octave-ly speaking

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Over many thousands of years, our pets’ super senses, like sight and smell, evolved to help them locate prey and avoid danger. Dogs may win out in the sniffing department, but when it comes to hearing, our feline friends take home the prize — they can hear a whole octave of sound higher than our canine companions!


But how do we know this? One cannot simply ask a dog or cat to raise a paw when they hear a sound, as we do in hearing tests. Instead, animals can be trained to respond to presented sounds — by eating or drinking from a particular bowl, for example.


Using such methods, researchers have found that our ability to hear sound is comparable to dogs and cats on the lower end of the scale, but at the upper range, dogs hear an octave and a half more than we do — and cats hear another octave higher still! This is why dogs and cats will respond to high-pitched sounds, like those from a dog whistle, while we remain deaf to them.


When it comes to volume, dogs and cats have us beat there, too. Dogs can hear four to five times better than humans, which explains why they hear thunder in the distance well before we do. Cats win again, though — they’ll hear the booming twice as quickly as a dog. The structure of a cat’s ear plays an important role in this ability. Cats have funnel-shaped ears that they can swivel 180 degrees, allowing them to pinpoint a sound to within inches of its source — making for easy pouncing on crickets and other prey.


One thing comes through loud and clear — whether canine or feline, our furry friends’ ears are head and shoulders above our own!