Cat Fact Friday #13

How do cats climb down trees?

Cats climb down backwards because of the curve of their claws.   

Cats climb down backwards because of the curve of their claws.


Cats often get stuck in trees because they cannot climb down head first. Their claws all point in the same direction, which helps them to easily climb up a tree, but leaves them only one option for descending the tree tops- backing down.

Cat Fact Friday #12

Who was the first president to bring a cat to the White House?

Abraham Lincoln was the first president to bring a cat to the White House.

Abraham Lincoln was the first president to bring a cat to the White House.

Researching this cat fact card was fun. I had no idea that Lincoln was such a tremendous cat lover. Some of the historical quotes about his adoration of felines are pretty funny.

When Lincoln took office in 1809 he agreed to let his son, Tad, bring the family cat, Tabby, to the White House. As legend has it the President once fed Tabby from a fork during a White House dinner. Mrs. Lincoln was not impressed and asked “Don’t you think it’s shameful for Mr. Lincoln to feed Tabby with a gold fork?”  The President replied: "If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby."

Cats as a hobby
While Lincoln was in office, a reporter asked his wife if he had any hobbies. She promptly replied that the President was very fond of cats. Even war did not distract Lincoln from his “hobby.” During The Civil War Lincoln found three homeless kittens in a telegraph hut. He asked local people about their mother. When her found out she had died, he took it upon himself to find the kittens a good home. 

Quotes about Lincoln and his love for cats

“Mr. Lincoln possessed extraordinary kindness of heart when his feelings could be reached. He was fond of dumb animals, especially cats. I have seen him fondle one for an hour.” 
– Treasury official Maunsell B. Field

 “[It was] a curious sight at an army headquarters, upon the eve of a great military crisis [to watch the commander-in-chief] tenderly caressing three stray kittens. It well illustrated the kindness of the man's disposition, and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature." 
– Horace Porter, aide to Grant

 "[Lincoln] would take one and turn it on its back and talk to it for half an hour at a time."
– family friend

Cat Fact Friday #11

How many sounds do cats make?

Cats can make more than 100 sounds

Cats can make more than 100 sounds

Speaking Cat
I was surprised to learn from that cats can make more than 100 vocal sounds. I generally love listening to all of the different noises Katie, my cat, makes. Sometimes, though, she will meow insistently and incessantly. If I go down the list- food, water, clean litter, access to the outdoors and everything is checked-off, I tell her "I don't know how to help you. I really wish I could speak cat." Needless to say, this is frustrating for both of us.

While the following list doesn't cover all 100 sounds, it is a bit of a crash course in speaking cat, and may help you better understand some of the things your cat is vocalizing.

As with most cat vocalizations, “meow” can have a variety of meanings depending on the context. “Meow” can be a greeting, a command, an objection, or an announcement.

Chirp and Trill
A mother cat chirps and trills to tell her kittens to follow her. If she wants to be fed your cat may chirp and trill to lead you to her food bowl. Adult cats will also use these sounds to communicate with each other.
Cats chatter when they are sitting at the window watching birds or squirrels. Chattering is a hunting instinct and scientists have recently hypothesized that cats are imitating the sounds of their prey.

Cats generally purr when contented, but sometimes purring can be a sign of anxiety or sickness. Just as a child sucks his thumb to comfort himself, a cat may purr to self-soothe.

Growl, Hiss and Spit
Not surprisingly cats growl, hiss, and spit when feeling annoyed, frightened, angry, or defensive. 

Yowling, a long and drawn-out meow, can indicate fear or pain. Cats also yowl when looking for a mate or after having captured prey.

Cat Fact Friday #10

Can owning a cat improve your health?

Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly 1/3.

Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly 1/3.

10 year study
The results of a 10 year study presented at a stroke conference in New Orleans in 2008 showed that owning a cat could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by nearly a third. 

The study included 4,435 adults between the ages of 30 and 75. About half of the participants owned a cat. Over the course of the study (10 years) 3.4 percent of the cat owners died from a heart attack. Among those who had never owned a cat the rate was 5.8 percent.

When researchers accounted for other factors known to trigger heart disease, including high cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes, cat owners still had a much reduced chance of developing strokes or heart attacks. 

How do cats improve our health?
Professor Adnan Qureshi, from the Minnesota University, who carried out the study, said "The logical explanation may be that cat ownership relieves stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of heart disease."

He believes one reason could be that stroking the pet could cut the level of stress-related hormones in the blood. Reducing stress is known to help protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate.

Cat Fact Friday #9

Why do cats land on their feet?

An aerial righting reflex helps cats land on their feet.

An aerial righting reflex helps cats land on their feet.

How does the cat righting reflex work?

1. Cats have a vestibular apparatus in their inner ear which serves as a balance and orientation compass that helps them quickly distinguish up from down. 

2. Cats have an unusually flexible backbone and do not have a collarbone, which allows them to twist their heads around and spot where they are going to land.

How far can a cat fall and survive?
Cats have been known to survive falls from multiple story buildings. A 1987 study by veterinarians at the Animal Medical Center in New York showed that cats who fell from 7 to 32 stories were more likely to survive than those that fell from 2 to 6 stories. This may be because cats reach terminal velocity after falling around 5 stories. At that point they spread out and become their own parachute much like a flying squirrel.

Cat safety
While cats are good at surviving falls, they are not invincible. There are many examples of cats falling short distances and acquiring severe injuries. The best way to keep cats safe is to make sure there are no high-up open windows without heavy screens in your home. Unscreened balconies and upstairs porches should be off-limits to cats.  

Cat Fact Friday #8

Have cats visited outer space?

In 1963 France blasted the first cat into outer space.

In 1963 France blasted the first cat into outer space.

The real Félicette.

The real Félicette.

Cat in Space
On October 18, 1963 France blasted Félicette the cat into outer space. Electrodes were implanted into her brain and the recorded neural impulses were transmitted back to earth. During a 15 minute flight she traveled 100 miles into space where her space capsule separated from the rocket and descended to earth by parachute. Also known as Astrocat, Félicette was recovered alive.

Cat Fact Friday # 7

How high can cats jump?

A cat can jump 5 times his own height.

A cat can jump 5 times his own height.

My boyfriend's Siamese cat named Thai (a.k.a. the supermodel) was the inspiration for this card. Extremely athletic and graceful, he can walk across a table strewn with wine glasses, silverware, paper and other random objects without knocking anything over. He will also stand on you and purr non-stop until you pet him. He is a truly sweet animal.

Thai, the most graceful and purr-happy cat I've met.

Thai, the most graceful and purr-happy cat I've met.

Featured Nonprofit: Homeless Cat Network

For the next 3 months we will donate 10% of our profits from selling Cat Fact Notecards to the Homeless Cat Network. Volunteers from the organization work tirelessly to end homelessness for cats in the San Francisco Bay Area. They focus on TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) programs for feral cats; kitten rescuing, fostering and adoption efforts; educational outreach; responsible community cat colony management; and mentoring people to help cats in need. To learn more about this valuable organization, please visit their website: