Special Senses

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The Cat's Hearing

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Lecture Notes

When we consider the cat's hearing, again we think about the role as a hunter. Cats use their sense of hearing to locate and capture prey. They can detect sounds within a very wide range and at extremely high frequencies. The cat's ability to detect sounds of high frequency is an adaptive mechanism that aids in capturing small prey, like rodents, because they use high frequency sounds to communicate.

Some structural adaptations to the ear include a large pinna (or outer ear flap) that aids in collecting and locating sound waves. Small muscles that control the pinna enable a cat's ears to rotate up to 180 degrees.

Another fascinating aspect of cat hearing is that cats are able to discriminate between two sources of sounds very efficiently. For example, at a distance of three feet, cats can distinguish between sounds coming from two sources that are only three inches apart. This is a very important ability for a predator that tracks down the movement of prey in dim light.