Why is my cat staring at the wall?

Your cat is not staring at the wall. She’s probably staring at a place on the wall where there is an insect or where there is some other source of sound which she has picked up. You probably can’t see the insect and perhaps nor can she, but she can hear it. Cats do depend on their acute sense of hearing when hunting. A cat’s sharpest senses are in descending order: hearing, smell and sight. It is said that they can pick up the sound of an ant in grass. And the can pinpoint prey in long grass with their hearing. You probably know that a cat’s hearing is particularly acute at high frequencies. This is a product of evolution as their major prey animals are small mammals such as mice which have high-pitched voices.

Cat staring at something
Cat staring at something. Photo: public domain.
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Cats are not very good at picking up lower frequency sounds. So when your cat is staring into space she may have picked something up with her acute sense of hearing such as an insect’s wings beating or, if she is outside, the sound of a rodent in the grass.

If your cat does not respond to you and she is elderly it might be because she has hearing loss due to her age. Or it might simply be that she doesn’t want to respond. People expect cats to respond quickly because people normally do.

Serval cub with huge ears for sound hunting of rodents in long grass in Africa
Serval cub with huge ears for sound hunting of rodents in long grass in Africa. Not a domestic cat clearly (or shouldn’t be) but a good example of evolution of the cat to enhance hunting of small mammals.

I have found that cats do respond to their owner’s attempts to catch their attention but the response may be delayed while they process it. Give your cat some time and you might be pleasantly surprised.

The domestic cat’s hearing range is between 40 hertz and 65,000 hertz. The human hearing range is between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz.

Henry's pocket a theory for its existence
Henry’s pocket a theory for its existence. Image: PoC.

Many years ago I wrote about a strange anatomical feature of the domestic cat’s ear flap which is called the Henry’s Pocket. At the time nobody had figured out its purpose, if indeed it has a purpose. I decided that its purpose was to enhance the domestic cat’s ability to detect high-pitched sounds.

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