Cats Ears






They are small. They are pointy. They are the cats ears.


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Glancing into the guestroom, I spy two black triangular tips, barely visible over the top of the pillow.

Slowly I walk forward, my footsteps made silent by the thick carpet.

With barely a whisper of movement, I stealthily approach the bed when, suddenly, without warning...

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Up pops my own little
jack-in-the-box-kitty...Britches!

Her soft chirp of a meow tells me I'm welcome...and that my approach was no surprise. Clearly, my own "cat- like" stalking is no match for this cat's ears.



Though the ears of most cats may be small physically, don't let that fool you...a normal, healthy cat's hearing is excellent, allowing the cat's ears to be able to detect a wide range of frequencies.




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How Much Do You Know?

Let's compare the hearing level of the cat's ears to that of other species:

Who, from the list below, hears the highest pitched sounds?

Match the correct hearing range with the correct species:



Cat Hearing vs. Man and Dog
Subject Hearing Range
MAN
55 Hz up to 79 kHz
CANINE
31 Hz up to 20 kHz
FELINE
67 Hz up to 45 kHz


While you think about your answer, here are a few tidbits about the hearing range and how it's measured:
  • The phrase "hearing range" usually refers to the normal audible range of frequencies for humans or animals.

  • The abbreviation Hz stands for hertz while kHz stands for kilohertz. Both being a unit of measurement used to measure the frequency of sound waves.

  • One hertz is equal to 1 cycle / sound wave per second.

  • One kilohertz is equal to 1,000 cycles / sound waves per second.




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Ok, once you know the answer and think about it...the results are really no surprise.

Everyone knows that cats rule...dogs drool...and man is left saying "I didn't hear anything"!


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So, the correct hearing range for each species listed above is:

  • FELINE: 79 kHz or a range of about 10.5 octaves

  • CANINE: 45 kHz or a range of about 9 octaves

  • MAN : 20 kHz


  • Now keep in mind, the above hearing range can vary between individual people or animals due to health, injury or the normal decline that comes with age.







Want to see more comparisons?


animal_hearing_range_chart

*Chart courtesy of www.watchingtheworldwakeup.blogspot.com




Why Excellent Cat Hearing Is Important

If left to their own devices for survival, meaning, not being cared for by a human, what would be one of the most important skills a cat would need?

cats_ears
...To be a successful hunter.

In the "untamed" feline world, to survive, one must eat...and to eat, a cat must be able to catch prey.

It seems impossible to say that out of all the cat body parts one is more important than the other...but, I do feel confident in saying that the cat's ears, with their incredible hearing range, surely secures them a spot near the top...and I don't just mean the "top" of their heads!




How Does A Cat Use It's Hearing?

  • To hear the high pitched, near ultrasonic sounds, made by the cats primary prey: rodents.





  • (We hear the background noise of the people..the cats ears hear so much more!)


    grass_and_leaves



  • To hear the faint rustle of grass and leaves.










  • To detect the faint scratching and chewing of prey.








  • To hear the fluttering of insect and hummingbird wings.






  • bird_in_tree chattering_squirrel

  • The enhanced sensitivity of the cat's ears allows it to not only hear but distinguish between two similar sounds...

    Located near one another...

    From the distance of several yards away...

    Very helpful for successful hunting.



  • pouring_cat_food






  • And, for the lucky housecat...to hear when fresh cat food is being served!













The Cat's Ears...Outside In


cat_ear_drawing
*Illustration courtesy of www.drsfostersmith.com


Take a moment to look at the above drawing...do you see the shape? This cone-shape structure of the cat's ear is often referred to as the ear flap, though the formal name of this cat body part is the pinna.

The ear flap allows the outer ear to collect and funnel sounds into the ear canal.

Each ear of the cat has thirty muscles (compared to humans who have only six muscles in each ear.) These muscles allow the cats ears to be mobile...actually, very mobile, for each ear flap can rotate independently 180 degrees.

Watch how this cat uses its ears to respond to surrounding sounds:



Why This Is Important

The hunter cat can remain still and undetected...Yet by moving it's ears, the cat can collect and amplify sounds from all around to determine if the sound is friend or foe...danger or dinner.

Try This

Since sometimes the simple act of observation can be the best teacher and give us the greatest amount of understanding, try this the next time you see your cat relaxed in that "eyes half closed" state: Make a slight sound...maybe lightly scratch a nearby surface or make a soft squeaking sound...

Now, watch your cat's ears. What do they do?

  • Do they appear to "scan" for the sound by rotating, sensing the direction of the noise?

  • Does the cat remain relaxed, keeping its eyes closed or, at the least, staying in it's resting position...relying on it's ears to do the work?

  • Or does it lift it's head and scan for the noise with its ears and eyes?


From this little experiment, it should now be easier to understand that the incredible sensitivity of the cat's ears means that the cat is not solely dependent on "seeing" prey to be a successful hunter.

The cats hearing enables it to zero in on sound, locate its "target" with great accuracy and ultimately, launch a swift attack. In fact, often the first time prey is actually seen by the cat is after it finds itself under the cats paw.




cat_question

Just For Fun...Here's Something To Think About:

Feline ESP!


Have you ever heard of people who truly believe their cats have ESP? You know...
Extra Sensory Perception. The belief is usually based on events surrounding a cats behavior.

For instance, Kitty seems to:

  • Know when its owner is coming home...and for example, waits by the door, in the window, on the porch or in the driveway.

  • Shows up in the kitchen right when its owner is preparing for "feline feeding".

cat_looking_out_window


Though there is much discussion and debate among researchers and analysts, Britches and I have a tendency to believe that much of this behavior can be attributed to the cats ears and their hearing sensitivity.


Just as human family members become accustomed to familiar, everyday sounds of the home and surroundings, so do our cats.


For example, consider how each of our vehicles have unique and distinctive sounds...With their extraordinary hearing range, once familiar with the family car, it is conceivable that our cats can hear us coming before we get there!




cat_by_bowl
As for our cats "reading our minds" and knowing when it's time to be fed...I'm reminded of a good friend of our family.

Every time a champagne cork was "popped"...it seemed that Babs would come running!

Well, substitute a cat and its cat food, and you'll see the similarities. Before you can say "here kitty kitty", with only the "clink" of the pull tab on the canned cat food or the "rattle" of the kibble being poured into the bowl, you'll find your fuzzy feline at your feet wondering impatiently asking "what's taking you so long?"!






A Final Thought


With the ability to hear practically "everything"...thank goodness our feline friends have the ability to "selectively" process and filter what they hear...otherwise, it could be pretty overwhelming.

In fact, within households around the world, this is proven with those times when we call for our cats to come...and they just stay put!


Ah, good old selective hearing at work!





The Cat's Ears...Better Than A Mood Ring!

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Visit our Cat Behavior section to learn the
"Cat Talk" of your cat's ears through
"ear body language".










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