Q: Where do we get the belief that cats have nine lives?
A: That’s a great question! Quite a few cultures share the idea that cats have multiple lives, though the number isn’t always nine. In Germany, Greece and Italy, for instance, cats are said to have seven lives. Some Middle Eastern traditions put a cat’s number of lives at six.
Whatever the number, I think it’s probably safe to say that the myth arose from the feline ability to escape what often looks to be certain death: the righting ability that often (but not always) has cats landing on their feet after a fall from a high place; their speed and agility in escaping a predator; and their finely tuned senses, which alert them to danger well before it appears.
The combination of a flexible spine and the inborn ability to orient the body properly as they fall is the source of the feline falling ability. That righting reflex begins to develop in kittens when they are 3 to 4 weeks old, and they have it down by the time they are 6 to 7 weeks old. (Never test this with kittens or cats; they can be injured or killed.)
If they need to make an escape, cats can fire the afterburners, putting on a burst of speed for short distances or hightail it over fences or up trees. Their slender, flexible bodies allow them to wriggle through small holes to save themselves as well.
Cats protect themselves in other ways. They can be finicky eaters, and they are less likely than dogs to ingest toxic substancesÂ â with plants being a common exception to that rule.
It’s not surprising that an animal with those incredible survival skills would give rise to the idea that he cheats death over and over again.
Since it was launched three years ago, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s Veterinary Care Charitable Fund has paid out nearly $379,000 to help animals in need, according to an article in the Journal of the AVMA. The nonprofit program for AVMA members allows veterinarians to provide care in cases of financial need, neglect or abuse. More than 1,000 veterinary hospitals are enrolled in the program, and so far, 1,234 animals have been helped.
The Museum of Dog, located in North Adams, Massachusetts, is closed for the winter, but it’s taking the show on the road. The MOD Instagram Tour mobile museumÂ â housed in a refitted school busÂ â features antique dog collars, paintings, photographs, sculptures and more. The first stop is Barking Hound Village in Dallas between Nov. 22 and Dec. 23. Other cities on the tour include Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; New York; and Boston, with dates to be announced. Each $20 ticket, sold in hourly blocks, allows entry for four, whether that’s two humans and two dogs or any other combination. For more information, visit www.museumofdog.com.
Two dogs in the United Kingdom have been trained to identify children with malaria simply by sniffing socks the kids have worn. That’s because the malarial parasites cause specific breath and skin odors in people who are infected. In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the dogsÂ â a Labrador and a Labrador-mixÂ â had a 70 percent success rate in identifying socks worn by children with malaria and a 90 percent success rate in identifying socks worn by children free of the disease. The non-invasive approach isn’t in use yet, but it could become yet another way in which dogs help to detect disease.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton of Vetstreet.com. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Send pet questions to askpetconnection@gmail.