Purrfect Strangers

You May Think That When A Kitty purrs, it’s happy. Not necessarily so, say the authors of a new book on cats.

Cats. Even since the ancient Egyptians domesticated them mankind has been captivated by these proud felines. Yet their behavior will perplexes many people.

Enter Dr. Marry Becker, resident veterinarian on US television show Good Morning America, and Gina Spadafori, a pet columnist. Their book - Do Cats Always Land on their Feet? - is the latest attempt to fathom these intriguing pets.

Following are some excerpts from the book.

Do Cats Purr Only They’re Happy ?

Expert cat observers know that purring isn’t just a sound of contentment. Cats also purr when they’re injured, while giving birth – even when they’re dying.

Purring has been described as something a cat does when he’s with a friend or need a friend is happy or is in pain. It seem to be a sound that both conveys and creates comfort.

Here are several more interesting facts about purring .

+ While all the smaller cats, including servals and ocelots, purr, some of the big cats can’t Lions and tigers can roar and rumble, but they can’t purr on the inhale and the exhale the way a little cat can.

Little cats purr, but they can’t roar. We think the little guys got the better part of the deal.

+ No one can completely explain the mechanics of a cat’s purr. It remains a scientific mystery. Best guess the sound is caused by the passing of air over structure in a cat’s voice box.

+ A purring cat can lower human blood pressure and relaxes both the cat and the person petting him. There is even some evidence that purring can help speed the healing process in cats.

Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet ?

Not always but they’ll sure try. Cats are the perfect small predator, just as comfortable stalking a squirrel from tree to tree as they are chasing a wiggly piece of ribbon across the carpet.

They’ve evolved with some nifty high-rise survival skills, including the ability to grab onto a branch with retractable crampons if they lose their footing. And if that doesn’t work they have that awe-inspiring ability to right themselves in midair so they can stick a perfect four point landing.

This nifty feat would put any human Olympic gymnast to shame. A falling cat will instinctively try to right himself from head to tail, first rotating his head into the proper position (to sport the ground) and then sequentially spiraling the rest of his body so all his feet are oriented to the ground.

As the body gains the right position, the cat will spread his legs in a sort of flying squirrel fashion and relax his muscles in anticipation of landing. Spreading the impact over four points is considerably better than hitting on one, and a cat’s cushy joints enable him to absorb a lot more impact than we mere humans can.

A cat’s ability to rotate in midair isn’t a fool-proof strategy for surviving the perils of modern living, however. Veterinarians have long noted and studied what’s called high-rise syndrome-the tendency cats have of being better able to survive falls from greater heights than lower ones.
The most dangerous falls are from between two and six storeys. Amazingly enough a few urban cats have survived falls of up to 30 storeys, albeit with severe injuries – broken legs and jaws, and collapsed lungs.
The difference may well be in the cat’s ability to set himself up for the best possible landing, in the way that all cats have been doing for generations.
You see, that ‘rotate and relax’ manoeuvre takes time to implement. From the lower floors, it’s thought a cat hasn’t enough time to prepare himself for impact by getting himself in a proper landing position. From the highest floors, the fall’s too great to survive. In between, however is a margin of survivability for the cat who lands on his feet.

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