Cats & Their Senses

Cats are incredibly alert to what goes on around them, whether it’s hearing noises imperceptible to our human ears, or turning their cute little noses up at even the slightest changes to their food or water. But have you ever wondered why? We’re taking a closer look at cats’ senses to find out more. 

 

Smell

Cats have an impressive sense of smell and rely on this to understand the world around them, and to communicate. They have more odour-sensitive cells than us, making their sense of smell many times stronger than that of humans. 

As well as their noses, they have an additional sensory organ in the roof of their mouth which allows their tongue to pass on scents to their brain. It’s called the Jacobson’s organ, or vomeronasal organ, and it’s the reason why cats do the “mouth thing”. That weird face they pull after sniffing something? That’s them analysing the scents they’ve just picked up—they just happen to look pretty funny while doing it. 

 

Taste

A cat’s sense of taste diminishes as they age. While kittens are born with a good sense of taste, this slowly disappears over time—which might explain why your adult cats can be fussy about their food. 

While there are taste buds on the sides, tip, and base of the tongue, none are sensitive to sweet-tasting foods. Scientists think this may explain why cats prefer a high-protein, carnivorous diet, rather than plants. Plants are an appealing food source to many animals (and humans!) because of their sugar content, but as cats cannot taste sweetness, they have stayed with the meaty diet that their taste receptors can appreciate.   

 

Hearing

Cats’ ears have muscles that let them move towards sounds, so you might notice them moving towards a sound’s source. When it comes to lower frequency sounds, cats and humans have quite similar hearing abilities, but a cat’s ears allow it to perceive much higher frequency sounds than we could ever hear. Just like us, though, their ability to hear higher frequency sounds diminishes as they age.

 

Touch

Cats usually have 24 whiskers around their nose, with 12 on each side. Typically they’ll have a few whiskers above each eye, on their cheeks, under their chin, and around their wrists. These whiskers are all highly sensitive and can detect even the slightest of movement. They help with navigation, and when travelling around in the dark, cats use them to work out where to walk. 

 

Sight

Cats see differently to humans, with less focus on colour and much better night vision and peripheral vision—perfect for hunting prey in low light. You can find out more in our post on how cats see

And what about a sixth sense?

Many people throughout history have believed cats to have some kind of extra-sensory perception, or sixth sense. In reality, this is probably because cats’ senses are so much better than ours. Cats can pick up on sounds or vibrations that completely pass us by, or can sense them long before we do. They also pick up on signals that tell them other animals are in the area, something to which we’re completely oblivious. All of these can result in cats reacting to seemingly nothing, but actually, they might just be a lot smarter than we are…

23/05/2022 by NatuTeam

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