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Why do cats have whiskers? And answers to 50 other kitten questions

  • Why do cats have whiskers? And answer to 50 other kitten questions

    The arrival of the internet revealed an indisputable fact about human beings and the things that pique their interests: When given instant access to the accumulated knowledge of the entire human race, people will use it mostly to look at kittens.

    That’s not exactly true, actually, but it’s pretty close. The Purina company, which makes Friskies cat food, recently estimated that 15% of all web traffic is cat-related. Kittens and cats play a lead role in videos, vlogs, blogs, and marketing campaigns, and they’re the subjects of an endless ocean of memes and gifs. Celebrity felines like the recently deceased Grumpy Cat rack up hundreds of millions of views and earn millions of dollars for their lucky owners.

    That’s because, in part, domestic cats are among the most familiar animals on Earth—the World Atlas estimates there are as many as 600 million of them pouncing and purring across the world. People keep them inside and outside, and a lot of times, entire neighborhoods “adopt” a stray that everyone feeds, but no one actually owns. They’ve been used for centuries as pest control—and for good reason. Most people who have ever owned an outside cat are all too familiar with the gory trophies they’re known to leave on front porches and stoops. Research published in the journal Nature Communications shows that cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds every single year in the contiguous United States alone. But why do they do that?

    Why do they meow? Why do they nap so much? Why do they have whiskers? Cats, and their undeniably adorable babies known as kittens, are mysterious creatures. Their larger relatives, after all, are some of the most mystical and lethal animals on the planet. Many questions related to domestic felines, however, have perfectly logical answers. Here’s a look at some of the most common questions related to kittens and cats, and the answers cat lovers are looking for.

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  • Why do cats have whiskers?

    Whiskers are sensory receptors that allow cats to avoid collisions while moving around in the dark and help them hunt in low-light environments. When the whisker touches something, the cat knows it’s there, even if it can’t see—good for cats, tough luck for mice and birds.

  • Should kittens drink milk?

    No, the classic images of kittens eagerly lapping up bowls of milk are misleading. Cow’s milk causes upset stomachs and diarrhea in kittens because they are lactose intolerant, but is usually fine in small amounts for older cats that can tolerate lactose better than their babies. There is no need, however, for cats to drink milk at all after they wean, particularly milk from a different species.

  • Why do kittens meow?

    Kittens meow to communicate with their owners, each other, and mama cats. In most cases, it’s their way of asking for companionship or, more likely, food.

  • Should I make my kitten an outside cat?

    In an interview with Country Living, a veterinarian said, “Asking a vet if your cat should be kept inside is like asking a dentist if you should brush your teeth.” Outside cats are much more likely to suffer an injury or illness than their inside counterparts, which live nine years longer, on average, than outside cats.

  • Why do cats love clawing couches?

    Like the act of meowing, claw-based furniture annihilation is a form of communication. Cats scratch and claw high-traffic areas to let the world know that they’ve claimed that area as their territory.

  • Will my kitten’s eyes always be blue?

    Probably not. Kittens first open their eyes a week or two after birth, and when they do, they usually reveal a dusty blue color. The baby blues, however, are fleeting, and tend to transform to the cat’s permanent eye color a month or two later.

  • Should I get my kitten microchipped?

    Cats need permanent identification even more than other common pets. Compared to dogs, for example, they’re more likely to slip their collars. They’re also frequently chased by dogs and other animals, and they’re known for trying to return to their former homes, which can be an issue for adopted rescue cats. 

  • Why is my cat suddenly not using the litter box?

    Probably because he or she is suffering from a urinary tract infection, a common ailment in older cats. If a cat is under the age of 8, however, it’s likely a condition called feline lower urinary tract disease. Either way, the owners should not make the common mistake of assuming the cat is trying to spite them, but instead, take it to the vet.

  • Why does my cat ‘chirp’ when looking out the window

    Many experts believe that cats make chirping sounds in an attempt at “avian mimicry.” That is, they’re likely trying to call, or at least distract, birds they plan to attack.

  • Why do cats pur?

    The unmistakable sound of purring is unique to cats, and all but the largest felines—like lions and tigers—engage in this specialized vocal behavior. Experts believe that purring, which runs through the entire respiratory cycle of both the inhale and exhale, is the cat’s way of letting people and other cats know that it approves of their behavior and to keep doing whatever it is they’re doing. Food and petting, after all, are the surest ways to turn on the switch.