How well do cats use their sense of touch in relationship to people?

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In many ways, comparing the sensory abilities of two such highly divergent species is not actually fair. Most people can’t chase down a mouse with a tenth of the efficiency cats exhibit. However, cats are not the supernaturally gifted animals we sometimes make of them. Instead, they are the beneficiaries of a sensory package suited to their lifestyle.

For instance, cats do not have the same ability humans do to focus on objects close up. Their facial configuration and the protuberance of their muzzles make it impossible for them to see something under their noses or held in their mouths.

To compensate, a cat will rotate its whiskers down and around, using the sensitive structures to determine signs of life as well as size and texture. This is not an ability people possess.

In the dark, while a person can grope around to negotiate obstacles, a cat’s whiskers are actually sensitive to changes in air currents. Neither people nor cats can see in complete darkness, but cats have both their sense of touch and special reflective structures in their eyes that help them make use of all available light.

Of course, cats do not have digits comparable to fingers, nor do they possess the kind of dexterity a human’s hands can refine for all manner of purposes from making a watch to playing a musical instrument. In short, each is well suited for his own place in the world. (If you ask the cat, however, they have it all over us on every score.)

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