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Why do cats stare at fire?

Have you ever seen your cat gaze lovingly at a flickering candle? Or perhaps your kitty is sitting cozily by the fireplace, captivated by the dancing flames. Today, we have an extra spooky edition of our “Why do cats…” feature for Halloween in which we explore why cats boldly stare into the fiery abyss!

Seeking warmth

Cats have special heat sensors that are concentrated around their face. Since kittens are born deaf and blind, they use these special sensors to locate their mama and littermates. As kitty gets older, these sensors only become more sensitive. Therefore, what appears to be your cat staring into the flame may actually be kitty’s way of zeroing in on the exact source of the heat.

Enjoying the show

Curious little predators by nature, cats are also attracted lights and objects that move quickly. Anyone who has seen a cat chase a laser pointer knows how easily a moving light can capture kitty’s attention. Moving images on a TV screen can catch your cat’s attention, too. So it may just be that they’re enjoying the unpredictable pattern of the light.

Sensing something we cannot

Alas, there are still some things about the way cats work that we simply do not know yet. Cats who stare at “ghosts,” into dark corners, and beyond walls are probably analysing information that’s imperceptible to us. With such incredibly acute hearing, eyesight, sense of smell, and even an ability to sense subtle air movements, cats probably experience the world with a clarity that we just don’t have.

Some mysteries are solvable. If you stay still long enough, you can see a fly flitter through the air, you can shine a flashlight into a dark corner, and you can press a glass to a wall to listen to mice scurry through. Yet, there isn’t much you can do to see a flame through the eyes of a cat!

Safety first!

Just don’t forget to keep your cat safe during these mystical encounters. Close a screen or divider across your fireplace, and keep candles out of kitty’s reach.

Are you worried about it getting too hot or cold while you’re out of town? Then be sure to show the pet sitter how to adjust the temperature in your apartment. Our pet sitters take extra care to make sure your kitty is comfortable while you’re away.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

photo by Michell Filion on flickr

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