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During witchcraft days in Europe and America, cats were considered companions to witches and, as such, omens of bad luck. In the early 1700's, people still believed that witches sometimes took the shape of cats and that witches and cats spoke the same language. Many persons still think that a black cat is an omen of bad luck especially when it crosses one's path. (More than once I've watched a houseguest shudder when my black cat, Max, came unexpectedly into the living room!)

In ancient Egypt and Japan, spiritualists believed that cats protected people from supernatural forces. Many Orientals credited the cat with the ability to see in the past and forecast the future and also to see beings and objects invisible to man. Even today, the feline habit of looking steadily and unblinkingly at someone, or of sitting for long periods with half-closed eyes, gives the cat the reputation for being "all knowing" and wise.

In the seventeenth century, cats were considered excellent weather predictors. A cat washing its face toward the wind, or an elderly cat frisking about, meant that a storm was brewing. When a cat sat with its back to the fire, it was thought that a frost was coming.

These ideas aren't as far-fetched as they sound. Scientists have reported that cats' supersensitive hearing powers have enabled them to pick up the ground vibrations that precede a hurricane.

However, superstitions and myths through the ages have led to many false ideas about cats. The common belief that cats see in total darkness simply isn't so. But it is a fact that a cat's eyes are constructed so its night vision is superior to that of a human being.

The old saying that a cat has nine lives is now treated lightly, but many people still think that a cat can fall many stories and emerge alive, and even unhurt. Again, not so. Feline grace and sinewy muscles may spare a cat harm in a short tumble, but many cats die every year in falls from high places. If you have seen (or heard) a cat that has been "treed" by a dog or one that has climbed too high in a tree, you know that usually it is frightened and is asking to be rescued.

From "Cats and Kittens" by Jane Rockwell

Cat Trivia & Interesting Facts

  • One of the champion ratters of all time was a five-month-old kitten named Peter, who lived in a railroad station in England. In one four-week period in 1938, Peter killed 400 rats, even though he was scarcely larger than a rat himself!
  • Scientific tests have shown that cats can find their way home even after being driven several miles and dropped in a strange place. Scientists believe that cats have a built-in homing mechanism that is tied to a sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic field.
  • Most cats give birth to between one and nine kittens. The largest litter ever produced was 19 kittens, 15 of which survived.
  • Cats are extremely sensitive to vibrations and there are many reports of cats acting strangely prior to earthquakes. Apparently, cats are able to detect the first tremors 10 or 15 minutes before humans can.
  • Cats lick their fur, not only to keep clean, but to smooth it out so that it will be a better insulator in cold weather. By licking the fur and making it wet, the cat can cool itself off in hot weather.
  • Most adult cats weigh from 6 to 12 pounds. The heaviest cat on record weighed 42 pounds. The lightest adult cat weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces.
  • Cats are good climbers, but they are no great shakes at getting down. Their claws are curved the wrong way for going backwards and their legs can't spread like a squirrel's.
  • Cats have excellent night vision. One reason is that their eyes are very large for their size. Also, the cat's retina — the light-sensitive part of the eye — has many cells that are active in dim light. The tapetum reflects more light within the eye. Contrary to popular belief, however, cats cannot see in total darkness.
  • Each of a cat's claws is attached to a bone in the toe. By flexing its toe (just as we bend our fingers), a cat can retract the claw into the foot. When a cat points its toe, the claw is extended.
  • Young cats purr when nursing to tell the mother that they are content. A mother cat purrs when she approaches her litter to tell them, "It's me, not and enemy." Older kittens purr when they try to get adult cats to play. Sick cats purr at the approach of another cat to say, "Leave me be, I'm not a threat to you."
  • Cats show expression with their ears. If a cat's ears are pointed forward they convey friendly interest and attentiveness. Ears pricked up and turned slightly backward are a warning that attack is imminent. Ears bent back and drawn down sideways show fear and readiness to take flight.

From "Why the Cat Chose Us" by John Zeaman

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