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The senses of cats, or how cats perceive the world around them

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Cat senses – can a cat see in the dark?

There is a lot of talk about cats’ ability to see in the dark, this is largely true, but not entirely. It is true that a cat does very well after dark – its eye needs about 6 times less light than a human eye. What’s even more interesting, a cat can see at night almost as well as on a sunny day – the cat’s eye regulates the amount of light reaching the retina just like a camera.

But it is not true that a cat can see in complete darkness, it is physically impossible. The eye “sees” only thanks to the light reaching it – different animals need it in different amounts, but seeing in complete darkness is unreal. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that a cat can still do exceptionally well in complete darkness, thanks in part to its vibrissae (whiskers), which enable it to avoid obstacles and are excellent receptors.

The second feature which helps the cat to hunt in the dark is its above average hearing, which we can only envy it.

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Cat senses – how does a cat see?

An interesting fact about cat vision is that cats have blurry vision. However, they are great at distinguishing silhouettes, so the next time you’re coming back from rollerblading and your cat is scared of you, take off your helmet so your cat can recognize you.

Unlike humans, the saying “have eyes in the back of your head” takes on new meaning with cats. Like dogs, cats have a very wide field of vision – in a dog it is about 250 degrees and in a cat even 285 degrees. In this statistic the human comes out at least poorly, because he sees only 180 degrees of the surrounding reality.

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Cat senses – can a cat see in colors?

A cat can see color images very well, although for many years it was thought that cats could not distinguish colors. Recent research, however, shows that cats do recognize colors, but not all colors. Cats can distinguish shades of yellow, green or blue, but they are completely unable to deal with red. Interestingly, cats do best with shades of gray. Could it be because mice are gray?

The cat’s eye is also built in such a way that it can detect movement, which makes hunting much easier for it. Thanks to this ability the cat can see, for example, a gray mouse moving in the dark.

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Cat senses – why does a cat need an extra eyelid?

The extra third eyelid in cats provides protection against eye damage and allows the eye to be cleaned of dirt and dust.

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Cat senses – do cats have a good sense of smell?

Compared to humans, cats have a highly developed sense of smell. Shortly after birth, kittens have an excellent sense of smell, which develops even more over time. There is a reason why it is said that a cat eats with its nose, to a large extent it is the smell that decides what the cat eats and what it does not even touch. A cat’s sense of smell is so strong that it can recognize other individuals, for example by the smell of their urine. However, the cat’s sense of smell is much weaker than that of a dog.

A cat also makes quite intensive use of the so-called lemma organ located in the hard palate. In simple terms it is a “pheromone receptor” which helps the cat to communicate with other animals. Humans also have a similar organ, but they use it mainly after birth, then the organ loses its function. In humans the function of this organ in adulthood probably does not play an important role, although this is still a controversial issue and not yet well studied.

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Cat senses – are cats good at orienting themselves?

Cats also have a sense that probably humans don’t have, which works on a similar principle as for example in birds. Cats can find their way home within a radius of 10-15km. Probably they use a magnetic field for orientation in the field. It is interesting to note the results of a study, according to which cats with a magnet attached to their collar, had a much worse orientation than cats without a magnet, which disturbed the magnetic field. Another theory says that the cat has encoded the so called “acoustic map of the area”, that is it recognizes perfectly characteristic sounds from its environment, which allows it to always return to its home.

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Cat senses – how well can a cat hear?

In short, we can say that a cat’s hearing is as perfect as a dog’s sense of smell. A cat can hear a mouse even from a distance of several dozen meters. A cat can also hear perfectly well sounds which are not picked up by a human ear at all.

An important feature of a cat’s ear is an ability to precisely determine the source of a sound. What is even more interesting the cat is able to selectively pick up sounds, which enables it e.g. to determine the place where its prey is, even if there is another source of sound nearby.

The structure of the ear itself is also worth mentioning as it can move in many directions – the cat’s ear is precisely “controlled” by as many as 30 different muscles. The cat’s ears move independently, so it can set its “radar”, each in a different direction.

In conclusion, don’t be fooled if your purr-fect cat pretends not to hear you when you call him for a claw trim.  Note that he will recognize the sound of a food box being opened even when he is at the other end of the house.

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Cat senses – does a cat understand humans?

If you talk to your cat then you probably already know that your cat understands you perfectly. Unfortunately, many people probably try to convince you otherwise. We have good news for you – cats can recognize the words spoken to them and they learn to respond to them very quickly. To be more precise, they understand everything, but they react only to words connected with food and other pleasant for them things.  I don’t know about you, dear reader, but we were very pleased to learn that our minds are not as bad as our aunts claim.  Anyway, does it matter – you probably won’t stop talking to your purr-fect anyway…

But we have to give justice to dogs, which are even more capable in the field of understanding human speech.

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Cat senses – why do cats have whiskers?

We have already written above that the cat uses its whiskers, or vibrissae, as an additional sense of feeling, useful especially in the dark. For most cats, this is a very important receptor – for example, a cat with a collar on, very often, at first, cannot cope with moving and judging the distance to obstacles. It may then move as if it were drunk.

Like vibrissae, the cat also uses eyebrows and small hairs on the inside of the paw.

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