House cats can’t roar and lions can’t purr, but the tiny predators that humans have been living with for thousands of years share a lot with their big, wild cousins.
They Rub Against Things
All cats have a collection of scent glands located on their body—on the sides of the face, around the mouth, on the front paws, and at the base of the tail. When your cat rubs against things (including you), it is marking its territory with pheromones. Big cats also give head-bumps to things in their environment, and the scent they leave behind serves as a warning sign to others who might come across their territory.
They Sleep a Lot
“Does my cat sleep too much?” is a common search engine query from many cat owners, but the answer invariably is “probably not.” It’s typical for a cat to sleep between 12-16 hours a day, but that’s not because they are lazy—as predators, cats need to conserve energy for high-intensity hunting activities. Not every hunt results in a meal, so felines typically live in a feed-rest-hunt cycle. This applies to big cats as well; a tiger or a lion can easily spend up to 20 hours just sleeping in the shade. And if they’ve recently had a successful kill, they’re basically not moving until they’ve digested that meal.
They Scratch Things
Big or small, all members of the feline family have retractable claws, with the exception of cheetahs whose claws are only semi-retractable due to their running habits. Claws are used not just for hunting, but also for gaining traction and climbing trees, so being able to stow them away when not in use keeps these tools sharp. Scratching a tree trunk doesn’t just help a lion condition the claws, though. It’s also a way to mark their territory by using the scent glands on their paws we mentioned earlier.
They Smell Things With Their Mouth Open
Our feline friends have an acute sense of smell, with tens of millions of receptors lining their tiny noses (humans, in contrast, have only five million olfactory receptors). On top of that, they are also amongst the many animals who have an extra scent detection organ. Called Jacobson’s organ, it’s placed at the base of the nasal cavity and is found not just in cats, but also all snakes and lizards, dogs, cattle, and even pigs. The organ gives cats an ability to taste-smell substances, and to use it they employ a movement known as the Flehmen response—open the mouth, wrinkle the nose and pause breathing. This “stink face” is more noticeable in big cats, but cat owners can spot it in their pets as well.
Big Cats Also Play With Boxes
Buy your cat a toy and watch it play with the box it came in—or buy a fridge and give the box to a lion.