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Things you didn’t know about cats and their hearing

Contributed by James Pocock

08/08/2019 • 3 min read

This International Cat Day we’re focusing on cats’ amazing ability to hear sounds beyond the range of humans. So read on to find out all about the incredible hearing ability of our feline friends.

Cats rely on acute hearing as an important part of their hunting. Unlike canines and ancient humans, they don’t tend to chase prey over long distances. Instead, they wait and listen for prey nearby, listening out for sounds like rustling beneath leaves, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. And their ears are fine-tuned for this job.

How cats’ ears catch sounds

Like most animals, their ears both catch and amplify sound waves. Cats’ specific cone-shape ears can amplify sound waves up to two or three times for frequencies between 2,000 and 6,000 Hertz (Hz). Cats can move their ears up to 180 degrees, helped by 32 muscles in their outer ears (we only have six). This allows cats to pinpoint sounds.

Cats’ hearing range

We share the same lower hearing limit as cats, which is about 20 Hz. Anything lower both cats and humans would struggle to hear.

But there’s a huge difference in upper limits of what cats can hear compared to humans. We can hear frequencies of up to 20,000 Hz, which falls to about 12,000–15,000 Hz as we age. Cats can hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz. So about three times higher than humans.

Cats and hearing loss

Just like many other mammals, cats’ ears are made of three parts, the inner-, middle- and outer ear, and hearing loss in cats can be congenital (from birth) or acquired.

Cats with white fur and blue eyes are at the highest risk of suffering congenital hearing loss. This is due to a faulty gene. According to Dr. Flanders, a veterinary surgeon at Cornell University:

“About 80 percent of white cats with two blue eyes will start to show signs of deafness when they are about four days old as the result of cochlear degeneration.”

The most common ear complaint in cats, however, is an outer ear infection which can spread to other parts of the ear if untreated. Keeping your cat’s environment clean and checking their ears for signs of infection can help prevent ear infections spreading which could ultimately end in hearing loss, if untreated. Talk to your vet if you’re concerned about your cat’s hearing health.

Follow the link for the top ten top ten animals with the best hearing.