There are now more cats than dogs in the United States (78 million cats vs. 65 million cats in 2003, according to American Animal Hospital Association and the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association) and the cliche “cat got your tongue,” doesn’t ring true here, as we can’t seem to stop talking about cats.

Here are 24 amazing feline facts to amaze, delight and inspire anyone from the ailurophile to the casual cat fancier:

1 Within two to three days of birth, each kitten in a litter chooses his own teat, and from then on, generally only takes a nip from this nipple.

2 Kittens are born blue-eyed. If their eyes change colors, it generally occurs at 4 to 5 weeks of age. Kittens open their eyes at 7 to 10 days but can’t hear until they’re about 14 days old.

3 The cat is the only animal that purrs. Domestic cats “sing both ways” and can purr while inhaling or exhaling, while the big cats (lions and tigers) can only purr while exhaling.

4 Cats lick themselves “clean” right after dinner as instinct has taught them the sooner they remove food odors, the less likely cat predators will get a whiff of McCat. Cats bury their waste to hide evidence from predators and avoid territorial turf battles with other cats.

5 When a domestic cat goes mousing, they get fast food about every third pounce. Of course, most house cats have evolved from mouser to moocher.

6 Among the world’s greatest cat haters were Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler.

7 Kitty Litter was invented in 1947 when delivery man, Edward Lowe, who was out of sand, suggested to a cat owner that she use a grease and oil absorbent (clay called sodium bentonite) instead. My favorite name for the solid substance cats leave in cat boxes is Kitty Rocca.

8 In ancient Rome, feline feces were believed to have healing powers. Beliefs like this could have caused the fall of the Empire.

9 The collective term for a group of adult cats is called a clowder. Stick a mollusk in a get-together of cats and you’ll have, ahem, clam clowder.

10 Forget going to the dogs, in 1993 Canadian residents Jack and Donna Wight were found to have 640 cats living in the house. I bet the odor in that house was a cat-astrophe!

11 The term “cat’s pajamas” comes from an English tailor of the late 1700s and early 1800s who made the finest silk pajamas for royalty and other rich patrons. His name was E.B. Katz.

12 More than 300,000 cat mummies were found in one Egyptian temple in 1850 and tons of cat mummies were shipped to England to be used as fertilizer. I suppose that made the plants leap out of the ground.

13 A cat can turn its outer ear toward a sound about 10 times faster than a dog. Furthermore, a cat, with more than 40,000 nerve fibers in its ears, can hear sounds (like the can opener) up to two octaves higher than humans. NOTE: Silent cat whistles wouldn’t be a hot item because even if they heard it, they probably wouldn’t come anyway – unless the whistle made a sound like a tuna can being opened.

14 At the back of a cat’s foot is a single carpal pad that doesn’t touch the ground. It is thought to act as a brake when the cat leaps forward or stops from speeds that can reach up to 31 mph.

15 Cats are the only species that can hold their tails vertically while walking, according to Cat Fancy magazine.

16 Cats purr at the same frequency of 25 vibrations per second, their temperature is about 102 degrees Fahrenheit and their heart beats about 155 times per minute.

17 Cats eyes appear to glow at night because of a layer on the back of the retina called the tapetum lucidium, which possesses crystal-like reflective properties. Low light, yes, but cats can’t see in total darkness.

18 About 50 percent of cats have the gene that allows for catnip crazies and get a hallucinatory high from eating, smelling or rubbing catnip. Maybe the others are like former president Bill Clinton and didn’t inhale.

19 The phrase “a cat has nine lives” may come from early 1400s England when a popular recipe called for one part cat to nine parts chicken livers (source “Cats Out of the Bag,” Premium Press).

20 The U.S. superstition about having bad luck if a black cat crosses your path grew from the belief that the cat was on its way to visit the devil. In Britain, black cats are considered good luck.

21 A cat generally has 24 whiskers (called vibrissae), 12 on each side of its face. The whiskers are divided into upper and lower rows, which move independently of each other and are used to detect objects in low light and their ability to slip through narrow openings, like the opening to the cat carrier at the vet’s office.

22 Talk about a cat nap, 70 percent of each cat’s day is spent dozing. Thirty percent of their awake time is spent grooming.

23 Not to sound sexist, but most orange cats are male whereas a vast majority of calico cats are female.

24 When cats arch their backs toward human hands, like a hearty, hairy handshake, they’re exhibiting mutual endearment. When cats collapse on their backs with their feet in their air, beware, they’re telling you to give them space.

Dr. Marty Becker is coauthor of “Chicken Soup For The Horse Lover’s Soul” and a popular veterinary contributor for ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Write to him in care of Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, 700 12th St. NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C., 20005.

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