uestion: Why do people add salt when boiling water? (Asked by a curious cook.)

Reply: Maybe because Momma did? No, a practical reason is for seasoning. Adding salt flavors the water, which is absorbed by the food, like rice and pasta.

It is sometimes thought that adding salt increases the boiling point of the water so that rice or pasta will cook faster at a higher temperature. However, the couple of shakes or pinch of salt normally added won’t help much. It takes seven tablespoons of salt to raise the boiling point of an average pot of water by 2 degrees (Fahrenheit). Not too hot, but pretty salty.

Question: There’s a saying, “If cats lick themselves, fair weather.” Is there any truth to that? (Asked by a curious, anonymous cat fancier via cyberspace.)

Reply: I never kept tabs on our cat, who slept most of the time, fair or foul weather. However, there is a possible explanation for fair weather licking.

In fair weather, the humidity may be low. If cats rub up against things, they can pick up an electrostatic charge (much like we do when shuffling across a carpet). This may be uncomfortable and licking makes the fur moist and conductive so the charge “leaks off” (so to not cause a spark like we get when charged and touch a metal doorknob.)

Some cats don’t like to be petted during cool, dry weather when the humidity is low and sufficient charge may build up and cause irritating sparking (that can sometimes be heard).

That was a short one, so let’s finish up with some cat trivia for the ailurophiles. (Ailurophilia is the love of cats.)

There are more than 500 million domestic cats in the world, with 33 different breeds.

More than 35,000 kittens are born in the United States each year. (Please spay and neuter your cat if you don’t want more!)

21% of U.S. households have at least one cat.

A cat’s heart beats faster than a human heart, at 110 to 140 beats per minute. (A normal human heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.)

Cats have 30 teeth. Kittens have baby teeth which are replaced by permanent fangs at about 7 months of age.

The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 15 years, while the average age for an outdoor cat is only 3 to 5 years.

Equivalent human years: if your cat is 3 years old, your cat is 21 in human years. If your cat is 8, your cat is 40 in human years. If your cat is 14, your cat is 70 in human years.

And that’s the cat’s meow!

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” — Ambrose Bierce

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.