Hearing is a vital part of a cat’s hunting arsenal. A feline’s hearing is incredible and far superior. They can hear high frequency sounds better than either humans or canines. Humans can hear frequencies up to 20000 Hz, dogs to about 45000 Hz and cats to 64000 Hz. Cats can localise high frequency sound sources that are only three inches apart from three feet away! A cat up to three feet away from the origin of a sound can pinpoint its location to within a few inches in a mere six one-hundredths of a second. Cats also can hear sounds at great distances — four or five times farther away than humans.
The external ears (pinnae) of cats are very mobile and have 30 sets of muscles to move them. The cup-shaped pinnae capture sound waves and direct them to the middle and inner ear, where sound is detected. By turning their ears, as much as 180 degrees, towards sound, cats can rapidly pinpoint its location.
You can gauge the mood of your cat by looking at his ears. Your cat is relaxed when his ears are pointed forward and slightly outward. He is alert when his ears become fully erect with apertures pointing forward. When a cat is getting ready to protect himself or to attack during a fight, it will flatten his ears tightly against the head, protecting the
delicate tissue from the razor sharp claws of other cats. Your cat is being aggressive when the back of the ears are visible from the front, a posture halfway between alert and defensive.
Check the hearing
If you want to check your cat’s hearing, make startling sounds or hissing noises where your cat cannot see you or feel any vibrations. Deaf cats can learn to respond to vibrations and hand signals, but must be protected from outdoor dangers as they cannot hear. So, next time you open the cupboard where your kitty’s favourite food is stored, don’t be too surprised if you find your kitty right next to you in no time.
(Sudhersena is volunteer at the Blue Cross since 1998 and an avid animal lover, pet parent of nine cats and three dogs. She is associated with a number of animal welfare campaigns and programmes.)
Please e-mail your cat’s adorable pictures and stories at:
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Dogs & Pups, 406, Sant Nagar, East of Kailash, New Delhi-65.