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Melanie Hudson

A pet for the
21st century

In the western world, cats are becoming the most desired pet. Their needs fit perfectly with busy lifestyles. Cats require little time and effort, and are relatively cheap for the friendship they offer.

They are independent but loving, a combination that appeals to many people. ‘At the end of a long day my cat is there, ready to curl up in my lap,’ says Sue Hall, a real estate agent. ‘But during the day, when I’m at work, Storm looks after herself.’

Cats have changed little from their ancestors of thousands of years ago. Unlike dogs, cats have not been ‘over-bred’. For this reason they have fewer health problems, and can live for up to 20 years.

Despite over a thousand years of companionship between cat and man, cats have never been successfully domesticated. Although most domestic cats are well-fed by their owners, they will often hunt birds and mice. Cats will also give the dead victims to their owners as gifts. The owner takes the place of the leader of the pack for the cat, proudly presenting its prey.

A cat's tail also reveals its wild nature. Tail wagging is a sign that a dog is happy. The opposite is true for a cat. Cats move their tails from side to side when they are unhappy or angry. The whole tail is moved, from the base to the tip. Moving the tip of the tail is different, and it will happen when the cat is stalking another animal. The cat’s body hides this from the hunted animal, but the movement signals to other hunting cats that prey has been found. 

Another signal to other cats, purring, shows not only that a cat is content, but also is thought to be a sign of submission. Purring is first heard in kittens as they suckle milk from their mother. Adult cats normally purr when they are petted. Cats that are very ill will purr to themselves, and it is thought they do this to comfort themselves.

Cats are so successful at reducing stress that doctors are recommending them for human patients recovering from major surgery.' A loving playful animal that requires only a little care is ideal,’ says Dr Peter Hopgood, a cardiac surgeon. ‘We know that patients recover from heart surgery more quickly if they keep a cat.’

Source: New English Digest

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