The Internet and cats were made for each other. (Knew that.) With the release of Google’s 2014 “Year in Search” data, we have been given a glimpse into humanity’s ongoing obsession with all things feline. These are the cat questions that were logged by Google the most frequently over the course of the year. Here at Catster, we’re pleased to present 2014’s top cat-related queries and provide answers from Catster posts where we can.
This one has by far the simplest answer. According to the cunning linguists at Oxford University Press, a group of cats can be called a “clowder” or a “glaring,” while a group of kittens is either a “litter” or a “kindle.” While none of these is as fanciful, say, as a “dazzle” of zebras or a “grumble” of Pugs, at least we have options when it comes to collective nouns for cats and kittens.
Despite the comfort and safety cats experience living in our homes, they still have an instinctive need for security. In a box, bin, or any other restrictive space they choose, cats can physically feel that they are protected on all sides. Outdoors or in the wild, cats also seek out tight spaces, the better to hunt, evade threats, and sleep without fear.
There is no definitive answer to the grass-eating conundrum. Everything written on the topic is peppered by qualifiers like “may,” “might,” and “could be.” Some people hypothesize it is done in aid of digestion, either to move things through the back end, or to regurgitate them from the front. Others guess that eating grass provides cats with some nutrients, but what those are is unclear as well. As long as the grass isn’t treated with chemicals, eating grass has no ill effects on cats.
Because cats must drink water in order to survive, we must assume the search refers to their recalcitrance and resistance to being bathed. Domesticity has come to affect every part of cats’ lives, including their need to exercise and their affinity for water. Cats don’t like being immersed in water because it is an unusual and uncomfortable physical experience. Allow a cat to make its own choice and the results may differ, as this cute kitten video illustrates.
If you watch your cats, you’ll notice they spend extended periods of the day grooming themselves. Self-grooming not only keeps them clean, but it also distributes natural oils and pheromones. All this work is ruined when you dip them in the bathtub. Oddly enough, some of the fluffiest breeds, such as the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Turkish Van, really seem to love water. So do some of the baldest, like the Sphynx and other hairless cats who require regular, if not weekly, baths.
Catnip contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which exerts its strongest influence on cats when the plant is bruised or broken and the oils containing the scent of nepetalactone are released. Like any narcotic, the effects of catnip are always short-lived. Not all cats are susceptible to catnip’s charms. Between a third and half of all cats do not react to catnip at all.
A cat’s whiskers are firm, wiry, hair-like structures embedded deep within a cat’s face. Connected at the base to a bundle of nerve endings, whiskers are an extension of a cat’s sensory equipment. They provide information about objects that are approaching when a cat is running, or things that are too close to their face for their eyes to focus on.
On average, domestic cats spend more than half of their days sleeping. In the wild, or living outdoors, cats sleep and rest to conserve energy for hunts, potential confrontations, and sudden bursts of speed to elude predators. Indoor cats tend to adapt their sleeping patterns once their feeding times become habitual.
Cat kneading serves a number of functions. It is thought that kittens, whose claws are still underdeveloped, massage the maternal teat to encourage the flow of milk. Why do cats knead as adults? Possible answers include establishing a comfortable spot for resting, and keeping their toes limber and flexible. Perhaps the best reason lies in scent glands on their foot pads. As cats knead, they are marking or claiming territory.
A cat’s lifespan depends on a number of factors, including diet and environment. A cat with ready access to food, grooming, and health care will live longer than one who is neglected or malnourished. Outdoor cats tend to live shorter lives, on average, anywhere from three to five years, due to the elements, food scarcity, and exposure to disease. Indoor cats can live, on average, more than 14 years, because all of their needs are met by cat owners.
Finally, the big reveal: the most searched-for cat question of 2014, according to Google:
Google’s most searched cat topic over the course of the year is yet another one with several possible answers. The most critical concerns survival at an age when they are most vulnerable. At birth, kittens cannot see, and they learn to purr from their mother as a method of finding them and for being found. As adults, the frequency of cat purring has been found to match the sonic range most conducive to healing and recovery.
The top 10 Google cat searches leave out the enormous popularity of particular celebrity cats, such as Grumpy Cat, or my own personal favorite, Lil Bub. Nor does Google’s Year In Cat Questions contain the most interesting or compelling searches. Perhaps the most startling thing about Google’s list is that not one query contains the word “kittens.”
As someone who regularly consults Google search data for work — and, by “work,” I mean writing about cats on the Internet — the most fascinating data I’ve encountered in 2014 is that nearly 3,000 people each month turn to Google’s infinite bounty seeking an answer to the eternal question, “What is a cat?” If we could answer that question in its totality, would there be any need to ask the rest?