How do cats use their ears to focus in on specific sounds?

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A cat’s ears can move independent of one another. Each ear is controlled by more than 30 muscles and can rotate 180 degrees. Because they are upright and erect, feline ears act as a funnel, bringing sound down to sensitive hairs at the base of the ear. There, the auditory nerve transmits the sound to the brain.

Cats hear in a range of 30 hertz to 60 kilohertz. They cannot necessarily detect low tones, but they are experts at high-pitched noises humans can’t hear, like a mouse squeaking. More importantly, however, is a cat’s ability to interpret sound in as little as 1/600th of a second.

Based on what they are hearing, a cat can determine distance, direction, and even the relative size of the animal or object making the sound. They have the ability to focus and track two sounds simultaneously even if the sounds are inches apart or as much as three feet apart.

It is always best to speak to a cat in a soft tone of voice because loud, harsh tones can be both painful and annoying to the animal. Yelling at a cat really doesn’t work. Whispering to a cat, however, engages the animal’s full attention by triggering its incredibly acute hearing.

While dogs have the ability to actually close off their inner ear and block out noises they don’t like, a cat’s hearing is “full on.” Consequently, when he’s ignoring you, he’s really ignoring you.

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