What is cat fur made of?

The fur coat of a cat is made up of 68,250,000 (68.25 million) hair strands. The calculation is difficult to make accurately in my view. The calculation is 25,000 hair strands per square centimeter multiplied by 2,730 square centimeters total surface area of the cat. Each hair strand is made mostly of keratin. This is the same tough protein which makes up the skin’s outer layer which is called the epidermis and which is made of about 40 layers of dead, flattened cells.

A cat’s claws are also made of keratin as are the spines on the cat’s tongue.

The fur is therefore technically skin. Keratin is made of a fibrous structural protein called scleroproteins. α-Keratin is the type found in vertebrates – animals including cats who have vertebrae, interlocking bones forming the spine.

As fur is mostly made of protein its growth consumes a good proportion of the cat’s protein intake.

Cat hair strand showing the overlapping cuticle cells
Cat hair strand showing the overlapping cuticle cells. Image by PoC based on an image in the public domain.

Each strand of hair is made of overlapping cuticle cells. A hair strand feels smooth if it is stroked along its length from skin to tip but rougher when the direction of travel is in the opposite direction.

This is because the overlapping cells ‘point’ towards the skin. The hair grows in cycles dependent upon the amount of light which means more growth and shedding in the warmer and longer days. Increased light stimulates a spring moult. Indoor cats shed all year round under mainly artificial light. Fur grows for a longer time in longhaired cats than in shorthairs.

All cats shed hair. Some people search for non-shedding cats. I am afraid they will be disappointed.

SOURCES: myself, Wikipedia, The Encyclopedia of the Cat by Dr Bruce Fogle.


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Can cats travel on trains?

Yes, cats can travel on trains although I am referring to domestic cats. Size matters.

Cat in carrier on train in USA
Cat in carrier on train in USA. The conventional method. Photo in public domain.


In the US you can take a cat under 20 pounds in weight onto Amtrak trains for $26 (as at the date of this post). They must travel in a carrier and the trip should be for up to 7 hours. The second stipulation is interesting. It may prevent some people taking their cat on an Amtrak train. Or they’ll have to enquire. Amtrak is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation and government owned. It provides intercity rail travel in the US.

To return to size constraints, Amtrak’s upper limit of 20 pounds might preclude large Maine Coons and some first filial wildcat hybrids. It is worth noting. Although I wonder how carefully this restriction is controlled and monitored by Amtrak staff.

Cat on leash on train
Cat on leash on train. I am not sure which country. Photo: public domain.


In the UK cat travel in carriers is free (except for the Caledonian Sleeper to or from Scotland). You can take a maximum of two per passenger and you must not inconvenience other passengers.

The rest is common sense. You’ll need a decent cat carrier. Ideally it should be larger than normal for long journeys but not too large. Large enough to perhaps place some litter in a small container inside the carrier and some water and dry cat food if the journey is a long one.

It seems wise to cover the carrier with a breathable fabric to remove worrying distractions from your cat and sights that might upset her.

First hand accounts of cat train travel in the UK seem to be favourable with no issues reported except you might get some attention from children who want to see your cat or kitten.

The important thing is that your cat will be next to you throughout the journey so you can thoroughly supervise matters. But the carrier must not be on the seat as it may incur a charge.

Once again common sense says that the cat should not be removed from the carrier no matter how keen you are to do it. It might be a recipe for a disaster. And make sure the fastenings for the carrier door are in good workable condition. An escaped cat on a train might, as mentioned, be potentially catastrophic.

Cat out of carrier on train. I think this is continental Europe. Photo: public domain.

However, all the pictures of cats on trains I have seen are cats not in carriers! Perhaps taking a cat out of the carrier but on a leash is acceptable depending on the circumstances.

To read more please visit the National Rail website – click on this link.

To European mainland from UK

As trains go direct from the UK to mainland Europe, you’ll need to sort out pet passports if travelling abroad. Brexit has put an entirely different complexion on this aspect of pet travel. Defra provide the rules – click this to read them. I think they are quite complicated.

Other countries

I have chosen two typical developed countries and presume that others will have similar rules. It is likely that developing countries will have free pet travel and easy to comply with rules.


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Is it okay for cats to eat flies and spiders?

Yes, it is perfectly okay for domestic cats to eat flies, spiders and bugs of all kinds but see the caveat below. Wasps and bees are a problem because they can get stung. But it is completely natural for domestic cats to consider flies and spiders as prey.

Cat attacking a spider
Cat attacking a spider. Image (modified) in the public domain.

The insatiable curiosity and drive to hunt inevitably leads domestic cats to chase, kill and eat spiders and flies. It looks a bit gross but it’s natural. It should not cause any harm.

The snippet from a chart published in the book Wild Cats of the Words shows that insects are prey items for the ancestor to the domestic cat, the African-Asian wildcat.

Insects are prey items for the domestic cat
Insects are prey items for the domestic cat. And the wildcat ancestor, the N. African wildcat aka Afrian-Asian wildcat

In the semi-desert areas of Botswana studies of feces of the North African wildcat show that they often hunt and kill hunting spiders; a very large spider.

