The sensitivity of dogs and cats to sound does not differ greatly from that of man. However, at frequencies over 500 Hz their ability is superior to our own.
Michael Fox, in his book Understanding your Cat, says that cats can discriminate with 75 per cent accuracy between two sound sources separated by an angle of 5 degrees, a performance on the same order as man’s. But the cat has the advantage of having a mobile external ear, or pinna, which it can use to collect sound waves and also scan the environment or direct its attention to a particular source of sound.
Do cats communicate vocally with individuals and with each other? Normally vocal communication is limited to the purr of contentment, yowl of pain or anger and the domestic meow for attention: ‘Let me in, please!’; but as cats tend to be solitary animals there seems little vocal play between them except for the caterwauling during courtship, the call to battle between toms and the mating cry of the queen.
The Siamese, of course, is renowned for its ‘call’ which delights the breed devotee, but can put off the peace-loving. My Siamese will growl if the dogs approach his food bowl; also with pleasure if a tasty piece of fish has been presented. He will answer when called, carry on a conversation, calling on cue, and when reprimanded, always insists that he has the last word.
The Siamese owner will confirm that their cat has a call to specially express the whole gamut of emotions: pleasure, anger, hunger, and simply when it just wants attention. It is a talkative animal which likes the sound of its own voice. The Siamese cat owner never feels alone!