The Domestic Cat: A Miniature Tiger

By Dave Hanks

The cat is a favorite household pet. Around 30 percent of American households have one as a pet. This animal has been a native historically world-wide, except in Australia and the oceanic islands. Their life span is 12 to 18 years.

Cats are famous for always landing on their feet. Try to throw them onto their backs – they will twist their bodies to face the ground. The vestibular apparatus of their inner ear orients their balance and sends a signal to their brain to rotate their head to an upright position – the body then follows suit. As a former wrestling coach of the Burley Bobcats, I stressed the fact that we were cats, and that therefore, we shouldn’t be turned on our backs. But back to ears, cats have phenomenal hearing. Large ears funnel sound waves to their inner ear, which is very sensitive to high-frequency sounds.

Cats have large eyes with binocular vision - a common predator trait. They can see as well as we can in the daylight, but up to six times better after dark. Images are intensified by a reflective layer outside of the retina (tapetum lucidum). Light passing through this layer is usually absorbed and is stimulating to nerve endings. If not immediately absorbed, it is reflected back, making cat eyes glow in the dark.

Your pet purring in your lap is a pleasant sensation. It is a method of communication that is felt as well as heard. Big cats have a hyoid bone in their larynx and this allows them to roar. Small cats, like Bobcats and Cougars, don’t have this bone. They all purr. Purring is associated with contentment, but, may be done under stress. It is a trait not well understood.

As “quick as a cat” is an apt description. This, along with a leaping ability that can extent up to seven feet high when properly motivated, makes this animal as frightening to other small mammals as a tiger would be to us.

(Felis catus: A cuddly pet to us – a terror to rodents)