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4. DOMESTIC LEOPARDS

 

A cat's senses are extremely well adapted to its way of life.

The leopards are the most successful large cat species group, they are capable of living in a variety of climates & in close proximity to mankind without causing conflict. The smallest of the big cats, they are still vulnerable to predators. As such they are sensitive to threat & evade it with stealth or by climbing. Using their tools & wits they can live nearby but avoid agitating us, they will scavenge what they can without causing alarm. Just like leopards, small African cats were capable of adapting to their changing environments. These smaller cats benefited from discreetly living around a predators habitat, due to the rodents that our waste attracts. Their success came as their size was not life threatening to us, & eventually they were invited into the protection of our homes in return for pest control.  

Small cats are versatile carnivores that are well adapted to navigate through the world around them. With flexible spines, agile bodies & finely tuned senses they are successful the apex predators, beyond our immediate human environments.
A small cat's prey ranges from insects, birds & mammals to snakes in the grass & spiders. The cat is able to climb trees with the help of its claws to evade threats or track their prey. In an instant they are able to spring at the opportunity of a catch, with efficient limbs. The feline vestibular system (orientation), reactions & their sensory array allows for instantly calculated acrobatic movement with minimal risk of injury or accident.
Being a crepuscular mammal means that a cat is most active during a time when the habitual patterns of a variety of prey animals overlap at dusk & dawn. This gives them a good chance to encounter & hunt down a variety of prey. In diminished low-level light, a cat's ears act like individual radar dishes, they will hone in & triangulate the distances to the noise of a potential meal instantly. The Tapetum Lucidum of a cat's eye (reflective layer making them glow in the dark & in low light) picks up & reflects the tiniest amount of light back to the retina, giving a cat excellent low light vision not dissimilar to that of an owl. Their eyes are sensitive to movement, browns & greens, effective for distinguishing prey animal colouring & natural floor debris from a background in shadow. A cat's vision is ideal for pouncing on targets at strike distance, instead of up close & under the nose.
Whiskers sense subtle variations in air currents around obstacles or objects & movements close to their body. These whiskers reduce the need for excellent close up vision - once prey is pounced upon the vibrissae (whiskers) will detect any escape attempts & guide a killing bite. When stalking, the same whiskers allow the hunting cat to focus completely on its target, yet still be sure to approach silently. Information provided about potentially noisy obstacles allow a cat to carefully step over or around them without looking. These senses combine & distinguish the feline as an outstanding & successful hunter.
These senses & the radar ears in particular, also help protect a cat from predation & to evade other threats.
The cat's tastes are tuned in to the flavour of their prey, ensuring that they enjoy eating appropriate foods. Their sense of smell is far better than that of humans, this enables them to track unseen prey or foodstuffs & importantly to communicate with other felines. Scent is important in cat society, they will leave scent messages, receive them via their nose & the Jacobson organ. The Jacobson organ allows a cat to gain even more information from smells by converting them to taste. This could, for example, provide a dominant Tomcat with local information on which females are in season.

View examples of cats bridging the big, small and domestic divide on the next page.

Leopards in our living rooms?

Leopards in our living rooms?

Tigers along the terraces!

Tigers along the terraces!

An efficient sensory array

An efficient sensory array

A silent predator

A silent predator

Senses finely tuned in to prey animals

Senses finely tuned in to prey animals

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