Although domestic cats are strict carnivores they are also adaptable and I am sure you have seen them eat bits of cereal and other human foods which are non-typical to their diet.

Some potential dangers

This is about common sense. If insects are killed with an insecticide and a cat subsequently eats the insect the cat will be ingesting poison in a small dose. Also some insects are poisonous. You just have to be alert to these possibilities. You can’t take a blank cheque approach and say all insects are okay as prey for the domestic cat. The vast majority are. One final point is the amount flies and spiders a cat eats. Rarely they may eat too many causing a stomach upset.

However in my experience domestic cats take very few flies and spiders. For a domestic cat it is a trifling passtime to catch and eat a spider. It doesn’t happen that often but it must depend on where you live.

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Man in makeup says that Cats the movie should have used real makeup artists

You’d have to be living on another planet to have avoided the scathing reviews of the new Cats movie. It is a rotten tomato. I have not seen it (except for the trailer which I liked) but I’d be surprised if it is as rotten as the reviewers say it is. The film reviewers have acted like a baying pack of African wild dogs surrounding an injured lion with one desire: the kill and eat.

Patrick Starrr as a cat from Cats the movie
Patrick Starrr as a cat from Cats the movie. Photo: his Instagram account. His brother Peter is the man on the left.

CGI (computer generated imagery) is how the Cats movie was made. It is heavily reliant on computer editing of the motion pictures.

Patrick Starrr, a YouTube vlogger (a person who makes money out of presenting themselves in videos) argues that the film would have worked better and it would have avoided being pelted with rotten tomatoes if the director had decided to use conventional makeup.

The way I read this is that Patrick Starrr dreamt up a reason why he should make a video about the Cats movie and put himself into heavy cats makeup and a false face. I don’t for a minute think that he actually believes that the movie would have been improved if real makeup had been used. It is an excuse to transform himself.

Secondly, like millions of others it took me a minute to decide if Patrick Starrr is a man or a woman because he looks like a woman without makeup but, no, he is a man. I had to clear that up.

I am a man in makeup.

Patrick Starrr as a Cats movie cat creation using conventional makeup and prosthetics. Photo: Video screenshot.

You have to admit he goes the whole hog and creates some arresting images, which is why I am writing about him and his transformation into a large and formidable cat.

The video below explains how it was done if you are interested.

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Lost cat returned to former home 20 miles away and waited 7 years for owner to come

Sheppey, UK: Seven years ago John and Jude Kinloch moved home from Gillingham to Sheppey, Kent, UK. After their move their cat, Tabs who was 12 at the time, disappeared. He was lost. It transpired that he had returned to his former home about 20 miles away.

Tabs and John on Christmas Day
Tabs and John on Christmas Day. A short reunion. Photo: Mrs Kinloch (presumed).

Tabs remained in the area of that home for seven hard years eking out survival from resources available to him. He was waiting for his human guardians to come home. This was his place.

Tabs was in very poor condition when at aged 19 he was spotted by a passerby lying on the street at the back of John and Jude Kinloch’s old home in Gillingham on Christmas Eve.

The lady called Kent’s Animal Lost and Found charity who scanned him for a microchip. They identified John and Jude Kinloch. Cat and owners were reunited.

The sad end to the tale is that Tabs was in such poor condition that a vet recommended that he be euthanised. They agreed and he died two days after they were reunited.

Throughout the seven years of separation Mr Kinloch had kept a photo of Tabs on his tablet computer screensaver. He had missed him. When they gave Tabs his first proper meal after seven year he sicked it up.

Comment: if you move home and the distance is within about 20 miles it certainly pays to check your old place if your cat has gone missing soon after you have moved. Try it first as it might save you a lot of heartache and time.

Cats are welded to their home territory. They really are connected. They can disconnect and form a new home range but it takes time. There is a compulsion to return to the place they know and feel settled in. This is the hard-wired wildcat heritage. People say you should keep your cat inside for a few weeks after moving. This may work in that it may break the desire to return but it may not.

Also cats are good navigators. There are some remarkable stories. Click this for one theory on how they do it.

Note: I have plugged some holes with reasonable guesses as the reporting of this by Kent Online was skimpy. If there is something incorrect please tell me in a comment and I’ll correct it.


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Elderly woman wants her beloved cat back because new owner is in breach of contract

Syracuse, NY: An elderly woman, Carol Money, felt that she had to give up her beloved Norwegian Forest Cat, Lacie, because at 72 years of age Carol was no longer able to lift her cat onto her bed to allow her to sleep with her at night, an activity her cat loved.

Cat being petted.
This is not Lacie because Money would not provide a photo. This photo is just to illustrate the page and is from Hill’s Nutrition.

She relinquished her cat to Danette Ramano under what appears to be a carefully drafted contract. We don’t know its exact terms but it appears that it included a promise that Romano would allow Lacie to sleep in her bed. Either it was in the contract or Romano made the promise verbally in parallel with the contract.

