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Cats vs. Humans

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Cats vs. Humans

Postby robertkernodle » Thu Jun 14, 2007 12:00 am

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Oh we humans are such slothful things! But wait,... I have a relevant biological point to this complaint.

Cats wake up from deep sleep, ... from a totally cold start, ... defying gravity seemingly by jumping three times their body height in a split second.

Humans wake up,... groggy,... begging for coffee,... slow,... barely able to function sometimes. They need to warm up before doing a run,... ease into it, ... take it slow to start,... train a lifetime to jump a little over thier body height (if they are "gifted" by human standards).

What grave differences in comparitive biology of these two beasts makes this possible?

How are cat muscles CHARGED from the get go, and human muscles NOT? How are cats able to go from a cold start, and humans not? How exactly are muscles so different from one species to the other?

What's the structure? The chemistry?

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Postby Khaiy » Thu Jun 14, 2007 6:17 pm

I don't know if it's such a big physical difference as what you're describing, but here are some observations that I've made:

My cat is often very sluggish right after waking up, walking slowly and not particularly alert. If he is startled awake he is very quickly alert, but then again so am I (like last night, when my cat woke me at 3:30 a.m. by jumping on me).

Also, a cat is far more likely to be well rested than a human. A person sleeps maybe 6-9 hours each day (less if they're a college student), while cats frequently nap and spend much more of their time resting. An underslept person performs much more poorly than a well rested one.

As for physical abilities, like jumping, I can't tell you a whole lot of specific stuff. Cats have evolved to be predators of small, quick moving prey, and as such need to have very fast movements and be able to perform impressive physical feats. As omnivores, humans have more options. We never had to be especially fast to eat; fruit tends not to run off from the tree too fast.

Cats may have proportionally more powerful muscles as a result of these pressures, or they may just be arranged in a more advantageous way (the bend of their back legs is opposite to that of humans, but allows for a better 'spring' when jumping).
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Postby robertkernodle » Fri Jun 15, 2007 6:18 pm

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I watch my sister's cats sometimes, and I'm always fascinated by very noticeably different muscular abilities. They wake up, walk quietly to a bookcase, and without any warm-up at all, they spring twice thier height. It's as though their muscles are instantaneously charged, whereas human muscles seem to require a systematic warm up to do anywhere near such an athletic feat in proportion to their genetic potential.

I'm not talking about mere strength in proportion to size. I'm talking about muscles being seemingly instantaneously ready. How is this chemically possible? What are the mechanisms? Microscopic structural differences? Microscopic physiological differences?

Even tigers - the BIG cats - seem to be like this too. Even though they are BIG, they too can spring unbelievably high. I seem to remember reading somewhere that while a man was trying to find a safe spot from a tiger thirty feet up in a tree, the tiger still managed to spring up that high and nip the guy's foot. "You can run but you can't hide." :)

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Postby kotoreru » Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:20 pm

I imagine the difference between us and felines isnt so much as cardiac and skeletal muscles, for example.

With cats I'd say much of it is indeed down to more efficient setups, but perhaps their tendons, cartilage etc. is different in structure to allow the spring action of a jump.

I imagine cats have disproportionately more 'fast-twitch' muscle than 'slow twitch' muscles in their legs, though I'm out of my depth here as I havent touched much on physiology in a while.

Behaviourally, cats stretch way more than we would - essentially always doing warm ups and warm downs just by grooming themselves or sitting around.

Humans can, of course, spring into action from he word go, but only when absolutely neccessary and we pay the price for not doing it regularly. I am personally sitting here unable to lift my legs from the 10 minutes of football I played 2 days ago.

How often have you seen a cat do more than 10 seconds of running or continuous jumping?
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Postby robertkernodle » Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:18 pm

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That's what's so amazing: Cats' rhythm of movement is like start/stop, rest/go, asleep/awake... but seemingly with zero gradient sometimes, whereas humans have this longer gradient to activate and to chill out.

Humans can run a marathon, then we stiffin up, cool down, ... just seems like something systemically very different going on.

Cats are like toggle switches. Humans are like water freezing and unfreezing.

