With a fascinating gaze, and eyes that pierce the darkness and turn into mini mirrors, the cat sends us a lot of mystery. But if we look a little more into its history, its behavior, and the myths that surround it, it is not surprising to hear that the cat is a mysterious animal.
Here is a selection and decryption of the main mysteries surrounding the cat.
The cat sees and moves in the dark like a ghost
It is said of the cat that it is nyctalopia, that is to say, that it sees in the dark. Well almost! If he’s in total darkness, he’s like us, he can’t see. But in very deep darkness, he moves with ease. How is it? Does he have supernatural power? Not quite!
When the brightness is reduced, his pupils dilate to retain what is left of the light. This is made possible by the number of rods greater than the number of cones he has, whereas in humans it is the opposite. Rods are much more sensitive to even very faint light. He also has, at the back of his eye, a tapetum lucidum, an extra layer that we don’t have, and which reflects light and sends it back to the retina. This is also what gives this “mirror” effect to his eyes. Finally, with its whiskers (or mustaches) which are very sensitive, it has like little antennae which detect air movements and allow it to move better without bumping into each other and to assess distances.
It is because of this extraordinary ability to see at night that the cat was associated with evil from the 14th century and sometimes condemned to the stake. Previously, it was sacred.
Did you know? The suppression of many cats in the 1300s would be partly the cause of the Black Death since the rats no longer had enough predators. In the end, it was only Louis XIV who forbade, 300 years later, throwing cats at the stake.
What makes its nocturnal movements fascinating therefore comes from its morphology, more than magic!
The cat would have 9 lives
The legend that the cat has 9 lives comes from both Egypt and Hindu cultures. Among the Hindus, the god Shiva would have donated these 9 lives to the cat following a meeting in a temple.
Among the Egyptians, who revered the cat and represented it with the goddess Bastet, this animal had divine power. The cat seemed to them particularly good at getting out of situations that would normally have cost the life of another being (when it fell from a height, for example, and landed on its paws). The Egyptians, therefore, saw it as a form of immortality
. But the number 9 was the symbol of perfection and a lucky charm. That is why they attributed 9 lives to the cat, beyond which, moreover, he could then reincarnate as a human.
If we observe cats today, certain character traits, certain postures, and certain amusing little habits recur in different specimens. It is thus very easy to see in his little feline the soul of his previous hairball or even to seek it out. Thus, the cat that will sleep in a funny way on its back with all 4 legs in the air, for example, will be seen as a previous cat that had the same habit. A talkative little companion will be the reincarnation of an old animal that used to meow a lot… It’s also nice, when you love cats, to think that you haven’t lost them, but that they have come back in a new body.
The 9 lives of the cat are part of the legends that surround the animal and help to make it mysterious.
The cat is able to penetrate our secrets
2 scientists from the University of Oakland (California), Morgan Galvan and Jennifer Vonk published a study in the magazine Animal Cognition. It appears that the behavior of our little mustachioed companions varies according to our facial expressions. Indeed, the reactions of 12 cats were analyzed: when their human sent a smile or a sign of joy, the cats began to purr or came to rub against their legs for a moment of a hug. When humans adopted a disgruntled air, the cat stood at a distance. It is therefore able to analyze our state of mind according to what we reflect on our faces. It would make him almost human! All we have to do is watch our facial expressions in the presence of our feline if we want to keep our garden a secret!
The interpretation is however less magical! The cat would not necessarily understand human emotions, but it would have made the causal link between a smile or a kind face and caresses, just as it would have linked more closed expressions to an absence of tenderness.
The Mystery of the Cat’s Fascinating Purr
If there is a specificity that challenges us in the cat, it is the purr! He doesn’t just purr when he’s happy . We often associate the start of its small engine with pleasure, but the cat also produces it when it suffers or stresses to calm down. To do this, small cats use their larynx, the organ that is in the throat and contains the vocal cords, as well as their diaphragm, which is between the abdomen and the thorax.
It makes the muscles of these two areas move rapidly and intermittently, between 20 and 30 times per second while breathing. And it’s the sound of the air hitting the moving muscles which would give this particular sound, melodious and soothing. This produces vibrations based on a frequency of 24 to 140 hertz. It is precisely these vibrational frequencies that have therapeutic effects, especially on the muscles, bones, tendons, and joints. Purring would therefore reduce pain and accelerate repair during a fracture. In fact, cats tend to heal faster than other animals when they experience bone trauma.
