Newton’s Purrspective – Sense of Smell and a Cat’s 6th Sense

Here’s guest writer and “one smart cat” Newton to give us the science behind a cat’s sense of smell.

Newton’s Purrspective – Sense of Smell and a Cat’s 6th Sense


Isaac Newton

Cats and humans share the same 5 senses (hearing, sight, touch, taste, and smell), but our abilities are far from equal. Despite my obvious bias, I have to say that you can’t argue with science. In a comparison of the two species, overall cats win paws down. Cats have a far greater range of hearing (45-64,000 Hz compared to humans 64-23,000 Hz). (1) Our eyes have six to eight times as many cells for viewing objects in low light as humans. (2) Our whiskers are so sensitive that we can detect the slightest change in air currents around objects (such as furniture). This is one of the reasons blind cats can get around so well. (3) True, we only have 473 taste buds compared to 9,000 in humans (4), and our reputation for being finicky is well deserved. But, we are obligate carnivores and our natural diet is primarily protein. We have no need to taste sugar! (5) If your apple pie mysteriously disappears from the table I suggest that you blame it on Fido.

Perhaps most amazing of all is our sense of smell. Any human who has suffered a cold knows how important smell is to being able to taste food. Cats have 200 million odor sensitive cells in our nostrils, 40 times more than humans. (6) We also have a special structure called the Jacobson’s Organ (vomeronasal organ). This structure is located behind our upper front teeth and connects to the nasal cavity. Inhaled information is transferred directly to special areas of the brain for concentrated processing and analysis. Has your cat ever sniffed you intensely and then made a face suggesting the smell was bad? Kitty is actively breathing in air to utilize the Jacobson’s Organ. The curled lip is called “Flehmen” (German for lip curl) (7) or sometimes “Flehmen’s smile”. This process allows more in depth analysis of scents and, among other things, is used to detect pheromones. We KNOW if a strange cat has been rubbing up against you! For this reason it is sometimes called an auxiliary or extra sense – a Sixth Sense.

Does this mean cats are psychic? I can’t say for sure, but some researchers suggest that a cat’s sense of smell is extra special. Atmospheric air flow through Jacobson’s Organ may reveal small changes in chemical composition. This could enable a cat to sense impending disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and forest fires. Supporters of this view say Jacobson’s Organ is the structural origin of a Sixth Sense. (8)

In conclusion, understanding the sensitivity and importance of smell to cats can help humans to make our environments more pleasant. Remember, smell can attract or repel. I come running when a new box of Cat Faeries Legendary Catnip toys arrives. But please don’t be offended if I don’t enjoy your Chanel No. 5.

Smell influences:

  • the types of food we will eat (we need lots of protein)
  • what areas of the house we prefer (we don’t like most chemical cleaning agents, so I suggest an enzyme based cleaner such as Cat Faeries Anti-Icky Poo in cat box areas)
  • litter box acceptance/avoidance (we prefer unscented litter) (9)

Following these guidelines can foster a more peaceful coexistence for all.

NOTES:

(1) http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/HearingRange.html
(2) http://www.livescience.com/40460-images-cat-versus-human-vision.html
(3) http://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/question592.htm
(4) http://lovemeow.com/2009/10/5-senses-cats-vs-humans/
(5) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-cats-cannot-taste-sweets/
(6) http://lovemeow.com/2009/10/5-senses-cats-vs-humans/
(7) http://cats.about.com/od/amyshojai/a/Flehmen-Aka-Flehmen-Response.htm
(8) http://www.zooclub.ru/eng/cats/sost/5.shtml
(9) http://www.pet-health-care-gazette.com/2010/02/03/cat-litter-box-problems-what-to-do-when-your-cat-decides-not-to-use-the-litter-box/

Scientists Prove Sitting in Boxes Calms Cats

Cats and boxes. Has your cat ever met a box it didn’t like (other than a teeny tiny box that a fabulous piece of jewelry came in)? Cats love boxes. Even boxes that appear to be too small for them, somehow your cat will squeeze into it and be blissful.

