Jennifer Wilber is a life-long animal lover. She currently has two black cats and has had many dogs and small pets throughout her life.
Adorable Killing Machines
It’s no secret that cats—while one of the most adorable creatures on the planet—are also one of the deadliest. Some of the very features that make felines so endearing to us are also the same features that give them their amazing hunting abilities.
Let’s take a look at which parts of cats that we find so cute have evolved specially to make them fierce predators.
Big Round Eyes
One of the most appealing features of our pet cats is their big, round, baby-like eyes. Their big eyes remind us of human babies, which is part of why we find them so irresistible.
The real reason cats evolved their large forward-facing eyes, however, is to give them an advantage while hunting prey. The unique slit-like appearance of their eyes allows them to adjust to low light conditions so that they can hunt in the dark of night. Cats see just as well as humans in daylight, and six times as well as us in the dark.
Cats’ fine-tuned vision allows them to detect movement as fast as 0.4cm per second. Because they have forward-facing eyes, which both add to their human baby-like appearance and are a hallmark of a predatory species, cats have binocular vision and excellent depth perception.
Adorable Pointy Ears
Those adorable big pointy ears have evolved for function as well as form. Cats can move their fluffy pointed up to 180 degrees, using 32 muscles, to help them pinpoint the exact location of scurrying prey by swiveling their ears around like small furry satellite dishes. Because of the specialized shape of their ears, cats can detect even the softest and highest-pitched sounds from rodents and other small animals.
Cats can hear a range of frequencies from 45 to 64,000 hertz. By comparison, humans have a hearing range of 20 to 23,000 hertz and dogs 67 to 45,000 hertz. Cats can hear nearly everything going on around them.
Not only do cats' ears give them amazing hearing abilities to help them hunt, but their inner ear structures also help to keep them balanced. They have an intricate vestibular system in their inner ears, which helps them to nearly always land on their feet.
As an added bonus, in addition to helping cats hunt small animals, their ears can also clue you into how your cat is feeling.
Big Round Head
Tomcats often have large, powerful jowls, which give their heads the look of having big round cheeks. These squishy cheeks make for an extra cute cat. But don’t be fooled, this head shape is perfectly adapted for catching and crushing prey animals. Cats have short muzzles with powerful jaws and sharp teeth which, while very cute, can also be very deadly to small mammals and birds.
Every cat lover is obsessed with their furry friend’s toe beans, but did you know that toe beans have an evolutionary purpose other than being adorable? Cats’ toe beans act as shock absorbers to help protect them when they jump down from great heights. They also help them to move silently as they stalk their prey.
When the sharp claws are tucked away, cats’ little paws look perfectly harmless and adorable, but they can unsheathe their razor-like claws from behind those innocent toe beans in an instant. The cute little pads of their feet help to hide and protect their claws when not in use.
Cats also have scent glands behind their toe beans, which secrete oil that other cats can smell, and allow them to mark their territory. Cats simply scratch trees, posts, or furniture to mark out their territory and claim their own hunting grounds from other cats.
Cats’ whiskers aren’t just for looks, no matter how adorable they may be. Whiskers help cats to sense even the smallest traces of movement. These specialized hairs are very sensitive and are used to pick up small vibrations to lead the cat to its next meal.
Cats have many more whiskers than just those near their nose and mouth: they also have whiskers above their eyes, on their chins, and on the back of their forelegs. Once the cat captures its prey, he will usually use his whiskers to position his prey to best deliver a deadly bite.
Behavior and Play
Much of the cute playful behavior exhibited by cats comes from their natural instinct to hunt. Cats constantly practice their hunting skills in the form of play. Even indoor cats who get fed regular meals can’t resist stalking and pouncing on toys, other cats, and their human friends. This behavior is hardwired and should be encouraged in your fluffy friend.
Playing is an important part of kitten development, as that is how they learn to hunt, capture, and kill their prey. Even older cats need this sort of play for exercise and mental stimulation. Your cat naturally wants to hunt things, so play with your indoor cat with a wand or string toy to give them a chance to practice their hunting skills.
Cats are natural-born predators, but they are also cuddly house pets. Many of the features that make them amazing hunters in nature also make them appealing to humans. No matter how adorable your kitty cat may be, it is important to remember that he or she is an animal with natural instincts.
You can encourage your cat’s natural instincts without allowing them to harm other animals by playing with them often and providing plenty of appropriate cat toys that let them practice hunting from the safety of your living room.
- Your Cat Is A Killing Machine: How Evolution Has Shaped Our Pets Into Ruthless Predators [PHOTOS]
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- 7 Cool Facts About Cat Whiskers | Catster
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- Cat Facts: 5 Amazing Facts About Your Cat's Ears - CatTime
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- Everything You Need to Know About Your Cat's Toe Beans
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- Here's Why Cats Have Such Strange, Haunting Eyes, Explained by Science
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- The cat predator: the study – Almo Nature
"The domestic feline has retained much of its wild nature including its top predator status despite having food on tap. But what is it hunting and why?"
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 02, 2021:
Very informative and thanks.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on September 02, 2021:
Very interesting facts. I sometimes forgot why cats so the things that they do. My two are always pouncing and jumping all over the place.