A cat’s ears contain 32 muscles. This allows cats to rotate their ears 180 degrees and be able to pinpoint where sounds originate. Cats are able to detect higher pitches than us and tiny sound variances better than dogs. A cat’s ability to land on its feet is due to the vestibular apparatus in its inner ear.
Cats have more rods in their eyes than humans do. The rods and a layer of tissue called the tapetum lucidum allows eyes to detect more light. The tapetum lucidum is what reflects the light that comes into the eye back out and makes cat’s eyes shine in the dark. Cats have vertical pupils. This gives the pupil the ability to change sizes faster than human eyes. Small pupils allow less light to enter and protects the cat from being blinded by sudden bright lights.
A cat has 200 million scent receptors in their nasal cavities. (This is a very good thing because cats don’t have as many taste receptors as humans, so this is how a cat compensates.) Cats hunt with their nose. This also explains why when a cat develops a respiratory infection that they often lose their appetite. Cats noses leave behind unique patterns of bumps and ridges, much like a fingerprint. No two cats have the same nose print. (Now you know how to identify a cat burglar.)
Whiskers send information about the environment back to sensory nerves. Whiskers can also respond to air vibrations. Shorter whiskers above the eyes, on chins and on the back of their lower front legs allow a cat to “see” their environment in ways a human can’t fathom.
Whiskers are also indicative of a cat’s mood. Relaxed whiskers (when they’re sticking out sideways) convey that a cat is calm. Whiskers that are pushed forward indicate alertness or excitement. Whiskers that are flattened back against the face signify fear or aggression.
That “sandpaper” your cat rakes over your skin is your cat’s papillae (keratin hair-like barbs). These papillae help cats to groom themselves and to eat. The papillae allow a cat to pick up their food and to lick the meat off bones. The papillae also helps a cat drink. The tongue barely grazes the liquid. The papillae pulls the liquid upward and before gravity can push the liquid back down, the cat’s jaws close. Cats lap at water four times per second and is too fast for human eyes to see.
Paw pads are tough enough to protect from rough terrain, but sensitive enough to detect temperature or texture changes. The pads also act as the body’s natural cooling system thanks to the sweat glands found there. Other glands secrete oil which leaves behind a unique scent that only cats can detect. (Scratching also releases this scent.)
You may notice that your cat has different colored pads on each foot. The same pigment that are responsible for your cat’s coat color is linked to the color of his pads. Typically paw pads are the same color as the coat.