We found an article on Wired.com about fascinating scientists who have researched why cats love boxes so much, and from one in particular you’ll learn why boxes are a good thing. Claudia Vinke, a Dutch Ethologist* worked with cats in a Dutch shelter. She provided boxes for a newly arrived group of cats while not giving boxes to another group. She found a significant difference in stress levels between cats that had the boxes and those that didn’t. The cats with boxes got used to their new surroundings faster, were far less stressed early on, and were more interested in interacting with humans.

The article on Wired.com has more fascinating scientifically proven reasons for why cats love boxes – and actually need boxes. This has us thinking about our recent article about cats, stress, over grooming and the benefits of wearing a jacket or sweater for purposes of calming. We at Cat Faeries wonder: would cats who are self-barbering or over grooming not just benefit from a sweater, but also from having several boxes in the home to hang out in? It’s certainly an experiment that’s virtually free of cost, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and your cat could love it and be happier. What do you think?

Here’s the article about cats and boxes at Wired: http://www.wired.com/2015/02/whats-up-with-cats-and-boxes/

Here’s a link to our our story about cats and sweaters written by Cat Faeries’ friend, Newton, a cat who knows everything – http://www.catfaeries.com/blog/newtons-purr-spective-when-grooming-gets-out-of-control/

* Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, usually with a focus on behavior under natural conditions. Behaviorism is a term that also describes the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, but it usually refers to the study of trained behavioral responses in a laboratory context.

Why Male Calico and Tortie Cats Are So Rare

Recently we stumbled upon an article about an extremely rare male calico kitten up for adoption in Silicon Valley. Less than 0.1% of all calicos or torties are male. And, it’s likely this kitten, named Sherman, or any other male calico or tortie was born sterile.


http://patch.com/california/redwoodcity-woodside/unicorn-cat-makes-its-way-silicon-valley

‘Unicorn Cat’ Makes Its Way to Silicon Valley Animal Shelter

By Renee Schiavone (Patch Staff)

A very special kitten has found his way to a Silicon Valley animal shelter, and now representatives are hoping someone will be willing to give him a forever home.

Sherman is a male calico cat. Which is apparently really rare.

Dr. Andrea Berger, who is a veterinarian at the Humane Society Silicon Valley, says the chances of a calico cat being born male is less than 0.1%.

“It’s like a unicorn! I’ve been involved with shelters for 20 years and I have never seen one,” Berger said.

The four-month-old kitten recently arrived with the HSSV, as a transfer from one of their sister shelters, which was full.

“We work with shelters in the area to help alleviate the strain on resources when shelters are too full and when there’s an animal who needs a little extra help getting adopted,” a spokeswoman told Patch.

Anyone interested in adopting Sherman can stop by the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Adoption Center, inside Petco at 160 East El Camino Real. The adoption fee is $175.

By the way, shelter representatives say the little fur ball is very personable and friendly– and he’s a sucker for people and wand toys.


We asked guest writer and over all “one smart cat” Newton to give us the science behind the rarity of male torties and calicos. Here you go!

Newton’s Perspective: Calico Genetics

My namesake, Sir Isaac Newton, was a renowned physicist and mathematician. Although some credit him with inventing the cat flap to protect his experiments from light exposure (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3156/did-isaac-newton-invent-the-cat-door), I doubt that he actually knew much about cats. That’s not surprising since we are WAY more complicated than physics! Recently my insatiable cat curiosity led me to a book about a male calico cat titled “Cats are not Peas” – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1358214.Cats_Are_Not_Peas. Well, that seems pretty obvious. I thought this was about genetics, not gardening. But what I read was far more complex than I imagined.

Have you ever met a male calico cat? If you said no I am not surprised. Less than one percent of all calico cats are male. But before I go any further, let’s define calico. Calico is a color pattern. When I think “calico” I see a cat that is predominantly white with patches of orange and black. However, this is only one variation. The key is having both orange (or beige) and black (or grey) colors.

The genetic code for black and orange colors is located on the X chromosome. Females have two X’s (XX), while males have an X and a Y (XY). If a female kitten gets both an orange and a black X then she will be calico XoXb. A male kitten from the same litter would get either an orange or a black X with the following results.

