming.
You don’t have to be an experienced cat owner to know that most of a cat’s day is spent sleeping and grooming each other. It isn’t just that cats are lazy, however – all that sleep has a biological explanation.
In the wild, cats expend a significant amount of energy when they’re hunting. Stalking, running, chasing, and pouncing require a burst of energy that can be used up quickly. After a hunt, cats need to sleep to restore their energy levels.
Domestic cats still have those instincts, but they also tend to nap out of boredom or due to a medical issue. It’s normal for cats to sleep for up to 16 hours a day, or about 70% of their life. If you notice your cat sleeping more than usual, it might be because he’s not getting enough playtime. When other changes in behavior occur, it’s wise to check with your veterinarian.
Not only do cats sleep a lot, but they engage in a lot of other low-energy behaviors like grooming. Grooming serves to keep your cat clean, but it also helps distribute the natural oils produced by his skin. Grooming helps stimulate circulation to the skin and helps regulate their body temperature as well.
3. Cats Have a Stronger Sense of Smell Than Dogs.
Your cat knows you’ve opened up a bag of treats even if you make absolutely no sound while doing it. How is this possible? Because he has an incredibly strong sense of smell – even stronger than a dog’s.
Scientists have long thought that dogs have the stronger sense of smell. After all, Bloodhounds have up to 300 million scent receptors and even the best scent cats have only about 200 million. What they’ve come to learn is that there are three types of scent receptors and cats have more of one of them.
The V1R scent receptor is what enables an animal to distinguish between scents. You have only two V1R receptors while dogs have nine. Cats have a whopping 30 of these V1R receptors! So, while cats may not have as many scent receptors in total, their noses are much more sensitive than a dog’s.
4. Cats Can Jump Very High.
Jumping is an important part of a wild cat’s life. Not only can jumping help save a cat from a predator, but it’s often involved in the takedown of prey. But just how good are cats at jumping?
An adult cat can jump up to five times its own height, typically somewhere between five and six feet. That may not sound like much to you but imagine if you had the same ability. A human standing five feet tall, with a cat’s jumping ability, would be able to jump up to 25 feet. That’s about almost as high as a two-story house!
What gives your cat this amazing jumping ability is the strength of its hind legs. Cats are incredibly flexible, and they can use their back legs to push off the ground and propel themselves into the air. If they miss their target, there’s no need to worry – a cat is said to always lands on its feet.
5. Cats Can Have Up to 12 Kittens in One Litter.
Nothing is more adorable than a litter of newborn kittens, but some litters are bigger than others and one female cat can have more than 100 kittens during her reproductive life. As you can imagine, that number increases exponentially if any of those kittens reproduce themselves.
Taking care of one cat is a big responsibility and caring for a mother cat and her kittens is even more challenging. Your cat will take care of feeding the kittens for the first few weeks, but they’ll eventually need to be weaned onto solid food. You’ll also have to start providing basics like litter boxes, cat beds, and toys.
These expenses are nothing in comparison, however, to veterinary costs. An adult cats only needs a few vaccines over the course of several years but kittens need them every three to four weeks for the first four months of their lives.
Breeding your cat may seem simple enough, but it’s important to think through the entire process which involves raising those kittens. Do the responsible thing as a cat owner and have your cat spayed or neutered to prevent unplanned litters.
6. Cats Come In Many Colors and Patterns.
Tabby is one of the most recognizable patterns seen in cats, but it’s far from the only one. Every shade except for white is a variation of black, red (orange), or both. Besides these, some of the colors you’ll see are cream, cinnamon, brown, and fawn.
The color and pattern of a cat is determined entirely by genetics. A kitten receives genes for coloring from each of its parents. Because one litter of kittens can be fathered by two different males, this can lead to a wide variety of colors and patterns within the same litter.
While there are nearly infinite combinations of pattern and color, six fur patterns have been identified: tabby, solid, bicolor, tricolor, tortoiseshell, and colorpoint.
