Just as our ears serve more purpose than just looking odd beside our faces, so too are cats’ ears there for more than just adding shape to their heads. In fact, a cat’s ears do even more than just help it hear. The trusty sources at Animal Planet have once again delivered some really fascinating and even surprising facts about cats’ ears and their sense of hearing.
Sense of Hearing
A cat’s external ear, or pinna, as well as the amount and range of sound that that organ is capable of sensing are both truly remarkable. When compared to the hearing of a human, for instance, a cat has a much wider range. Though we both reach about the same depth of sound on the low end of the scale, a cat can actually hear sounds that are 1.6 octaves higher than a human, which is, in fact, even higher than a dog is capable of hearing.
Cats are also able to use their amazing ears to locate the source of a sound, which they are able to do with incredible accuracy. Their ears allow them to hear sounds at a distance of roughly four to five times that of what humans can hear. And, because their external ear can rotate a complete 180°, they are able to actually pinpoint the exact location, within inches, of any sound within a three foot range, and in only a matter of six one-hundredths of a second! Pretty astonishing, huh?
How Cats Always Land On Their Feet
Have you ever wondered about how cats always manage to land directly on their paws, no matter which direction they’re facing as they fall? Well, it’s a matter of a component in their inner ear called the vestibular apparatus. It is basically a little area deep in the cat’s ear that has many tiny hairs and is filled with minuscule crystals suspended in a liquid. So, when a cat is upended by a fall or a jump, this little sensory preceptor informs the cat’s brain which direction is up, similar to the controls that indicate to a pilot the level of a plane’s wings. Your cat’s tail is also incorporated in this miraculous maneuver by acting as a counter balance to level out your airborne kitty.
Deafness And Hearing Loss
Unfortunately, your cat is susceptible to hearing loss and even deafness, just as people are. Such hearing loss can occur as a result of infection or illness, outer or inner ear trauma or just your cat getting older. Specifically high frequency sounds are lost with increased age, and this can reduce your cat’s ability to hunt effectively or hear threatening noises that might indicate danger.
In house cats, though, hearing loss and deafness are usually carried along genetically. No specific breeds have been more strongly linked to hearing loss in cats, yet there is a curious correlation between the gene that results in white hair and mutations in the eardrum and subsequent hearing of cats. Most perplexingly of all is that white cats with blue eyes seem most susceptible to deafness, and when a white cat has one blue eye and one eye of another color, the deafness occurs only in the ear on the side of the blue eye.
So, perhaps it should be cats, and not dogs, that are known for their famous sense of hearing, along with their remarkable inner ear mechanisms.