Cats hate loud noises. This is because their hearing is highly sensitive – much more sensitive than that of humans and even that of dogs, which are widely known to have good or even excellent hearing. The cat’s ability to hear noises that humans and even dogs cannot detect is crucial when hunting. Cats prefer to lurk in ambush relying on their acute hearing abilities to detect the exact distance and location of their prey, before going for the kill.
Part of a cat’s success in hunting is a result of being able to pick up the slightest rustle of a mouse or shrew moving about in the foliage.
Q. My cat wakes up suddenly when he seems to be sleeping quite deeply. It is almost as if he heard a sound while asleep. Is this possible?
Yes, it is – or rather, it seems to be. Sleeping cats are often in fact `catnapping’ or dozing. They seem to be able to still pick up minute sounds when in this semi-conscious state.
Yes, it usually begins to deteriorate after the age of about four-and-a-half, but it can start as early as three years of age.ats can hear a mouse or shrew rustling in the shrubbery because they are tuned into ultrasound, so they can also hear noises at much higher frequencies than humans and dogs.
Cats are able to hear sounds that are up to two octaves higher than any note that a human can hear, and about half an octave higher than a dog is able to hear. The cat is particularly sensitive to certain frequencies – such as the high-pitched sounds made by rodents and birds – because its skull contains structures known as bullae, which act rather like echo chambers.
THE CALL TO MATE
The cat’s excellent hearing is also important in sexual behaviour, for a queen in heat will certainly call in order to attract the toms in the neighbourhood. They, hearing her call, will respond by howling. The distance that toms will travel to get to a queen in heat, and the number that arrive is a sort of testament to the hearing ability of the domestic cat.
The ultrasonic hearing abilities of cats might perhaps explain why felines have been attributed through history with supernatural powers. Their excellent hearing abilities enable them to hear something long before anything becomes apparent to us.
In their prime, humans can hear noises up to about 20,000 cycles per second (20kHz), but this ability is lost as a person ages, and by the age of 60–65, it is only 12,000 cycles per second ( 12kHz) . A cat in its prime detects noises at up to 100,000 cycles per second —which enables it to hear the high-pitched mouse squeak at the upper end of this level.
Cats can also pinpoint with great accuracy the direction from which a sound is coming. Their ability to do so is about equal to that of humans. They can also distinguish between two sounds that emanate from sources that are about five degrees apart.
It is quite well known that white cats with blue eyes are frequently deaf. But all kittens are deaf at birth, because their ear canals are closed. They can normally hear from about two weeks. The defect associated with blue eyes is due to degenerative changes in the part of the ear known as the cochlea.