Tabby cats have some degree of striping or a marbled, swirled, or spotted pattern. Solid cats, of course, are all one color while bicolor cats exhibit a combination of white and one other color. A tortoiseshell cat displays a mixture of black and orange fur while tricolor cats have the addition of small areas of white. Colorpoint cats have darker coloration on the face, paws, and tail.
In addition to an endless array of color and pattern combinations, cats have different types and lengths of fur. There’s the obvious distinction between short-haired and long-haired cats, but some have curly hair or no hair at all.
7. Cats Have 18 Toes.
As a human, you have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. Cats also have five toes on their front paws but only four on the back. Of the toes on the front paws, one is called a dewclaw. This toe is located on the inside of the leg just above the paw and it doesn’t touch the ground.
Your cat’s toes are protected by tough skin pads. Though they’re tough and rugged, the pads on your cat’s feet are able to distinguish between cold and hot surfaces.
Cats have retractable claws on both their front and back feet. These means that they have the ability to draw their claws into the feet or extend them for use. Your cat uses his claws for everything from scratching and climbing to hunting and self-defense.
8. Cats Age Much Faster Than Humans.
You’ve probably heard that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years, but what does that really mean. Time doesn’t necessarily pass more quickly for a dog, but his body ages more quickly than yours does. The same is true for cats. One cat year is equivalent to about fifteen human years.
There’s a distinction, however, between your cat’s first year and the rest of his life. Your cat’s first year equates to about 15 human years, but the second year is only about nine. Each year thereafter is only about 4 cat years.
By three years old, your cat would be the equivalent of about 28 years old for a human. The average cat lives to about 12 years, or about 64 in human years. The oldest cat ever recorded was Crème Puff who lived to an amazing 38 years. That’s over 150 human years!
9. Cats Come in All Different Sizes.
Cats come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, but they’re all different sizes as well. A cat’s size is determined largely by its breed or, if it’s a mixed breed, a combination of its parents’ genetics.
The average house cat weighs between 8 and 10 pounds, measuring between 15 and 20 inches long (without the tail) and standing about 10 inches tall. Kittens are born weighing only 3 to 4 ounces, but they gain up to 0.5 ounces a day, doubling in mass by the time they’re two weeks old.
One of the largest domestic cat breeds is the Maine Coon. The Guinness Book of World Records named Barivel, an Italian cat, the award for being the biggest cat ever at over 47 inches long. In contrast to the Maine Coon, the smallest cat breed is the Singapura. It’s about half the size of a typical house cat.
These two cat breeds are opposite ends of the spectrum, but most fall into small, medium, or large categories. Small cat breeds include the Munchkin, Cornish and Devon Rex, Siamese, and Balinese. Popular medium cat breeds include Ragdolls, Sphynx, Russian Blues, Scottish Folds, and Manx. Breeds like the Norwegian Forest Cat, Persian, and Siberian are at the higher end of the size spectrum.
10. Cats Love To Play.
Every cat has a unique personality, but they all have similar instincts for play. Playtime for a cat isn’t just about staving off boredom, it’s about giving your cat an opportunity to work out his natural instincts.
Cats may spend most of their day sleeping, but periods of activity are important. In the wild, play helps kittens develop survival skills like stalking, chasing, and catching prey. Your domestic cat has the same basic instincts, plus playtime provides mental stimulation. Cats that spend their lives indoors need regular exercise and stimulation to maintain physical and mental health.
So, what’s the best way to play with your cat? It all depends on his preferences. Some cats love small, lightweight toys they can bat around while others love to chase feathers on a string. Start with a variety of toys when you bring your cat home to find out what he likes.
Interactive playtime is important to build your bond with your cat, but solo play should be encouraged as well. Puzzle toys are great for this. A puzzle toy requires your cat to think and solve problems, often in exchange for a food reward. These toys can also be a great way to slow down a fast eater at mealtime.
11. Cats Are One of the Most Popular Pets in the World.
It’s no secret that cats are one of the most popular pets in the world, but how popular are they? There are an estimated 600 million cats in the world, though many of them are feral or strays.
According to data collected by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2018, over 25% of American households include a cat – that’s nearly 32 million cat owners. Maine and Vermont have the highest number of cat owners, about 44% of state residents. Cat ownership seems to be increasing with each generation as well – about 76% of millennials own a pet.
