Have you ever been puzzled by your cat suddenly becoming alert, ears twitching, when you can’t hear anything? Don’t worry, he’s not seeing ghosts, it’s simply because a cat’s hearing range goes up to about 65khz, while ours is only a measly 20khz, and while our ears sit firmly on the sides of our heads, a cat will swivel his ears around just like a satellite dish, to pick up frequencies from all directions.
Why Do Cats Need to Hear so Well?
Think about a cat’s natural characteristics as if they were still out in the wild. Their natural instinct is to hunt prey, and to avoid becoming prey themselves, so in the process of evolving they developed amazing hearing to be able to hear both prey and predators coming.
It means that they can hear the rustle of grass when a prey animal is moving around, and are able to pinpoint exactly where the critter is when they pounce. Since their prey are mostly of the rodent variety, cats’ hearing is extra sensitive to high pitched frequencies, like a mouse’s squeak, that we have more trouble hearing. It also means that they can hear when a predator is approaching them in the distance, and make sure that they’re well out of the way before it arrives!
Another reason for cats’ sensitive hearing is to do with protecting their kittens. When a cat gives birth in the wild, she has to go out and hunt, leaving her kittens behind in a safe place to wait for her. Of course, this leaves them vulnerable, so the ability to hear them if they’re distressed is essential. I was once watching an animal documentary that showed kittens being rescued from a drain, and my female cat went crazy trying to find the kittens behind the television, just from hearing their squeaks!
Household Noises that Freak Your Cat Out
It’s precisely because of their super sensitive hearing that many normal household noises seem to scare cats. Cats have historically been known as a woman’s pet, and some would say that’s because women have naturally softer voices than men, and are gentler footed, so cats are often drawn to women more than men.
Loud noises in general will scare cats, and it all depends on each individual cat, but common ‘scary’ noises include vacuum cleaners, doors slamming, noisy visitors and hair-dryers. Think about how loud noises sound to you, especially when you’re not expecting them, and multiply that by about twelve – you can understand why your cat reacts so badly to noise, can’t you?
If your cat is freaked out by noises like loud visitors, fireworks or a thunderstorm, there are a number of ways you can try to calm him down. Make sure he’s always got a safe place to retreat to, talk calmly and quietly to him and try a pheromone diffuser to sooth his nerves.
So when it’s time for a visit to the vet and you’re calling your cat so you can put him in his carrier, you now know that he can hear you calling– it’s just selective hearing at work!