Appearances aside, healthy cats like to show off their hale and hearty self. There is robustness when they pounce down off the back of a chair to attack your toes. They will strut with a confident gait across the room to bless you by rubbing against your legs. Or, with an accuracy that would awe a pool shark, they will attack the tail end of a scarf as it is being wrapped around an unsuspecting neck. A healthy cat just exudes confidence and coolness.
Though most adult cats are relatively calm, cool, and collected, kittens should be rather rambunctious. A healthy kitten is actively curious, eager to search every nook and cranny and discover what can move, can be moved, and what sounds those items make when they crash to the floor. Therefore, it also has the reflexes to make it jump out of the way or to leave the premises before any humans lumber up to discover the mess. If a kitten is in poor health, it is more apt to be lethargic. Curiosity will be fulfilled with a watchful gaze, and lengthy rests more befitting an older cat will follow the short spurts of energy.
As much as it seems like cats are always on the prowl or manage to stay in the way, healthy cats actually sleep quite a bit of the time. A mature, healthy adult cat will nap, on average, anywhere from 13 to 16 hours a day. Kittens will sleep even more than that. But if it seems your tabby is sleeping for more than 16 hours, it could be a sign he or she is not getting enough energy from food or is fighting an illness. Stay on top of your cat’s sleep patterns so you can easily spot changes.
Regardless of age, a healthy cat has a keen sense of balance. Cats have more bones in their bodies than humans do (people have about 206, compared to about 230 for cats, with the majority of their bones in the tail), and yet they have much better coordination and control of those bones than humans do. Cat owners hold their breath as their pets saunter along the outside edge of a stairwell or perch atop a fence post, seemingly aloof and unaware of their super-yoga feats. The tail is the cat’s primary tool for keeping balance, but the supple body, fine-tuned the central nervous system and highly evolved inner rear assists it. Those body parts all combine to give cats their innate sense of balance and poise. However, those superpowers can suffer from malnutrition and show up in an unhealthy cat that has difficulty judging distances, whose coordination is wobbly, and who consistently suffers the aches and pains that arise from falling.
A healthy cat also has a graceful walk. Oddly, cats share their particular style of walking — taking a step with both their left feet and then the next step with both their right feet — with camels and giraffes, who do not share in the repute of style and elegance. It is assumed that such a gait increases the ability to be agile while silent. However, cats suffering from motor skill coordination problems may walk differently, as will cats with injured spinal columns or other painful conditions.
A final sign of healthy cat behavior is no tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors, such as head shaking or constant scratching. Similarly, healthy cats neither groom excessively nor completely forgoes self-cleaning. If your cat engages in any repetitive or compulsive behavior, be sure to have him or her examined by a veterinarian, as it could be a sign of a serious health complication. Likewise, if your cat’s behavior and movement do not fit with the healthy descriptions above, discuss with the veterinarian. There may just be an underlying health condition that you do not know about.
Healthy cats have amazing homing instincts that enable them to find their way back home or to their beloved owners.
First, they have the ability to return home after being removed from it — even when removed and put into a maze to confuse them. Some scientists believe cats have incredible sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field as if they have some sort of internal compass that helps them find their way back home. A study tested this claim by attaching magnets to cats, and their homing abilities were impaired.
Cats also have what Dr. Joseph Rhine of Duke University refers to as a “psi trailing” ability — that is they are able to find their owners when they become separated. A famous example is when a veterinarian moved from New York to California and left his cat behind. The cat managed to track him down, find his new home, and plop himself into his old favorite chair. The veterinarian took X-rays to be certain, as his car had an abnormality you could only see on X-ray film, and ssure enough, it was his cat. The only theory out there to explain this ability, suggests that the cats that do this have formed an intense bond at the cellular level with their owners that allows them to sense where their humans are.