How your cat nose what it’s smelling! Felines have a ‘super-quick’ sense of smell, study


How your cat nose what it’s smelling! Felines have a ‘super-quick’ sense of smell that makes them extra-efficient at sniffing out food, study finds

  • Scientists have discovered the secret to felines’ finesse at tracking down food 
  • Cats have noses that act like high-tech chemical analysis equipment in the lab

It may seem that your cat has an uncanny ability to sniff out treats.

Now, scientists have discovered the secret to felines’ finesse at tracking down food.

Research reveals cats have noses that act like high-tech chemical analysis equipment usually found in the lab.

A complex collection of tightly coiled bony airway structures are behind their great sense of smell, and work in a similar way to parallel coiled gas chromatographs – laboratory equipment used to analyse the chemical makeup of substances.

Scientists from Ohio State University created a 3D computer model of a cat nose and simulated how an inhalation of air containing common cat food odours would flow through the coiled structures.

It may seem that your cat has an uncanny ability to sniff out treats. Now, scientists have discovered the secret to felines' finesse at tracking down food (stock image)

It may seem that your cat has an uncanny ability to sniff out treats. Now, scientists have discovered the secret to felines’ finesse at tracking down food (stock image)

Scientists from Ohio State University created a 3D computer model of a cat nose and simulated how an inhalation of air containing common cat food odours would flow through the coiled structures

Scientists from Ohio State University created a 3D computer model of a cat nose and simulated how an inhalation of air containing common cat food odours would flow through the coiled structures

They found that the air separates into two flow streams.

One stream of air is cleansed and humidified before being sent to the lungs, while the other delivers the odour quickly and efficiently to the system responsible for smelling, also known as the olfactory region.

This allows cats to smell very quickly, rather than waiting for air to filter through the respiratory zone used for breathing, the team said.

The air that is sent down the tube for ‘smell’ is then recirculated in channels when it gets there.

Senior author Kai Zhao said: ‘It’s like you take a sniff, the air is shooting back there and then is being processed for a much longer time.

‘It’s a very good design if you think about it. 

‘For mammals, olfaction is very important in finding prey, identifying danger, finding food sources and tracking the environment.

‘Simulation of air and odour flow through the virtual cat nose showed that it appears to function similarly to a parallel coiled gas chromatograph, in which the efficiency of the basic technique is boosted by the use of multiple tubes branching off of one high-speed gas stream.’

The findings were published in the journal Plos Computational Biology.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S CATS

Ernest Hemingway pictured at breakfast with a group of polydactyl cats feeding at his feet

Ernest Hemingway pictured at breakfast with a group of polydactyl cats feeding at his feet

Ernest Hemingway was a cat lover who kept them at the home he shared with his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer at their Spanish Colonial house in Key West, Florida.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is home to approximately 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.  

Polydactyly is a genetic condition that causes an individual to be born with extra digits. It is inherited from a dominant gene, and can occur in multiple species. 

The writer was given a white six-toed cat in the 1930’s by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat, named Snow White.

To this day, many of Snow White’s descendants roam the grounds of Hemingway Home, and because Key West is so small, it’s not unlikely that many of the cats on the island are related. 

About half of the cats at the museum have the physical polydactyl trait but they all carry the polydactyl gene in their DNA, which means that the ones that have 4 and 5 toes can still mother or father six-toed kittens. 

There are 54 cats living on the property, all descended from Snow White. 

To this day, many of Snow White's descendants roam the grounds of Hemingway Home, and because Key West is so small, it's not unlikely that many of the cats on the island are related

To this day, many of Snow White’s descendants roam the grounds of Hemingway Home, and because Key West is so small, it’s not unlikely that many of the cats on the island are related



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