Monday, September 10, 2012

The Ears of a Cat: Form and Function

A cat's ears have a specific shape that is consistent throughout all breeds of domestic cat. There is a little variation (just look at the ears of a Cornish Rex), but they all stand straight up and form a little triangular cone that naturally faces forward. This is unlike the domestic dog, which varies in ear shape and position (to a certain degree) among the different breeds. The consistency of the shape of the ears provides all cats with the same natural abilities.

The ears of a cat, like the ears of other creatures, receive auditory signals. the upper limit of a cat's hearing is higher than a dog's and almost two full octaves higher than our own. From a distance of at least three feet, cats can discriminate between sources of sound that are as little as three inches apart. This ability is enhanced by the cat's ability to rotate their ears until they are almost pointed backwards. Finding and catching prey becomes easier when you can pinpoint exactly where that mouse is simply by hearing it shift in place, so the ears are a practical tool. The cat's ability to pinpoint and identify sound also lets them ignore the sound of their owners' voices from any distance at all! Any cat owner can sympathize with this.

But the ears can also send signals and are, in fact, one of the primary means of communication for a cat. Think about a cat with its ears flattened back. You know that means kitty is not in a good mood. Relaxed ears mean a relaxed body. Ears which are pricked forward slightly mean alertness. You can tell the mood of your cat simply by looking at the ears regardless of which breed your cat happens to be.

Beyond their practical functions, the ears of a cat are just plain cute. Who can resist the urge to stroke the soft hair that grows on the backs of the ears? And if you scratch the base of the ears, most cats almost fall over in ecstasy. So the ears are decorative as well as functional and are a necessary part of the anatomy of the cat.

No comments:

Post a Comment