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Canberra Cat Vet Blog

The sense of smell

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The lining of cats’ noses has a large surface area for trapping smells. It’s 5 times as big as ours. They also have large olfactory bulbs, which are the part of the brain where smells are initially analysed. Cats are very sensitive to scent and can discriminate more scents than they are likely to meet in a lifetime. As a result we have to minimise the number of strong scents we present to our cats as they are easily overwhelmed by them.

Mice leave scent marks to let other mice know they are about. Cats locate the mice using these scent marks, especially at night when vision is less reliable. When the cat finds the mark the marking mouse is long gone so the cat waits patiently for the next mouse to come along and sniff the mark - then he pounces on the poor mouse

Cats use scent to mark their own territories, too. An anxious cat will urinate around the house to warn other cats off. Less threatened cats rub their faces onto objects leaving a pheromone behind. This makes them feel more comfortable and lets other cats know they are there. Feliway is an analogue of this pheromone and we recommend it for cats who are anxious or taking a while to settle in to a new environment.

Cats also have a sense that we lack. While we are not quite sure what they are sensing, we think that odours from other cats are dissolved in saliva and moved up two tubes in the roof of the mouth to the vomeronasal organ. When you see a cat pulling up its top lip in a funny way while apparently sniffing an object she’s probably sensing another cat has been there.

 

Hearing and touch

Thursday, October 26, 2017

 

Cats can hear sounds 2 octaves higher in pitch than we can. They hear the high pitched squeaks of mice and other small rodents and can even distinguish the different species. We think this is why cats prefer us to talk in a high pitched voice. Perhaps low tones remind them of an angry tomcat?

Their mobile erect ears track prey. They pinpoint their victim’s position by the difference in time it takes sounds to reach the left and right ears. The ear flaps, known as pinnae, are independently mobile so that they can point away from or toward a sound to confirm the direction it’s coming from. Even the corrugations in the pinnae function to tell whether the source of the sound is from on high or from down low.

Cats’ paws very sensitive. They hate us handling their feet because their pads and claws are packed with nerve endings. In the wild this helps them know what their prey is doing – especially if it’s trying to escape! Remember they can’t see this close. Their vision is best from 2-6 metres.

Their long canine teeth are also super sensitive to touch. This allows them to direct the killing bite with deadly accuracy.

Their whiskers are super sensitive and very mobile. They  sweep them forward when they are pouncing to make up for their short-sightedness. In a fight they prevent damage to their precious whiskers by holding them back along the cheek.

The stiff hairs on the sides of the head, near the ankles and above eyes allow them to squeeze through small openings.

Cats senses of hearing and touch fit them well for finding, pouncing and killing their prey.

 

Cats as our companions

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

Ever wondered why cats consented to live with humans? While they have not been domesticated for as long as dogs they have been sharing our households for thousands of years. The Egyptians were not the first to take them into their homes. They were just the first to decorate their homes, temples and tombs with depictions of them so ensuring their favourites endured for eternity.

African wildcats moved into farming settlements to control pests in stored grain. When vermin were in short supply the cats relied on humans to supply their meals. The cats that survived combined good hunting  ability with the ability to reward people with their company. As time went on these cats extended their feline family bonds to include humans and humans reciprocated taking the most tractable and attractive onto their hearths.

However, cats retain all the features that make them good hunters. Their displays of emotion are muted. They are not going to shout out if they find something tasty to eat or a comfortable bed. They regard other cats as rivals for food and other resources. Cats are also not going to show fear or pain if a predator or a rival cat is around. This makes it very hard for you to tell when your cat is not well.

It is thought that the purr evolved as a signal from kittens to their mothers to make her stay with them. They are saying “please settle down next to me” in the most inviting way they know.

Feliway calms your cat

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Feliway is a copy of the pheromone that cats naturally rub around their environment to make them feel comfortable. It is odourless to us - but a potent calmer for cats.

Every time a cat rubs the side of its face against objects in the home, it leaves behind a pheromone to mark its territory. This pheromone helps them feel at home and happy.

Changes in and around your home can upset your cats and prevent them from following their normal routine of rubbing this pheromone around their area. They then feel less secure, and become stressed.

Activities such as redecorating, moving the furniture, having guests or tradesmen in, going to the cattery and moving home remove these natural pheromones from around the cat and cause stress.

Any change in your home organisation and schedule disturbs your cat, for example: a newborn baby, toddler or a new partner, a new work roster. Cats are very sensitive to routine and crave a stable environment.

A stressed cat may hide, scratch furniture, urinate outside the litter box, spray the curtains or become aggressive to other cats in the household.

Feliway helps maintain the scent that gives your cat a feeling of peace and calm, and reduces the stress that your cat is experiencing.

How cats see the world

Friday, October 20, 2017

 

This is part 1 of the text of the talk given at our 2017 client night. Watch out for future installments.

Cats’ senses are very different to ours because they evolved as hunters and retained these characteristics even after they came to live with us.

Cats are descended from the African wild cat, which are ambush hunters of rodents, frogs, reptiles, and birds, but potential prey for larger animals. Our cats’ senses are unaltered from those of the wild cat. All that has changed in their brains is the ability to form social attachments to people

Cats eyes are suited to hunting at night.  The large cornea allows light to enter the eye and the reflective layer under the retina maximises light sensitivity.

This high light sensitivity would be painful in broad daylight so their pupils contract to a slit and their eyelids close to protect the retina in the day.

They have no need for colour vision at night and so see yellow and blue but not red and green. Size, pattern and shape of prey are more important to them.

The most critical aspect of vision in cats is that it is best from 2-6 metres away. This makes it difficult for them to take treats from our hands. However like us they have binocular vision, which enables them to judge the distance to prey, and to climb and jump accurately.

Their eyes are acutely sensitive to minute movements – like the twitch of a mouse’s whisker.

Training cats and other smorgasbords

Friday, October 20, 2017

An eager crowd heard Dr Georgia talk last night on training cats - before they train us. Earlier Dr Kate spoke on how cats perceive their environment, surprising all with the sharpness of cats' hearing, smell and vision in poor light.
A supper of delicious sandwiches and wraps kept energy levels and interest up and everyone went home with gifts for the felines in their lives and renewed interest in their cats' behaviour.
The text of the talks will appear here shortly.

Indoor cat cat health and happiness

Friday, October 13, 2017



Dr Kate and Dr Georgia were recently interviewed about the problems indoor cats encounter

Does my cat need worming?

Sunday, October 08, 2017

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