You either love them or hate them — either way, they really don't care. Most cats are like Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess of Grantham: their reputations precede them and they're not exactly the most affectionate of characters. It takes a lot to win them over, and to some humans, their independent nature can be off-putting. Now, a new study shows there's more reason to be wary: apparently, wounds from cat bites can cause serious injury, greater hospitalization rates, and are more susceptible to infection compared to injuries inflicted by dogs. Surprising, right?
Cats' teeth are sharper, and those tiny little fangs can easily inject bacteria into your good-intentioned hand. Researchers analyzed the cases of 193 people who were hospitalized for cat bites, and whopping two-thirds of patients required surgery for their injuries. Middle-aged women were the most common victims (shocker). One woman even racked up $150,000 in medical bills, spending eight weeks in and out of the hospital.
In a world filled with Grumpy Cats, Colonel Meows (rest in peace), and shows like My Cat From Hell, it's no surprise that felines aren't exactly man's best friend. In truth, they're probably just out to get you. Even science says so:
Here's why they secretly hate you:
1. Cats choose to ignore you
They can hear you, but couldn't care less what you have to say. What kind of constant companion willingly tunes you out?
Researchers from the University of Tokyo say that cats are perfectly capable of hearing their owner's voice, thank you. But unlike dogs, cats see no reason to respond. They tend to be the first ones to initiate interaction with humans, taking their sweet, sweet time doing whatever it is they please — chasing lasers, sleeping, being a complete jerk to you — before they decide you deserve their attention.
In a test, researchers played recordings of strangers' voices calling the cat's name, followed by the owner's. The animals responded to all four voices with “orienting behavior,” meaning they moved their ears or head to seek to origin of the noise, but didn't make a move. The study found that cats showed a greater response to their owner's voice and still refused to budge. The behavior is explained by the fact that cats historically haven't been domesticated to obey human's orders.
2. They don't think much of you
If you ever question your pet's respect for you, it's probably because your cat doesn't even see you as a human. To them, you're just another maternal feline handing out the snacks.
British biologist Dr. John Bradshaw explains in his book Cat Sense that these felines believe humans are the same species as them. When they rub up against you, with their tail straight in the air, it's to check you aren't another hostile cat; when they playfully knead your body, it mimics a behavior that’s meant for its mother’s belly in order to keep milk flowing. And here you thought you were special.
3. They get stressed out when you pet them
It's a behavior most people practice without even thinking: reaching out to pet a cute animal. Your cat? Hates it. Don't listen to those purrs of "affection" — they're just good at faking it and tolerating you. Research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior explains felines reluctantly let you stroke them, but that the petting actually stresses them out. While some cats do enjoy the petting, the ones who don't are really freaking out inside.
4. Cat's feces can kill you
Everything about them basically says you should stay away — even their bodily functions.
Cat's feces contains Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite commonly found in cat litter boxes that infects 30 and 50 percent of the world's population and is linked to mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. There are warnings that changing cat litter can be dangerous for pregnant women, but everyone else should be wary too.
Felines are the only animals that spread the bacteria in their poop, resulting in flu-like symptoms and muscle pains in humans that can last for a month or longer. In extreme cases of people with weakened immune systems, cat feces can even cause death. You've been warned.
5. Even babies know dogs are better
We've seen all the aww-inducing videos with tiny babies and even tinier kittens, but kids instinctually know to prefer man's real best friend (dogs) to cats. Appreciation for felines needs "time to develop," according to researchers.
In a study, kids ages three to six were asked to choose the animal with the facial features that appealed to them the most. They chose dogs over cats in every comparison.
Of course, cats with cute, baby-like features won out over older felines, but overall, it seems cats are an acquired taste.
6. Cats are controlling your mind
They're manipulative, sneaky creatures — and they know it. Cats' purrs and cries mimic that of babies, purposefully changing their tone when they want something.
They add higher frequency tones to tug at our heart strings and plague us with guilt, just for one more snack, or a little bit more kibble in the bowl. To study this phenomenon, one behavioral ecologist implemented the help of 10 cat owners to record their pets' sounds when cats were clearly desiring food, and when they were resting. Researchers found that cats' purrs are actually more urgent and unpleasant compared to their normal noises, and that they won't stop until they're satisfied. Compared to their usual purrs, the cries have a 220 to 520-hertz frequency peak. Babies have a similar range when they cry, from 300 to 600 hertz.
7. They're anything but sweet — literally
Cats don't have a sweet tooth, lacking 247 base pairs of the amino acids that make up the DNA of a particular gene: Tas1r2. This means they can't taste anything sweet, unlike every other mammal.
Not being able to enjoy the delicious goodness of a Snickers would piss us off too. Cats are carnivores and don't need carbohydrates, so they don't have the receptors needed to taste sweetness.
Sure, some owners will say their cat delights in ice cream or chocolate, but that can be attributed to the fat and other elements in the food.
8. Cats are natural born killers
Cuddly and innocent on the outside, cats are really predators just waiting to get outside and chow down on their victims. A kitty cam study in Athens, Georgia showed that cats kill larger numbers of wildlife than previously thought, taking the lives of two animals per week.
News flash: sometimes, your sweet pet actually kills just for the sake of killing. (Still okay with that little serial killer lurking around your bedroom at night?) The Georgia report found that 49 percent of cats' victims were left to rot.
Cat's also exhibit some self-masochistic tendencies: they engage in high-risk activities like crossing roadways, entering crawl spaces where they could get trapped, and eating and drinking random objects they find.
9. They'll probably eat you when you're dead
A comforting thought, right? In 2010, cats found in a home were gnawing on the feet of a dead 74-year-old man and his 94-year-old mother. In 2013, a woman who collapsed and died on her kitchen floor was eaten by her own cats. There are unconfirmed stories that dogs will go days without touching the bodies of their deceased owners and would rather starve than take a bite, whereas cats won't even blink.
Let's face it, when push comes to shove, Fluffy will most likely revert back to her animal instincts and do what it takes to survive, even if you spoiled her with all the catnip in the world.
Still, for the most part, we love us some kitties. They're wonderful, affectionate animals with a lot of love to give. How else would they win the Internet with millions of cute videos and pictures?
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