A Brief History
On October 29, 2018, Americans celebrate National Cat Day, or at least some Americans do. Those with bumper stickers that say “Cats, the Other White Meat” probably pass on the opportunity to regale themselves in cat trivia. If you are one of these anti-cat people (“I Like Cats, They’re Delicious” bumper sticker), pass this article up and wait for National Dachshund Day or something! (For the record, we are “Dog people,” not “Cat people,” though we do see the brighter side of having cats around.) Feel free to take exception to any of our reasons to love cats and to nominate your own reasons. Try to be nice and remember, every dog has its day!
1. There are lots and lots of cats in the USA.
In the United States alone there are about 95.6 million housecats! Of course, the crazy cat lady down the street has more than her share, but there are still an estimated 59 million households with at least 1 pet cat. While critics say that cats sit on your lap only for their own benefit, having a warm, furry thing to pet is soothing anyway, so the relationship is symbiotic. Do not expect a cat to fetch your slippers or retrieve ducks downed in a lake but do expect them to surprise you with the occasional gift of a mouse or bird the feline caught while outdoors.
2. Cats control the rodent population.
Cats are predators. They will hunt even when they do not need food, and in their eyes a bird feeder is considered a feline smorgasbord. Really. They think you set up the bird feeding station just for them. Cats are kind of self-centered that way. While exercising this predatory instinct, cats are terrific at catching and killing mice and rats. When the communist Chinese decided cats were “bourgeoise” and made them “unpatriotic” the rodent population in China exploded and cats had to be “rehabilitated” as members in good standing of the communist community. You may not appreciate cats pooping in your yard or stinking up your flower bed with their urine but rest easy knowing that having cats around means no oversupply of mice and rats. Just be careful about poisoning mice because you may inadvertently kill some cats. Cats are such efficient predators that if left on their own, feral cats will survive in the wild while dogs generally will no.
3. Cats keep the laser pointer industry in business.
Cats are above all predators. Their predatory instinct is coupled with a play instinct that is designed to hone their predatory skills. Thus, watching cats chase around the red dot from laser pointers is hilariously good fun, as is watching the little furballs play with their toys. As “cute” as this play is, remember it has deadly origins. Cats also provide employment for thousands of people in the pet food and pet toy industries, as well as the veterinary and pet medicine industries. Thus, these frisky felines are busy Making American Great Again. Thanks Cats!
4.Cats can be kept indoors and do not need to be walked.
A great convenience to apartment dwellers and shut-ins, cats do not require being let outside every few hours and are perfectly okay with relatively small living quarters. Unfortunately, this also presents the flip side of having a litter box, which is, having a litter box. Litter boxes can be smelly and kind of gross, especially to houseguests. Plus, litter boxes contain some sort of parasite that can contribute to human dementia. (Sorry to be a killjoy.) Still, cats are great apartment pets anyway.
5. Cats are quiet (usually).
Dogs barking can be beneficial if a burglar enters your home or if the house catches on fire, but often times the barking is just annoying. Like children singing, other people’s dogs and other people’s singing kids are not exactly music to the ears of their non-owners. People that keep cats do not disturb the neighborhood in the way that howling dogs sometimes do. That being said, the yowling, screeching, caterwauling of tomcats fighting in an alley is not exactly a good thing, but if your cats are indoor pets, they will not bother you and your neighbors with excessive noise.
And yes, cats might just warn you if the house is on fire.
6.Kittens make incredibly funny videos.
Instead of making a lame effort at describing kitten videos, we will just refer you to YouTube and let you see for yourself.
7. Without a cat on his lap, an evil villain would just look silly.
Can you imagine Michael Myers’s Dr. Evil without his cat? How about Ernst Stavro Blofeld? Cats have become absolutely must haves for international criminals. Oh, and would a witch be not so scary without her black cat? The answer is an easy YES. Witches apparently need cats or they will just end up on a 1960’s television sitcom.
8. Wild cats control prey animal population.
Not all cats are pets! In the United States we have Felis concolor, the Puma, Mountain Lion, Catamount, Cougar, Panther, Deer Tiger, Red Tiger, or whatever you want to call it. Big cats keep the population of large herbivores in check (deer, elk, etc), and the smaller wild cats such as Bobcats keep the smaller critters (such as woodchucks and rabbits) in check as well. The gorgeous Canada Lynx also finds its way to the Northern portion of the United States as well. The ridiculously beautiful Jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas, and was once common in the US Southwest (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) but may no longer include the United States in its range. (I remember watching National Geographic of some such nature show as a kid and seeing film of Jaguars crossing the US -Mexico border.) All these wild cats play an important role in the balance of nature and people should not kill them wantonly or else risk the overpopulation of prey species. Unfortunately, sometimes a Cougar will kill or injure a human, so be careful when in “lion country.”
9. Many cats are incredibly beautiful.
Domestic felines come in an incredible array of colors and patterns, as well as long luxurious fur to being nearly hairless. Sometimes they even sport the spotted “Leopard” pattern that makes them look really exotic. Breeders have cross bred domestic cats with some of the smaller wild cats to create nifty looking varieties as well. When it comes to wild felines, cats are some of the most beautiful animals on Earth. The Snow Leopard, Lynx, Ocelot, Jaguar, Tiger, and Black Panther (melanistic Leopard) among others are fantastic looking animals. Just be sure to only wear imitation fur coats as the numbers of these great wild cats are dwindling. Some of these beautiful cats are pretty exotic and not ones that instantly come to mind. (Please click the links for pictures of these fabulous kitties.)
10. Cats are incredible predators.
Have we mentioned that cats are incredible predators? This fact cannot be overstated. Watching a Jaguar wrestle a large Caiman out of a South American or Central American river is a fantastic sight. The strength of a male Lion taking down a Giraffe or other sizable prey animal is awesome, and the teamwork displayed by a pride of Lions is impressive. Some cats catch birds right out of the air, leaping to incredible heights, while others are unbelievably efficient fishers. Cats are so fast that they can toy with venomous snakes without being bitten. When you are so good at catching and killing things that you do it for fun instead of to survive, that is being an efficient predator! Cats have retractable claws, unlike dogs that have stationary claws. (Except Cheetahs, which have fixed claws.) Having retractable claws allows cats to easily climb trees from which to pounce on or pursue prey, and this feature allows cats to grab onto prey. Their claws also make terrific weapons. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, with a proven speed of 70mph. (For many years I doubted this claim, and then researchers finally put a Cheetah to the test and the fast cat did it!) While sometimes big cats (Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, Cougars) kill people, people are much more of a danger to the big cats and extreme conservation measures are needed to preserve wild populations of these wonderful critters.
Bonus: What is the fastest cat? The Jaguar! (The car, Einstein…)
Questions for students: Do you have or have you ever had a pet cat?
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For more information, please see…
Hunter, Luke. Wild Cats of the World. Bloomsbury Natural History, 2015.
Shojai, Amy. CAT FACTS: THE PET PARENTS A-to-Z HOME CARE ENCYCLOPEDIA. Furry Muse Publications, 2015.
Uhl, Xina Marie. The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior. XC Publishing, 2013.
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