Cats depend on their senses for survival and they are vastly different from a human’s five senses. Curious about what sets our five senses apart? The Refined Feline has some answers and more information for you.
A Whole New World
As mentioned above, cats utilize their senses differently from humans. To be better clued in on a cat’s feelings and actions, we as pet parents need to be aware of these differences. Doing this can strengthen your relationship. Cats are highly instinctual with their senses; they use smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch to guide them in all their actions. A cat’s basic needs are always going to be different from ours. This is key when interacting with your cat in order to better build more trust. We’ll explore each of the five senses to provide more knowledge on how your cat uses these every day.
The most used sense for a cat is their sense of smell, which they depend on for everything. It also happens to be their most powerful sense, being 40 times stronger than a human’s sense of smell. Cats will most often utilize this sense to recognize friends, foes, and more. With each sniff they take, they can discover spoiled food, prey wandering around, and where their home is if they get outdoors. No matter what you’ve been up to throughout the day, your cat most likely greets you by smelling all of you. They will of course recognize your smell first, but they also smell all the places and things you’ve been around. Their sense of smell is so acute that they will recognize you by your smell before recognizing your face!
Cats can also “smell” without using their noses at all! A unique olfactory receptor called a vomeronasal organ makes this possible for cats. This receptor is on the roof of a cat’s mouth, allowing them to pick up on chemical signatures, like pheromones. When you see your cat “smelling” something with their mouth open, they are using their vomeronasal organ. To fully “process” the scent, a cat may even leave their mouth open for a few seconds after smelling.
Cats will often rely on scent markers, which are located all over their bodies. This is why they rub on their cat tower, furniture, walls, and even people. And in lieu of urination, cats will use these scent markers as a means of marking territory. They typically use the scent markers located by their mouths, which is why they may rub their face against items in your home. This signals to other cats that it belongs to them. They may do this even if they’re by themselves, but also with cats in the same household or outdoors.
A cat’s eyesight in darker light is still better than ours, even though they can’t see in total darkness. Cats primarily hunt during dusk and dawn, so low-light conditions are best for their eyesight. Their eyes contain more light-sensitive photoreceptors than humans, seeing around six to eight times better than us! The shape of their eye and the tapetum lucidum, which is the shiny membrane, also helps to boost their low-light eyesight.
Cats can’t see in the distance too well, despite having better eyesight in lower light conditions. The ideal distance for them is about twenty feet away, where everything is in the best clarity and focus. A cat’s peripheral vision is 200 degrees because of their eye’s shape and location. Compare that to a human’s peripheral vision, which is 180 degrees.
One myth that still exists is that a cat is color blind, which has been disapproved. It’s thought that cats can see at least some colors; they just have fewer color-sensitive receptors than humans. So cats can see most colors, although red-green could be tricky for them. Seeing the world through a human’s red-green color blind eyes is the easiest way to “see” like a cat. With this color-scheme, red-colored objects appear more greenish to cats. And other colors that may be harder to decipher for cats, like brown, appear more grayish through their eyes.
Being predators, it’s no surprise that cat’s ears are designed to pick up very tiny sounds from small prey. The cone-shaped outer ear amplifies sound, while their large, triangular-shaped ears help them pick up sound. Cats are also slightly unique in that they can rotate their ears to better narrow down the location of sounds. The vibrations of the sounds travel down their large ears, helping them find their prey for maximum efficiency. And with their prey making higher pitched noises, it makes sense that a cat’s sense of hearing is better with higher pitches.
Despite being able to hear higher-pitched sounds better than a human, cats hear lower-pitched sounds just as well as humans. Cats can hear upwards of 64,000 Hz, while humans hear frequencies around 20,000 Hz. It’s been discovered that cats may hear higher pitched frequencies better than dogs!
Cats do rely regularly on their sense of touch for a myriad of reasons. It can help them detect if a predator is coming towards them, or a prey’s movements if they are hunting. The most relied on is their whiskers: thicker hair follicles that are more sensitive to movements. Whiskers are not just located on their cheeks, but also above their eyes, near their forelegs, chin, and ears. Whiskers are from a deeper skin layer, but comparable to a cat’s natural coat of fur. Cats learn more about the items they touch through their whiskers. It can range from the object’s texture to its temperature, which can tell cats what’s alive and what isn’t. For comparison, a cat’s whiskers are as sensitive as a human’s fingers. As a protective measure, a cat will blink when their whiskers are touched.
About as equally important to a cat’s sense of touch is its paw pads. A cat’s pads are covered in nerve receptors, which will send all necessary information to the brain. This allows cats to check out varying objects, and navigate differing terrain effortlessly. Their paw pads are so sensitive to touch that they will pick up sound vibrations through them!
When stacked against a cat’s other four senses, their sense of taste is at the bottom of the list. With only 500 taste buds throughout their tongue, it barely compares to a human’s 9,000 taste buds. With cats being almost pure carnivores, though, they don’t really need a high level of taste buds. Cats are thought to not taste certain flavors, among them sweetness. They tend to rely on their intense sense of smell rather than taste alone to guide them on what to eat.
Despite their low amount of taste buds, this doesn’t stop cats from becoming picky eaters still. They can still develop an inclination for certain tastes and textures, requiring the usual hunt for food they like. And of course, when you do find something they like, it will inevitably become boring in a few months. Cats do taste bitter foods, and will actually avoid them most of the time. It is believed it’s an instinctual response deterring them from accidentally ingesting poisonous or toxic materials.
Learn All About Your Cat’s Five Senses
Were you aware of these fun differences and facts in a cat’s five senses? You’re now more educated to understand how your cat sees and processes the world. You will slowly become a better pet parent seeing the world through their eyes, even if your eyesight isn’t as good!