How do cats find their way home? This is a tricky question. The short answer is that cats use the same abilities that we humans do: they have a sense of direction, and their keen sense of smell allows them to follow the scent of their food, but they are also very clever and have learned to navigate their way home. It turns out that cats, like dogs, have an innate ability to locate the magnetic North pole, a fact that is important to know in case your cat leaves you behind, or you find your beloved companion in unfamiliar territory.
How Cats Find Their Way Home
How Cats Find Their Way Home
Like all mammals, cats have a sense of direction, based on an internal compass. In the body, this compass is called the hippocampus, and this is a part of the brain that develops during infancy, and continues to function well into old age. Just like a person, a cat has a point of origin (a house, the place where they spend their daytime hours), and a point of destination (the place they will go at night). Cats have an instinctive ability to navigate their way home by following the scent of their food, which they identify by the type of molecules it contains (carbon-based, lipids, and so on). The process by which a cat tracks its food is surprisingly similar to the process that is used when a person seeks their way home. Here’s how it works.
Scent-tracking with their nose
A cat has an amazingly sensitive nose for sniffing out the scents of specific molecules in its environment. It uses three sensors on the end of its snout, each designed to sample a particular type of molecule:
nasal turbinates – which detect molecules of small size and hydrophobic nature (drier substances, like grass, for instance)
– which detect molecules of small size and hydrophobic nature (drier substances, like grass, for instance) anterior part of the nares – which detects molecules with high vapor pressure (bitter substances, like the bark of a willow tree, for instance)
– which detects molecules with high vapor pressure (bitter substances, like the bark of a willow tree, for instance) vomeronasal organ – which detects molecules with low vapor pressure (substances containing sugars, for instance)
The two upper parts of a cat’s snout (nasal turbinates and anterior nares) are the components of what is called the “olfactory region” of the nose. The other two areas, the main olfactory epithelium and vomeronasal organ, are located on the roof of the nasal cavity, and are known as “non-olfactory” regions. The olfactory receptors in the two parts of the nose have evolved to be particularly sensitive, and are able to detect minute traces of chemicals. These receptors, called OSNs, are composed of ciliated epithelial cells that are attached to the epithelium of the olfactory receptor neurons. The ciliated epithelium of the OSNs is about 3,000 times thinner than a human hair, and these very thin tubes are responsible for the “smelling” of the odorants.
Like any other organ, the olfactory epithelium is continuously renewed by cell division in the basal layer of the epithelium. And like many other organs, the olfactory epithelium is also able to regenerate and repair damaged tissue.
The olfactory epithelium is not the only source of odorants in the nasal cavity, however.
Molecules of large size and hydrophilic nature (water-loving substances, like water, for instance) can penetrate the nasal epithelium and reach the olfactory regions.
The nasal cavity is also lined with mucous membranes called the ciliary epithelium, which produces mucus, and the secretions of the respiratory tract.
The ciliated epithelium also has odorant receptors, and ciliated cells are the most common type of olfactory cells in this region.
The epithelium that lines the oral cavity, on the other hand, contains a different type of cell, called the basal cell. In the basal cells of the oral cavity, only the receptors are responsible for the olfaction.
The olfactory epithelium of the nasal cavity is divided into three sections. The front section of the nasal cavity is called the olfactory fossa, and is formed by a fold of the mucosa. It is where the olfactory receptors are located.
The middle section, the olfactory groove, is a depression between the lateral surface of the medial olfactory fossa and the septum.
Finally, the back end, the anterior olfactory sulcus, is the area where the olfactory bulbs of the brain are located. It is the end of the olfactory fossa.
The smell receptors in the nasal cavity are a part of the olfactory epithelium, which is connected to the nose by the olfactory nerves, of the olfactory nerve complex.
Each olfactory bulb is connected to the limbic system via the olfactory bulb tract.
The nasal cavities of the frog have a pair of specialized epithelial cells that respond to certain chemicals.
Olfactory neurons of the frog are of two types: one that responds to the odorant, and the other that responds to pheromones.
The odorant-specific olfactory receptor is a member of the class C G protein-coupled receptor family. These receptors respond to odorant molecules (a chemical that is able to trigger a response in the organism) and are distributed across the nasal epithelium. Different odorant-specific receptors are responsible for recognizing different odors.
Pheromone receptors are members of a family of odorant-specific G protein-coupled receptors, called OS-R, found in the lateral nasal epithelium of anurans. When an olfactory neuron fires, it can cause the dendrites to swell. This causes a voltage change in the cell which can be translated into chemical signals by the cell.