There’s a great deal more to cats than just being fluffy bundles of love and joy (unless they’re waking us up at 7.00 am on a Saturday). A cat’s senses are very advanced, especially their sense of smell and hearing, and highly attuned to their environment. To put this into perspective, cats can hear sound frequencies that are about three times higher than a human can hear. Let’s explore this further.
Why Is a Cat’s Hearing So Advanced?
A cat’s ability to hear lower frequencies is the same as a human’s, and the limit is around 20 Hertz. However, a cat’s ability to hear higher frequencies is far more advanced—up to 64,000 Hertz whereas humans can only hear frequencies up to around 20,000 Hertz. This means that they’re able to hear high-pitched sounds that humans are unable to hear or can hardly hear.
One of the reasons cats can hear so well is the way their ears are built. A cat’s ears are made up of 32 muscles which allow for a better range of ear movement—all the better for picking up more sounds.
Cats can rotate their ears up to 180 degrees, and you may notice that they sometimes move their ears but not their heads. This means they’re busy catching some sound waves! Their pointy ears help to amplify the sound waves they pick up.
Moreover, cats can hear very small variations in sound—even those at just one-tenth of a pitch, which helps them identify what’s making the sound. In the wild, this helps cats identify what kind of animal might be producing the sound and whether it could be a potential meal (i.e. a mouse).
How Cats Use Their Sense of Hearing for Survival
With their powerful sense of hearing, cats can not only get information on the kind of animal that may be making the sound but also where the animal is located. Cats don’t even need to see their prey to be able to figure out where it is. In addition to seeking out prey, the cat’s acute sense of hearing helps them steer clear of potential predators.
For a mother cat with kittens, her keen sense of hearing helps her keep tabs on where they are and what they’re up to. If the kittens get into distress, the mother cat will know because she can hear even faint cries the kittens might produce.
A Cat’s Sense of Hearing Compared to Other Animals
A cat’s sense of hearing is not only more powerful than that of humans but is also far more sensitive than that of many other animals (with a few exceptions). See for yourself in the table below. In summary, a cat’s hearing range is broader than that of several animals including dogs, cows, and rabbits, but is less broad than that of others including bats and mice.
|Animal||Approximate Hearing Range (Hz)|
So, next time you see your cat’s ears twitching backward slightly, remember that those cute, pointy ears are serious hearing machines at work! To sum it up, the reason cats can hear so well is that they’re adapted for survival.
Even though domestic cats don’t need to hunt for their prey, the instincts of their wild descendants are still very much embedded. For street cats who aren’t lucky enough to have someone cater to their every whim, their hearing plays a big role in their survival.
Featured Image Credit: Graziegranata, Shutterstock