A target-hunting Tour of Your Cat and therefore the ways that He Communicates
Take the time to go on a little tour of your cat’s body. He’s not just a cute little ball of fur who chases mice and sleeps in the sun. A cat’s body is perfectly built for hunting and every piece of feline equipment performs intricate, well-timed functions. And what about those meows? Do they really mean anything? Cats are masters of communication and use multiple forms: olfactory, visual, and auditory. Become familiar with your cat’s language and it will unlock the mysteries of behavior problems and cat/owner misunderstandings.
Let’s start with some basic information on the internal/external workings of this marvelous creature:
Temperature can range from 101.5–102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Under stress, the cat’s temperature can rise (for example, while being examined by the veterinarian), so depending on the circumstances, a temperature of 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit would be considered normal.
The cat’s heart averages around 120 to 240 beats per minute. The number of beats will increase in times of stress, fear, excitement, or physical activity. A fever can also cause an increase in the number of beats.
About twenty to thirty breaths per minute is the average for a resting cat. Humans average about half of that.
There are three blood types: A, B, and the extremely rare AB. Most domestic short-haired cats are type A. Before a transfusion both the donor cat and patient must be typed.
Cats have binocular vision, this means an image is seen by both eyes at the same time. This provides the cat with excellent depth perception.
Cats, being hunters, are very stimulated by movement going across their visual field. The prey-drive is strongly triggered by movements going away from the cat.
Cats have a layer of cells beneath the retina called the tapetum lucidum. These act as a mirror and reflect light back into the retina, which allows the cat to use all available light. This makes the eye about 40 percent more efficient. You’ve seen this glowlike effect as your car’s headlights are reflected in the eyes of animals at night.
People mistakenly assume that cats can see when it’s totally dark, which isn’t the case. They can, however, see in conditions we consider total darkness.
The light path from the cat’s pupil to the retina is shorter than that of humans. This enables the pupil to open wider and constrict smaller.
Cats have a 3rd palpebra called the protective fold. This pale pink membrane normally rests at the inner corner of the eye. If protection of the eye is needed, it will unfold and cover the surface. Since cats generally hunt in tall grass and brush, the nictitating membrane protects the eye from injury. When a cat is ill, more of the nictitating membrane may also be exposed.
Kittens are blind at birth and then as their poorly focusing eyes develop, they are very sensitive to light. Kittens also are born with blue eyes. Their true eye color will develop several weeks later.
Cats’ eyes come in several colors, the most common being green or gold. White cats with blue eyes suffer from congenital deafness. Frequently, odd-eyed cats have deafness on the side with the blue eye.
Cats have limited color vision. They can see blues, grays, yellows, and greens. They don’t see reds. Limited color vision isn’t as important as being able to detect sound, scent, and movement.
Your cat’s eyes can help indicate what he’s feeling. The pupils dilate when a cat is stimulated, surprised, or fearful. Constricted pupils may indicate tension or potential aggression. Of course, accessible lightweight should be taken into thought.
Avoiding direct eye contact is one method a cat uses to try to prevent a violent confrontation with another cat. An offensively aggressive cat will make direct eye contact.
Because cats are hunters, their sense of hearing is as important as their sight or smell. A good predator has to be able to detect the faintest rustling in the grass. A cat’s hearing range is better than that of a human and at the higher end is better than even that of a dog. Their hearing is so sensitive that cats can distinguish between two similar sounds from dozens of feet away. They can hear about two octaves higher than us.
The pinna is the flap of the ear that is shaped like a cone. It collects sound waves, funneling them to the inner ear. The many muscles in the pinnae are what allow the cat to rotate his ears in a wide arc, enabling him to locate the source of sounds accurately. Your cat’s ears can rotate 180 degrees and one ear can rotate independently of the other.
Your cat’s ears are also mood indicators. Ears flattened sideways and down reflect irritation or possible submission. An anxious cat may twitch his ears. When the ears face forward, it often indicates alertness. During a fight (or in anticipation of one), the ears are rotated back and flattened to prevent them from being damaged by an opponent’s claws or teeth.