Among the occasions for purring, there is also that of solicitation, when the tomcat wishes the attention or a precise action of its human. Purring can therefore become a real way to ask us for something. Add a little adorable look and we immediately become the consenting slaves of our tomcat!
One thing is certain, purring therapy no longer has to prove its benefits on humans!
The magical effects of a feline hug on our productivity
A 2012 study, published in the scientific journal Plos One Us, turned out to be rather surprising. Carried out in Japan, in Hiroshima, it led to the demonstration that cats had a positive impact on our productivity.
Indeed, images of cute kittens were shown to students, and then the latter had to perform activities requiring precision and reflection. A second group viewed different images, which had nothing to do with each other. Students in the first group improved their results by 16%, while those in the other group only improved by 1%. It has therefore been deduced that cats favorably influence our concentration.
If that’s not a magic effect! This is still enough to wonder about the powers of cats and kittens!
Cats choose their human (and not the other way around!)
Les Chats de Chance, is a French book, where the author recounts her chance encounter with various small felines. Moreover, in a family, it is not rare that the tomcat is adopted by a member and, finally, he decides to sleep with another member of the hearth or to be closer to this one. In the presence of several cats in a house, it can even happen that each person is the “favorite” of one of them and that the animals “share their humans”!
How many unexpected encounters between a little cat and a person, sometimes not even very interested in this type of animal, ended up in adoption and in a long story full of tenderness!
This is because the cat is not naturally sociable. He is able to become one by adaptation. It is therefore also for this reason that some cats change homes when a baby, a dog, or a situation that bothers them arrives in theirs. They, therefore, go in search of a new home more suited to their needs.
This does not prevent the cat from loving very strongly the humans with whom it lives. In general, he chooses calm people to be able to lead a quiet little life, in accordance with what he is. And he sticks to it. He will also need someone to bring him his food. The house must seem comfortable to him and above all, provide him with the security that will prevent him from being on the defensive.
This ability to meet his needs while giving humans the impression of being chosen by him is one of the elements that makes the cat so enigmatic.
A cat is able to travel thousands of kilometers to find its home
Between Cookie, who made the headlines because he traveled more than 1,000 km from the Alpes-Maritimes to Calvados, Mimine, who left Gironde to join the Meuse (800 km) or Karim, who left Uzbekistan to get to Russia (3,200 km), cats are fascinating with perseverance, resourcefulness, and loyalty. How can they achieve such feats?
Already, the attachment to their human imprints their memory. We said it before. If he is not naturally sociable, this does not prevent him from devoting boundless affection to his owner. He will be guided by his memory and his flair. Pheromones deposited along a journey can help him find his way back. Markings on trees, for example, can remain for several years. His exceptional sense of smell then serves as a guide.
Did you know? The faculty of olfactory perception of the cat is 70 times more developed than in humans.
Note, however, that not all cats are capable of such feats, only a few have achieved it, but they testify to the courage, strength, and attachment that these furballs have for us.
It is very common to see a cat suddenly fix a point in the air, often towards the ceiling or in the direction of a dark space. He freezes. You look in the same direction but perceive nothing. In the evening, after watching a scary movie, there is nothing worse than witnessing this reaction from the house cat! Some believe that cats see spirits or ghosts.
More rational explanations often hide behind this type of behavior! One of the first is that the cat sees less well than us. Indeed, if its night vision is better than ours because of its more numerous rods, it sees less well during the day because it has fewer cones. He only perceives 2 colors, blue and yellow (he lacks red unlike humans). He also sees badly beyond 8 meters and below 5 cm. This forces him to adapt his posture to his limited vision. In addition, his excellent hearing allows him to hear sounds that do not reach our eardrums.
Did you know? The cat perceives frequencies 4 to 5 times higher than what we can hear, in particular ultrasounds, of far too high frequency for us.
When your tomcat stares at a point, he usually looks for where the sound he just heard comes from. The latter can come from insects or even distant bats or even small rodents galloping at a distance. By looking away and the ears, he simply directs the organs involved in his perception towards the noise heard.
Note: Your cat’s excellent hearing also explains why he jumps easily when you make a noise that seems slight to you. He’s not necessarily “cowardly”, he just has more efficient ears!
If many mysteries of the cat are solved by scientific studies and biology, there is still enough for this animal to be still seen by some of us as an animal that is both magical and fascinating.