Thursday 31 January 2008

Anatomy of a cat

I have good hearing. The world sounds noisy to me. I like some quiet. Think how noisy the world is to a cat.

The anatomy of a cat is specialized for hunting. Her senses are special. Her hearing is remarkable. Often we don't seem to appreciate this and I put myself in the category of people who sometimes forget how sensitive to sound cats are.

Cat senses are attuned to efficient hunting. We have a similar hearing ability to cats at the lower end of the scale. However cats hear higher pitched sounds that we can't. They can hear sounds 1.6 octaves above the highest pitch that we can hear. One octave higher as I understand it is a frequency twice as high as the octave lower in the scale (if I'm wrong please tell me).

Cats can also distinguish the pitch of a sound better than us. They are also able to locate the source of sound far better than us. This is probably because of the directional nature of the ear flap (the bit of the ear we can see called "Pinnae"). Apparently cats can judge the source of a sound with an accuracy of 3 inches from one yard away.

32 individual muscles in each ear allows your cat to alter the shape of her Pinnae. Each ear can be moved independently. Often we see cats, for example, eating with their ears pointed backwards listening for danger.

The ear flaps, in fact, play a role in confrontation. You can see this in the Serval. There is a white blob on the ear flap which is noticeable to other animals when the ear is turned forwards.

I have noticed that my cat becomes a little anxious when for example I have had an argument with my partner (!). I think we should be aware of the fact that cats have extremely sensitive hearing and modify our behavior accordingly. We should take note of the anatomy of a cat.

Some ear flaps are very large. The Serval comes to mind. This cat, which is a wild cat but also a tamed wild cat (to become a domestic cat) has enormous ears allowing her to hear prey underground and to jump up and stun the prey when it surfaces. The anatomy of a cat is exaggerated for the Serval in respect of her ability to locate prey making very faint sounds.

Other domestic cats have been bred with very large ears for aesthetic reasons. Think of the Sphynx for example. Another is the Modern Siamese. I don't think breeders consider the effect that this has on sound reception for the cat. The consideration is only on the level of appearance.

A cat with a minor hearing problem and which is bred nonetheless for her interesting looks is the Scottish Fold. Her ears are like a dogs, flopped over the ear canal. This is due to a genetic mutation. Another is the American Curl, with ears that curl back. I wonder if we should breed cats with a defect albeit minor just because she looks interesting?

From Anatomy of a Cat to Serval Cat

copyright and by qmnonic

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