Money did some follow up visits to Roman’s home to see how things were going. They were not going well. Romano said that Lacie would not climb the stairs to come to the bedroom. However when asked Mr Romano said they did not allow Lacie to sleep in the bed.

The matter became heated as Money pressed the Romanos to carry out the terms of the contract. Eventually the Romanos sent a lawyer’s letter to Money requesting that she cease and desist harassing them.

Money countered by suing the Romanos for breach of contract and the return of Lacie. Money declined The Oregonian’s request for a photo of Lacie.


This is strange from a number of perspectives and perhaps we don’t have the full story. Firstly it implies that Lacie needed to be carried onto the bed. All domestic cats except for infirm elderly ones are well able to jump onto a bed. That point needs clearing up.

Money adopted Lacie when she was a kitten. They were very close. In retrospect it was a bad idea to give her up as the bond was too strong. The better idea would have been to find a way around the barriers preventing Lacie sleeping in Money’s bed at night. On the facts a better solution would have been to have a bed without legs. One of the Japanese style beds or a Futon style bed. Problem solved if that was the problem but I don’t think it was the entire problem. Such a bed may have been unusable by Money for instance.

It seems that Romano is in breach of contract because Money would have been adamant that Lacie be allowed to sleep in and on the bed. This had been refused. If the contract had provisions for the return of Lacie if things went wrong, the outcome of this litigation is that Lacie should be returned. It depends on the exact wording of the contract and whether the Romanos are in breach which seems likely as Money has received the advice of a good lawyer.

In thinking of Lacie, my guess is that she is unhappy in her new home. I can sense it. The root cause is that when you raise a cat from kitten hood i.e. under or around 10 weeks of age, there can be imprinting or at least a real bond in which the cat is strongly connected to her human guardian as a surrogate mother. The bond should be protected unless it is absolutely impossible to maintain it. In retrospect an alternative solution should have been found but the good news is that they have a contract. Let’s hope it is a good one.

Source of story: The Oregonian.


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Picture of firefighters giving oxygen to cat rescued from house fire is a classic

This is another classic cat rescue photograph from the public services sector, this time from the firefighters of Longview, Washington, USA. Longview is on the banks of the Columbia River which is the border between the states of Oregon and Washington. This is why the story has been reported in The Oregonian online.

Classi picture of firefighters administering oxygen to cat rescued from house fire
Classic picture of firefighters administering oxygen to cat rescued from house fire. Photo: Longview Police and Fire in Washington state, USA.

The picture is by the Longview Police and Fire Department. Technically the photograph is excellent. The composition is great as is the exposure and framing. You have to be impressed by the camera! Modern cameras built into smartphones are fabulous.

But I being unkind because the photographer did a really nice job too. It is probably the best photo of a cat rescued fromm a fire that I have seen.

It was a kitchen blaze and four cats were saved. The firefighters had to hunt for the four cats while the dogs trotted out of the house. All four cats were badly injured by smoke inhalation. They were ‘aggressively resuscitated’ with oxygen.

The cats were handed to animal control for further treatment. They are expected to survive. Let’s hope they all make full recoveries.

Whereas dogs get out of fire situations, cats often hide in the burning home and are then are forced to inhale dense fumes which kills them.

I wonder if something can be done about this to save future lives. Domestic cats often die in house fires. Their owners often get out safely.

Some firefighting departments in the US have oxygen resuscitation equipment designed and engineered for cats and dogs to enhance the survival rates. To me it looks like Longview Fire Department have these customised resuscitation masks.


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Picture of cat stuck in car engine compartment is a classic

This cat picture is by the Animal Services Division of the City of Rancho Cordova in California. It is a classic because domestic cats stuck in engine compartments (the place where the engine in housed) are commonplace in winter. I have seen many pictures of cats stuck in this warm area of a vehicle and this is the best one, to date, that I have seen, which is why I have taken the time to publish it here.

Picture of a cat stuck in the engine compartment of a car is a classic. Photo: Animal Services at Rancho Cordova, Calif., USA.

This ginger tabby cat, named Oliver, had crawled into the engine in an area of Sacramento called Pocket and Greenhaven and ended up at Rancho Cordova about 20 miles away. The rescuers knew this because Oliver was microchipped and his chip was up to date.

Oliver had squeezed himself into his neighbour’s car. His neighbour had then driven the 23 minute drive to Rancho Cordova (or 32 mins depending on the route). This is provided he went direct from his home to his destination.

Oliver luckily survived without being burned by the engine or injured by the cooling fan.

Animal Services had help from Costco Tire and Lee’s Automative to release Oliver. They had to remove some engine parts! This is quite normal. But it always makes me think why did they have to remove bits of the engine when a cat got into that space? Can’t they just remove him via the same route he used to get in? It is not that simple, obviously.

In all the reports of cats trapped in engine compartments I have never seen anything but exemplary human behaviour in rescuing the cat. They are awesome. Such tenderness and helpfulness. It is not always like that.

The moral is to always check under the trunk (bonnet in the UK) before setting off in winter but who does that? It is hard to remember and people are in general too wrapped up in their personal issues to think of cats.


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