Natalia Lusinski
December 05, 2015 12:34 pm

Just when we thought we knew all there was to know about cats — after all, they dominate the Internet and who doesn’t want to watch them do yoga poses?! — think again. In honor of “Big Cat Week,” which premieres on Nat Geo WILD on Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT), National Geographic spoke to Dr. Gary Weitzman, one of the authors of How to Speak Cat: A Guide to Decoding Cat Language. If you’ve ever wanted to speak cat, now’s your chance.

To give you a glimpse into what you’ll learn from the book, let’s do a quick quiz to test out your cat knowledge.

True or False?

  1. Cats are easy to train.
  2. They prefer to be social.
  3. They like sleeping on their owner’s head.
  4. The oldest cat lived to 27 years old.
  5. Cats respond better to men.
  6. Cats can see in the dark six times better than humans.

If you said:

  1. False
  2. False
  3. True
  4. True
  5. False
  6. True

…you’re right.

Dr. Weitzman did all the cat research — that we didn’t even realize we wanted to know! — for us. “…I learned that scientists think that cats respond better to women, because women have higher-pitched voices than men,” Dr. Weitzman told National Geographic. “These facts are in bold print on every other page in the book, and nearly all of them surprised me.”

Of the cats-seeing-six-times-better fact, Dr. Weitzman said, “That’s not something you learn in vet school, and you don’t learn that working in a shelter or working with animals for decades. But six times better than a person — that’s pretty impressive.” I’ll say.

With chapter titles like “Headbutting and Body Rubbing” and “Rubbing Noses” to “Twitchy Ears” to “The Wrapped-Around Tail,” what’s not to love about this book?! Now, you no longer need to be a cat whisperer to try to figure out what your cat is trying to tell you. You’ll learn everything there is to know about your fickle feline friends. Plus, there’s lots and lots of photos to show us what each cat movement means — and who doesn’t want to see those?!

And Dr. Weitzman knows what he’s talking about. Not only is he head of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA (aww), but he’s also been a veterinarian for 25 years. Plus, he even had a cat-oriented radio show, “What Do Cats Think About Us? You May Be Surprised.”

There’s waaaay more to a cat than we think — like the condition of their fur and nails, how their tail moves, etc. Dr. Weitzman not only clarifies cat myths and facts, like why some cats don’t use their litter boxes, but also decodes what our furry friends are trying to say. For instance, did you know cats try to “speak” to us through their more than just their meows? They communicate with their eyes, ears, and tails, too.

Annnd, did you know that a cat’s color is associated with its behavior? “For example, tortoiseshell cats, torties, can be independent and they usually like just one person, and they can be pushy about what they want,” Dr. Weitzman told National Geographic. “Torties and calicos and Abyssinians all have strong documented links between their coat color and personalities. More anecdotal is the orange tabby, who is the poster child for the most gregarious. But personality really seems to go with coat color.” Who knew?!

Since it is “Big Cat Week,” National Geographic also asked Dr. Weitzman how domestic cats are similar to the bigger ones out there. “They’re very, very similar,” Dr. Weitzman said. “Domestic cats have only been around for half the time that dogs have, so you can see almost the same behavior among lions, tigers, and leopards that you do among domestic cats. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest draws of these animals — we can live harmoniously with them and still get to watch Mutual of Omaha every day. They’re still part wild. They haven’t gone to finishing school yet.”

And because cats in the wild are endangered, Dr. Weitzman offered some advice on how we can try to help them. “Look at the almost universal outrage over the death of Cecil the Lion this summer,” he said. “People love cats. Cats, hands down, own the Internet. That’s the leverage that we have to try and stop some of the astonishingly bad practices towards the other cats on our planet.”

We give How to Speak Cat four paws up! It’s the perfect Christmas gift or stocking stuffer for the cat lovers (because we all know more than one!) in your life. More of a dog lover? Well, you’re not left out! Dr. Weitzman also co-wrote How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language.

Related stories:

11 Cats Doing Yoga

Cats Have Won the Internet — And Here’s Why

Just Some Cats In Weird Positions to Get You Through the Day

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