5 Freaky Facts About Cats

Discover 5 freaky facts about cats, from their barbed tongues to their ability to stop an ancient war.

Aug 9, 2023By Natasha Elder
freaky facts about cats

Cats are fascinating creatures with a captivating charm that has secured them a spot in our homes (and hearts) for centuries. They’re beautiful to look at, have loveable personalities, are super smart, and make for a wonderful companion overall… BUT there are a few facts about them that are just plain freaky!

Today’s article will fill you in on 5 freaky facts about cats so be sure to keep reading. Who knows, one of these nuggets of information may make you a better cat owner (or a more likely Trivia night winner!)

1. Cats Have Barbed Tongues

cat barbed tongue close up papillae
Image credit: Yulia Ilina

Have you ever noticed that, when your cat spends a little longer licking a certain part of your body, that spot begins to itch? Sometimes, if they’ve been licking you for long enough, it could even start to feel a little painful. This is because your feline friend’s tongue is less like sandpaper, and more like barbed wire. You read that right!

How do cats spend their days? Grooming themselves, of course! Cats are known for their grooming habits, and it’s not uncommon for a cat to spend up to 50% of its entire day licking itself. A cat will use its tongue to groom itself to keep its coat clean and healthy while removing any parasites and debris. In special cases, the tongue is also used for allogrooming.

A cat’s tongue is covered with barbs, which are tiny backward-facing nipple-like hooks that help remove loose hair and dirt. These barbs are called papillae, and other animals, including cows, giraffes, horses, and anteaters, have them too. In addition to making them clean machines, papillae also improve cats’ hunting abilities by giving them a better grip on their prey. Speaking of hunting…

2. Cats Are Ferocious Predators

cat roar up close ginger tongue hunter
Image credit: Ferendo Gutiérrez on Unsplash

Cats: they’re the cute, clever, complex, cuddly, comforting, curious creatures we all love to love. Oh, did we mention they’re also ferocious predators and simply phenomenal hunters? Even the most domesticated and affectionate cat breeds are highly skilled predators that will hunt prey just because, well, that’s what it’s built to do.

If it wasn’t for their size, our pampered pet cats could be at the top of the predator list with their big cat cousins. Even well-fed feline friends will hunt prey – if not to eat it, to play with it. A house cat can kill spiders, mice, rats, birds, and even small mammals like rabbits with minimal effort.

But in all seriousness, there’s a reason why cats are such great hunters. In fact, there are several. Normal house cats can jump more than nine times their height, they can build up speeds of 20mph when running, their paws are shock absorbers, they can land on their feet after almost every fall, and their spines are weirdly flexible (but more on that soon!)

3. Cats Are Living Honing Devices

cat whiskers close up snoot
Image credit: Katelyn Greer on Unsplash

Cats can detect prey from miles away, and they always seem to be able to find their way home. This is by design.

Because of a special bone called the auditory bulla, cats are able to pinpoint the exact source of a sound. Their highly developed sense of hearing means that cats can detect sounds that are very far away, and they can also detect sounds of a much higher decibel than the ones that human ears can hear.

On top of this, a cat’s whiskers – or vibrissae – are extremely sensitive sensory organs that act as a precision tool in the world of the cat. Whiskers are rooted deep within the cat’s face, which, thanks to its connection to sensitive nerves, allows the cat to detect even the slightest change in its surroundings. A cat’s whiskers can help it keep its balance while jumping, navigate its way around in the dark, and ascertain whether it can fit through a narrow opening – which brings us to our next point.

4. Make Way for Elasticat

cat jump kitten breed cat grass
Image credit: PickPik

Have you ever watched on in wonder as a cat squeezes itself into a tiny box or slips through an impossibly tight gap? As it turns out, cats aren’t just as slinky as they are sassy, but they’re masters of flexibility. This is thanks to its incredible skeletal structure.

A cat’s body is equipped with a staggering 230 bones, whilst we humble humans only have 206. This abundance of bones, coupled with a highly flexible spine and collarbones that aren’t completely connected, allows cats to contort themselves into mind-bending positions.

5. Killing A Cat Would Get You Killed

sphinx cat statue ancient egypt
Image credit: Wallpaper Flare

By now, you know that cats are mega-clean, have built-in GPS, are fantastically flexible, and would most likely eat you if it was big enough, so it’s fair to say that cats – although undoubtedly kind of freaky at times – are very cool.

The ancient Egyptians certainly agreed with the above statement. In fact, ancient Egyptians thought cats were so cool that killing one, or sometimes even just injuring one, would earn the guilty party a death sentence. It didn’t even matter if it was accidental or not!

These same folk placed so much value on the lives of cats, that they even lost a war because of them. Legend – or rather the book Stratagems of War – has it that Cambyses II sent his men into battle with cats in their arms, knowing that his Egyptian foe would never dare fire at their feline friends.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership