Tigers live in environments that can sometimes be rather harsh and are completely independent. This means that their very survival depends on their own efforts, skills and sensory perception; with no assistance from a pack. They are accomplished hunters, and their bodies are designed and built for the kill. Their senses are crucial to their success and, indeed, life. Like most mammals, tigers have five main senses:
As avid hunters, tigers need to have acute hearing so that they are able to detect potential prey in the bushes and grasses around them. Many times, this foliage is dense, concealing the animal visually. Therefore, the tiger’s hearing must be fine-tuned in order not to miss an important opportunity to get food. This is the most acute of all the tiger senses.
The eyesight of the tiger is exceptionally good, particularly at night. The eye has been designed to see very well in the dark. In normal daylight, the tiger sees about as well as we do, but without the detail that we can enjoy. At night, though, their vision is about six times better than that of a human being. They can also judge distances, which is essential to their success in hunting, since they need to pounce on unsuspecting prey with accuracy and agility.
Tigers use this helpful sense when they are interacting with other tigers, and not so much in hunting. Tigers use personal scents to mark their territory. Other tigers will be eager to smell the scent of their peers. Females use their scents to mark specific territories to let males know that they are ready to mate.
Although the sense of taste in a tiger is not that sophisticated, it has been established that they are probably able to taste acidic as well as sweet flavours. Tigers (and other cats in general) have only a fraction of the number of taste buds that we, as human beings, enjoy. This lack of complex tasting mechanisms accounts for the fact that tigers do not refuse to eat food that has become rotten.
Tigers use their well-developed sense of touch for several purposes. These include rubbing against one another (as in courting couples or family members) and for mothers to maintain personal contact with their cubs. However, using their very sensitive whiskers is another extremely important facet of their tactile sensory perception. These assist in navigation in the dark and detecting danger. When attacking their prey, the whiskers help the tiger to sense where the best place to bite the victim would be for an effective, quick kill.
These finely tuned senses demonstrate that, in addition to brute force and ferociousness, the tiger is also equipped with sophisticated means of living, hunting and procreating.