The Amazing Sensitive World of Cats

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Cats can also detect the tiniest variances in sound, distinguishing differences of as little as one-tenth of a tone, which helps them identify the type and size of the prey emitting the noise. It also helps them distinguish the sound of your opening a can of soda from the sound of your opening a can of cat food.

Observe your cat as he listens to something. His ears move back and forth, functioning like mini-satellite dishes as they rotate to pick up the sounds and funnel them to the brain. The external ear, or pinna, contains more than 12 muscles, which allows the ear to turn, rotating up to 180 degrees to locate and identify even the faintest of squeaks, peeps or rustling noises.

Touch of Cats

You may have noticed as you pet your cat, he turns into an "id," demonstrating nursing behavior like drooling and treading – behaviors normally performed by kittens to stimulate milk flow. These are pleasurable memories from kitten-hood. When you stroke your cat, he, in fact, regresses to behave as he did when his mother groomed him. It was her touch that was the primal source of affection, and your cat substitutes you for his mother when he licks or kneads you.

Cats can feel their way around because of their highly developed sense of touch. Their skin is covered with highly sensitive "touch spots," which respond to the lightest pressure. Add to that their whiskers and eyebrows and the group of long hairs in the back of their forepaws that all transmit pressure sensations to the brain.

It's said that if a cat's whiskers touch a mouse in the dark, the cat reacts with the speed and precision of a mousetrap. The whiskers are the most sensitive of all and play a vital part in his survival. The special hairs, called the vibrissae, are set deep within the skin and provide the cat with sensory information about the slightest air movement around it – a valuable tool for a nocturnal hunter. Whiskers also help a cat navigate at night and help him determine whether he can fit through small spaces.

Taste of Tabby

You buy a new cat food, a "delicacy" as the ads say. You open the can (your cat comes running) and place it in his dish before him. He takes a quick whiff, turns and walks away – without even a taste.

In spite of their reputation for being finicky when it comes to food, cats have less ability to differentiate among tastes than humans; we have 9,000 taste buds, while cats have only 473. Your cat's taste buds are found in the mushroom-shaped papillae at the tip and sides of his tongue and in cup-shaped papillae in the back of his tongue. However, they make up for this deficiency with a superior sense of smell, and his most powerful response to food is through that sense of smell, not taste.

Your cat's taste will respond not only to flavor, but also to food's texture and temperature. Food that is not room temperature is a turnoff to most cat's and may be the result of his ancestor's natural predilection for eating recently killed prey.

Making Sense

Cats can hear sounds we can't hear, see things we can't see and smell and feel the world around us in ways that we could never grasp. These remarkable abilities are part of the evolutionary adaptation to the role of solitary nocturnal hunter. Overall, the predatory instinct plays a large role in your cat's behavior. Properly channeled through play and exercise, it makes for an interesting and exciting relationship with your pet.

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