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A Guide to Your Kitten's Senses: Hearing

Did you know that the only creatures that can hear better than cats are bats and moths? They can differentiate between the sound of your car's engine and any others, detect your unique footsteps, and even have distinct preferences for music. How does an animal that is born deaf become such a stand-out in the auditory world? Read on and find out.

Cats can't hear at all until they're about two weeks old, and it's a month before their hearing is fully effective. But after that, they can hear sounds up to 65,000 cycles per second – a higher range than dogs, and much higher than humans, whose hearing range tops out at about 20,000 cycles per second. This amazing auditory range is part of what makes the cat such a great hunter.

Another factor in your kitten's amazing hearing is his outer ear, known as the pinna. The pinna's triangular shape funnels noise into the eardrums, and he can rotate his ears independently of each other, with each ear able to rotate up to 180 degrees. This means he can precisely pinpoint where a sound is coming from without turning his head. Cats' brains have more circuitry devoted to auditory processing than any other animal, including dogs.

In spite of the importance of hearing in your kitten's life, deaf cats can and do get along quite well. They compensate for their lack of hearing by detecting movement and vibration through their sensitive paw pads. In spite of this, a deaf cat should never be allowed outdoors: some dangers, like oncoming cars, can become fatal before a deaf cat can respond to their presence.

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