A Cat’s Senses Are Ready and Waiting
Here comes Toji! - Photo by fofurasfelinas (link at base of page)
This is a really nice picture by a well known Flickr photographer, Giane Portal, Flickr name: forfurasfelinas, of a sanctuary or rescue cat (she is heavily involved in cat rescue) named Toji. As we can see, he is a brown mackerel tabby cat and it shows that his cat's senses are ready and waiting.
The whiskers are long and almost in the forward position. When cat's whiskers are being used to feel prey they are in the forward position almost as if they are outstretched to touch prey and feel it. I see this when I play with my cat. Her ears point forward and her whiskers also point forward. They move fast so it is not spotted sometimes. And they go back to the "standby" position as quickly.
A cat's whiskers are incredible. They are very sensitive; so sensitive that they can sense or "feel" small changes in air currents. As air passes around objects air currents are formed. A cat, able to sense this, can judge where objects are in the dark.
Domestic cats usually kill small rodents by a killer bite to the spine severing the spinal column at the nape of the neck. Large wildcats do the same for smaller prey. The cat's canine teeth are used to severe the spine at the exact spot where one vertebra meets another. The cat's whiskers are also used to feel for this exact spot particularly at dusk and night.
And we can just see Toji's canine teeth, nice and symmetrical, protruding slightly from his mouth - ready for action. I think Giane was using a tease as this cat is has all his senses ready for action.
The heightened sensitivity of cat's whiskers comes from a mass of nerves at the base of each whisker. We can sense that Toji's whiskers are ready to go to work in this photo. That may be because Giane is using a cat tease that equates to prey for Yoji.
Then we have his ears; pointed forward and focused. Cat's ears are amazing too as they can swivel around to position the ear flaps (pinnae) more accurately. Cats frequently look away with their eyes but listen in a different direction at the same time often behind them. And they work independently too. Toji's eyes are alert and focused. The irises of each eye have closed the pupil to a slit so there must have been some light on him. Perhaps Giane has a portable light too. The fact that the pupil is a slit rather than a circle as for humans is an added bonus for the cat.
When the eyelids close they shutter down over the slit blocking more light from the retina in a nicely progressive manner - very effective for the cat that has very sensitive eyes due to a reflective layer behind the retina that reflects light back onto the retina magnifying it making hunting at dusk and dawn (crepuscular activity) more effective.
Toji has a kind of modified tabby "M" mark on his forehead. These vary quite a lot and this is an interesting one. I wonder if the variations signify anything about the cat? One day we might discover that it does.