Can you imagine a world without cat whiskers? I’ve always been fascinated by these wispy wonders, but why are they there?
Whiskers are way more than just one of cat’s most adorable features. The whiskers on their cheeks, chins, eyebrows and forelegs are more important than most people can imagine.
A cat’s whiskers are incredible sensory and communication tools. They are directly connected to their nervous system – and each whisker contains sensory neurons that send valuable information to the brain. Each one is deeply imbedded – connected to its own whisker muscle – making them very sensitive.
The Purpose of Whiskers on Cats
Whiskers Help Cats Hunt – and Protect Themselves: These super sensitive feelers act as a virtual GPS system. They are able to detect even the slightest change in air movement. Not only does this help cats hunt, it’s also an important protective tool from predators. Whiskers literally help cats ‘see’ – especially in low light. And because cats have a hard time seeing very close up objects, the whiskers on a cat’s face and fore-legs allow them to position their prey for a kill bite – and lets them know if their prey is still alive (brutal, but true).
Communication Tool: When cats are excited, hunting, or being very playful, their whiskers will move forward. When they are afraid or in pain, their whiskers will move back. A relaxed cat will have relaxed whiskers. Interestingly, researchers at University of Calgary developed a feline pain scale – which includes observing whisker position to help determine a cat’s pain level.
If I Fits, I Sits: One of my favorite whisker facts is that they grow to be approximately as long as our cats are wide. his helps them know where and what they’ll fit into. If you’ve ever thought you’ve lost one of you cats, be sure to check places you think would be a super squeeze. We once found one of ours in a cardboard tube – after hours of panic. We were stupefied it was a fit – and this was also when learned cats don’t have collarbones – but that’s another topic.
If you’re like us, you’ve long admired these precious pricklers. And now we can understand how important it is to protect them. Never tug or trim a whisker – though you may have a lucky moment of finding one that naturally sheds, so make a wish.