The only way for a male to have both orange and black colors is through a genetic mishap that gives him three chromosomes XoXb Y instead of two XoY or Xb Y. This is called Klinefelter Syndrome in humans and generally results in feminization and sterility.

So now you know why male calico cats are so rare. But I’m sure you’ll agree, all cats are special, no matter what color they might be.

Meet a Roman Cat!

Mimi sent us this picture of Aka…

“This is Aka, my beautiful almost 15 year old Roman cat. She is the Queen of Piazza Mazzini here in Rome, which she watches over from our 5th floor balcony. She is on her window perch; outside the window in the background you can see the top of St. Peter’s dome. She is quite a lady and doesn’t have a wrinkle on her. She loves relaxing on her favorite armchair or gazing out the window, looking at the streets of Rome. We met when she was 5 days old and left her mom to waddle over to my hand. 2 months later she moved in with us. She’s my gattissima bellissima!!!”

We wrote her…

“We are located in San Francisco and there is an organization here called Friends of Roman Cats – they raise money for Italian cat shelters and rescue! One of the groups is called Torre Argentina. They have an annual fund raiser here which we’ve donated to in the past.”

“I’ve had many interactions with Italian cats! My favorite, the funniest: I was in Verona (one of my favorite places) and walked past an alley. There were a lot of street cats eating. I looked up and sitting in a window about 4 floors up was a woman, something right out of Fellini… Harsh looking face with garish makeup, buxom figure, sleeveless dress with bra straps hanging down, a cigarette dangling from her lips, throwing pieces of fish out of her window the cats below. I watched for awhile. Then she saw me and threw fish at me and yelled something in Italian at me. Pretty funny! I once helped the old ladies feed the cats who live on the grounds of a museum in Milano.”

“Thank you so much, it gave me a few minutes to think of the cats I saw and met in Italy!”

Mimi wrote back…

“Thanks so much for the interesting information on the “Friends of Roman Cats”. Everyone here knows the cats of Torre Argentina. They are very famous and inhabit some very important architectural digs. In fact they have recently “discovered” or “uncovered” the exact location where Julius Caesar was assassinated there. I work near an area that is a crossroads between the Aventine hill, Testaccio and the Pyramid and there is a colony of cats there too. In fact many cats (lovely black ones) live in the garden/parking lot of the pool/Gym where I work. They are well cared for by the volunteers from the Piramide cat colony.”

If you ever come to Rome, I’ll take you to visit the Piramide cat colony!!! I’ll look forward to seeing Aka in an upcoming newsletter.

Thanks and baci.
Mimi

Celebrating Black Cats in October – Kaboodle from Amy

For the month of October, Cat Faeries is celebrating black cats. We will post pictures of our customer’s cuties and donate 1% of our October sales to several black cat rescue groups.


Celebrating Black Cats in October - Kaboodle from Amy at CatFaeries.com

Here is Kaboodle…who was solid black and started turning white when he was about 3! Weird! But I think the white makes him even more beautiful!

Thank you for featuring beautiful, black kitties!
Amy


Black cats are the hardest for rescue groups to adopt out and place in loving homes. Do you have a gorgeous black cat or two? Send us their photos! Videos too! We’ll post them on Pinterest, our October newsletters, and on Facebook. Send them to catfaeries@catfaeries.com and put the words Photos for Pinterest in the subject line.

Celebrating Black Cats in October – Donna’s Black Beauty

For the month of October, Cat Faeries is celebrating black cats. We will post pictures of our customer’s cuties and donate 1% of our October sales to several black cat rescue groups.


Celebrating Black Cats in October - Donna's Black Beauty at CatFaeries.com

From Donna


Black cats are the hardest for rescue groups to adopt out and place in loving homes. Do you have a gorgeous black cat or two? Send us their photos! Videos too! We’ll post them on Pinterest, our October newsletters, and on Facebook. Send them to catfaeries@catfaeries.com and put the words Photos for Pinterest in the subject line.