Around the world, an estimated 370 million cats are kept as pets in comparison to over 470 million dogs. Russia has the highest percentage of cat ownership around 59% of the population.
Just because cats are incredibly popular doesn’t mean they’re easy. If you’re going to bring a cat into your home, it’s your responsibility to provide for its needs. This includes food, shelter, and recreation. Cats can be expensive, so be prepared to make a significant financial investment in your furry friend and make sure you can care for the cat throughout the entirety of its life.
12. Cats Are Very Sneaky.
Cats are lethal hunters and they’ve evolved a number of skills to help them survive in the wild. You’ve probably seen your cat stalking a toy. He lowers his body to the ground and grows very still. From there, he’ll take slow steps forward, placing his back paws in nearly the exact same position as the front paws before. This helps minimize noise and limits any visible tracks.
Even though your domestic cat doesn’t need to hunt for his food, he still retains his wild instincts. Silence is an extremely important survival skill for wild cats, and it explains why your feline friend can sneak up on you so easily.
Of course, cats aren’t always as sneaky as they think they are. When going after a treat they’re not supposed to have or wandering into an area that’s off limits, they often think that if they move slowly enough you won’t see them. All the behavior actually does in this case is serve as a source of amusement.
13. Cats Can Climb Well and Run Very Fast.
Your child probably already knows that the cheetah is one of the fastest animals in the world, but domestic cats are pretty quick too! While a cheetah can achieve speeds up to 80 miles per hour, a cat’s top speed is nothing to sniff at. They can run up to 30 mph which is about how fast a car would drive on a typical road. It’s also what researchers think is the human limit for speed.
Being able to run fast is very important for wild cats. Not only is speed necessary to escape from predators, but they need to be able to move quickly to catch their prey. A cat’s climbing ability can also come in pretty handy.
Wild leopards often drag their prey up into trees to protect their meal from scavengers. Other wild cats can climb, but few as well as the leopard.
Your cat probably doesn’t go around killing small animals and dragging them up into a tree on a daily basis, but he’s still pretty good at climbing. Cats have claws that curve inwards, making them perfect for gripping things for climbing. Unfortunately, those curved claws make it tough to climb back down!
14. Cats Can See Very Well at Night.
Cats are naturally crepuscular, so they tend to be most active around dawn and dusk. That being said, they have excellent night vision which comes in handy when your cat gets a sudden urge to climb the furniture in the middle of the night.
A cat’s eyes function best in daylight, but they have a few adaptations that improve nighttime vision. The main adaptation is in the retina.
The retina is the part of the eye where photoreceptors are found – cells that react to light. There are two types of photoreceptor cells: rods and cones. The cones detect shades of color and benefit your cat’s day vision while the rods play a role in night vision and peripheral vision.
Your cat has a significant number of rod receptors, but much fewer cones. This is why they tend to see very well at night, but they can’t detect as many colors as humans can.
You may have also noticed that your cat’s eyes seem to shine in the dark. His eyes aren’t actually shining – they’re reflecting light. This is due to a thin, reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum located along the back of the eye. It magnifies light and bounces it back through the retina, increasing the amount of light available to the photoreceptors.
15. Cats Need Vaccinations Just Like People.
Vaccines are shots that help your body fight off disease. They introduce miniscule amounts of a germ to activate the immune system. In response, the immune system produces antibodies which launch a defense and start building a resistance against that disease. When you’re exposed to it in the future, your body already knows how to deal with it.
Humans often receive vaccines against chickenpox, pertussis, measles, and polio in childhood. Later in life, you may need additional vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) as well as vaccines against seasonal flu and shingles.
Vaccinations are just as important for kittens and adult cats. Kittens need a series of vaccines from 6 weeks to 16 weeks old. As an adult, he’ll only need a vaccine every year or every three years.
Cats are fascinating animals and there’s a lot to learn about them. Teaching your children these fun cat facts will help them cultivate a greater understanding of their cat and of cats in general. With your help, your children can grow up to be responsible cat owners themselves.