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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!
Images: flikr / Stefano Mortellaro via Flickr.
My cat freaked out, and I mean she went all out aggressive with her tail puffed up and hissing, once because I meowed. I was joking around with my boyfriend and meowed and she reaction was so scary. She cornered my dog and I, wouldn’t stop hissing. Then, today… I was talking excitedly and I didn’t exactly made a “meow” noise but something in my loud tone must’ve freaked her out because she reacted like that. Does someone have some sort of explanation? I’m taking her to the vet on Monday but I want to know because she’s the sweetest cat in the world, is she turning crazy? She’s pretty young, only like a year old.
Fascinating post…really interesting about your female cat trying to find the baby kittens behind the TV.
Sometimes Cats Herd You says
We have great hearing…. its whether we choose to react to what we hear. If you’re trying to quietly open the treat jar, we can hear it no matter where we are in the house. But if you’re calling us because it’s time for a pill…. oh, we can’t hear that.
Marjorie Dawson says
Our Harvey is a stray and loud noises don’t bother him.
M. K. Clinton says
I love watching cats ears hone in on sounds like little radars. ♥
Yep our 5 do it all the time
very interesting article 🙂
Cathy Keisha says
I get terrified when I hear them throwing the planks on the floor in the hall cos that means someone’s moving in or moving out. That is very loud and sending me UTB.
None of our kitties like the doorbell, so we disconnected it. 🙂
Sharon S. says
My cats have very sensitive hearing. The come running when I open a jar of baby food every night for their dessert. It’s surprising how they can hear that and they won’t come when I call them by name.
Sparkle used to hate my human’s really annoying laugh! I’m more easy going when it comes to loud noises.
The Island Cats says
Well, we always knew we had good hearing. We can hear the lid coming off a can of food a mile away!
The Swiss Cats says
We hate the vacuum cleaner ! And we’re able to hear the treat’s cupboard door opening from anywhere in the house ! Purrs
Christy Paws says
I grew up by Disneyland hearing fireworks every night so those don’t scare me. I still don’t like the vacuum or the doorbell much, though.
Kitties Blue says
We don’t like the garbage truck or the doorbell. Those are our least favorite noises.
Thanks for the info – it’s always helpful to understand our kitties better and why they do the things that they do!
Miley's Daily Scoop says
Well, we know our kitty can hear VERY well, every time we try and sneak up on her so wakes up! BOL! Happy WW!
Hannah and Lucy says
Vacuum cleaners freak Hannah out partly because they’re noisy and partly because she sees her black floof disappearing into the Dyson and is scared she could be left naked!
Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats says
Oh, they can hear you alright. They can hear the sound of a cat food tin opening from across the house and under the bed.