Blog News

October 27, 2017
cat with bow tie on

The sense of smell

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.
October 25, 2017
blue eyed kitten

Hearing and touch

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.
October 24, 2017
chubby cat walking down path

Cats as our companions

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.