'Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?'

The easiest and best way to prevent hairballs is to brush your cat frequently. The more dead hair you pull out on your brush, the less she will have to swallow when she grooms. Regular brushing is good for your cat and good for your furniture and rugs.

For cats who seem to have a chronic problem with hairballs, additional fiber in the diet may help. Special hairball-busting diets can be recommended your veterinarian; milder cases may be resolved by adding a little canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling mix) to a cat's wet food.

One caution: While over-the-counter hairball remedies are available, don't let your cat become so dependent on them that you're always giving her hairball remedy. And definitely work with your veterinarian while using them. Overuse of hairball remedies can inhibit your cat's ability to absorb some essential vitamins. That's why it's also a good idea not to give them to your cat just before or after she eats.

The enduring feline mystery we can't help you with: Why do cats always hurl hairballs either on the most expensive fabric or the most well-traveled hallways? The best we can say: If your tummy hurt, wouldn't you want sympathy from a loved one? It also makes for great drama. So go brush your drama queen.

Q. How many bones does a cat have?

A. It depends on the cat. Or, more precisely, on her tail and feet.

A long-tailed Siamese will have more vertebrae than a Manx with no tail, or a Japanese Bobtail with just part of a tail. And a cat with extra toes -- they're called polydactyl -- have extra bones too.

The range is usually between 230 and 250, with the average cat counting about 244 bones -- if cats could or cared to count.

Any way you count it, the average cat has about 30 more bones than we do -- and think about how much bigger we are than cats. No wonder they can lick behind their shoulders and sleep in a perfect circle!

Counting toes in Key West

Any number of toes over the norm (usually an extra one or two, but occasionally as many as three or four) makes a cat polydactyl, which means "many fingers." These cats are also sometimes known as Hemingway cats.

That's because the famous writer Ernest Hemingway became a fan of these cats after being given a six-toed cat by a ship's captain. Legend has it that sailors once valued polydactyl cats for their extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities, and they became common on sailing ships.

Polydactylism is a dominant genetic trait, which means just one polydactyl parent is enough to make a litter of polydactyl kittens.

Descendants of Hemingway's cats remain popular tourist attractions at the author's former residence (now a museum or, dare we say, cat house) in Key West, Florida. About 60 cats share the grounds, and about half are polydactyl.

Q. Why do cats' eyes shine at night?

A. Cats' eyes are more sensitive to light than ours are, which means they can see a lot better in low light than we can -- which is what you'd expect from a nocturnal animal. Even cats can't see in total darkness, but they can get pretty close. And one of the most visible (pardon the pun) ways they've adapted to low-light conditions is revealed in those glow-in-the-dark eyes.

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