Cats possess so many amazing and wonderful natural adaptations that work together to make them the graceful, stealthy and fiercely magnificent creatures they are. A cat’s whiskers are an excellent example of the tools a cat uses to… well, be a cat. To follow are 5 awesome facts about cat whiskers:
Whiskers are Different than the Average Hair
Cat whiskers are longer and stiffer than normal hairs, and they are embedded more deeply under the cat’s skin. Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are touch receptors, and they connect to muscles and nerves, for the purpose of sending important information to a cat about its environment. Unlike hairs, cat whiskers should never be cut! Cutting a cat’s whiskers can cause disorientation, fear and even pain. Whiskers do, however, occasionally fall out and grow back on their own.
Whiskers Help Cats to “See” in the Dark
Whiskers are so sensitive to stimuli, they can detect small vibrations in the air made by the movements of prey animals, even when the cat can’t see them. As a cat moves through a space, proprioceptors, a sensory organ that is on the ends of whiskers, send signals to the cat’s brain about everything the cat brushes against. These signals tell the cat how much space it has to maneuver, if it will fit through an opening, and what movement will need to be made next.
Cats Don’t Just Have Whiskers by their Noses
The longest and most visible whiskers on a cat are to either side of the nose and upper lips, but did you know that they also have whiskers above their eyes? You can find more whiskers on the lower jaw, and on the backs of the front legs.
Whiskers Can Tell Us a Lot About a Cat’s Mood
Whiskers aren’t just a sophisticated kitty radar system – they also are indicators of a cat’s mood. When the whiskers are relaxed, sticking out sideways (the way we usually picture them), and not moving around, this indicates that the cat is calm, perhaps resting. If the whiskers are flat against the cat’s face, it could indicate fear or anger. If the cat is in “hunting mode”, either really hunting, or stalking a toy, the whiskers point forward.
Your Cat’s Whiskers Might Mean She Needs a Different Feeding Dish
Did I mention that cat’s whiskers are super sensitive? If you are feeding your cat from a traditional food dish, you may notice that she is eating the food in the middle and leaving the food around the edges. While this makes for funny Instagram pics, there is a reason why this might be happening: cat whiskers are so sensitive that it may be overstimulating, perhaps even painful, for them to be constantly bumping against the sides of the food dish. Getting your cat a shallow feeding dish is an easy solution to this problem – your cat will love you for it!
Whiskers are just one of the features that make it possible for cats to be the truly exceptional, nimble, elegant beings that they are, and they are vital for a cat’s well-being, mobility and assurance of its surroundings.