And yeah,... I would guess that the fast twitch to slow twitch ratio is higher in cats than humans, ... but not only that but some sort of structural difference at the microscopic level of the actual cells. My physiology is very rusty too, and my comparitive anatomy is zilch, ... that's why I raised the question here in "zoology", hoping there might be some cat experts here.

Just purely curious,

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Postby kotoreru » Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:41 pm

Any stuff on cat anatomy specifically would be in very old books...sort of pre 1940s. I've actually seen one in my institution's library, but cant recall anything about it. No doubt much of the work is just descriptive anyway.
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Postby ninetails » Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:37 pm

I suppose Cats and Humans are equally talented. Humans wwould have been very agile, cautious and always at the ready to jump out of their sleep. They would have been able to jump longer distances, even jump moderate heights and have a lot of stamina.

Remember we were the best hunters around a long way back and no cat or dog family could dethrone from our position as top predator of the wild. Only now we face this situation where we don't have to be like that anymore. Even then some people do exhibit extraordinary feats like in the Olympics etc. The records we see being set nowadays would have been the characteristics of a dominant male or female in a hunting pack.I bet even cats would loose much of their hunter characteristics with domestication for generations. Which should explain the laziness seen is some cats.

However there is one thing that Humans envy cats for....Cats look very cute indeed.
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Postby mith » Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:58 pm

I prefer a woman over a cat anyday ;)
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Postby victor » Sun Jul 08, 2007 3:57 am

when I read the questions, I remembered about my professor's words. It's related with proximate and ultimate factors :lol:
we can see the cat's behavior like that because it's suited with their physiological adaptation to the environment (proximate factor). And also, this kind of adaptation may lead to the successful evolutionary adaptation overtime (ultimate factor).
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Postby robertkernodle » Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:45 pm

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Seriously, ninetails, ... I doubt that there has ever been any similarity between cat agility/power and human agility/power!

There seem to be distinct physiological, micro-cellular structural differences, and I'd like somebody to explain exactly what these are.

Even the laziest domestic cats can wake up and jump three times their body height. The most athletically gifted, meticulously trained Olympic athlete, on the other hand, can hardly jump a bit more than his own height - and that's on a good day!

Thanks for insight, though.

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Postby victor » Sat Jul 14, 2007 4:55 am

well, for this question we cann see that there's a big structure differences between humans and cats. Cats are quadripedal while humans are bipedal. This structure, I think, gives cats benefits especially in running and jumping. Second, if you see the leg muscles, you can see the ration between the size of those muscles compared to the body. And when you compare it with human, I can say that cats have a bigger ratio.
And the third is instict. Cats do the jumping for a survival reason (like looking for some foods or else) while human (like an athlete) do the jumping for another reason. This leads to the tendency of maximum muscle contraction, where for the survival reason usually lead to a more powerful muscle contraction (just imagine like you jump like usual compared to a jump which is done to avoid a hungry lion :wink: )
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Postby mazatael » Sun Aug 12, 2007 7:35 pm

I think a behavioural argument is a better fit. A human usually wakes up from an alarm of some kind, not following the nightly sleep rhythm very much. If you develop a natural rhythm where you go to bed at the same time every night and sleep for atleast eight hours then you'll wake up pretty much exactly the same time every morning. If you wake a cat up in the middle of the day (when it sleeps) then it will most likely look kind of groggy, just like a human would, being waked up by an alarm. The coffee thing is just a modern invention, and so is all the sugar and fast carbon hydrates we eat. That all messes with our sleep pattern.

I've examined my own sleeping patterns pretty closely since I used to have a totally inexcistant diurnal rhythm when I was younger (computers tend to do that to you). As a result I was always tired. Now in more recent years I've developed a balanced rythm which means that from the time the alarm goes off (most of the time I'm already awake waiting for it to go off) I'm up in a split second ready to tackle the new day. If I, however, go to sleep a few hours too late, then everything is notably slower in the morning.

From an evolutionary perspective we are ape relatives and we were probably often hunted by large carnivores. This should mean that we need to wake up quick if we sense danger. Granted, house cats (which I assume you're refering to) aren't top predators, but should have less to worry about. Most of my work concern the wild cats species, so I can't give you a good reference to house cats, though. We should be more vigilant than cats.
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