Whiskers (also known as “vibrissae” or “tactile”) are mammal hair characterized by their long length and thickness which can be noticed mostly on cat’s nose. The purpose of it is not just to make the cat’s face look adorable.
In fact, they are helpful in so many ways such as for protection and hunting. They serve as an environmental scanning system that helps cats in everyday life.
A cat has 24 muzzle whiskers; 12 on each side and they are up to 3 times thicker than regular cat hair.
Whiskers are mostly straight but there are also cats like Devon Rex where it’s short and curly. That being said, trimming your Devon Rex’s curly whisker to make it straight would be a bad idea as far as your pet’s mental status is considered. Read along to know why!
Facts About Whiskers in Cats
If the facial hair in men like beard and mustache are just for fashion, whiskers of cats are not just for that. So, why do cats have whiskers? It perform multiple jobs and they are more amazing than you think. The following are facts about cat whiskers you might not have heard of yet:
1. Cats’ Whiskers Are Not Just Like Typical Hairs
Unlike cat fur, whiskers are rooted much deeper in cat’s skin. They are a noticeable feature of the cat that grow on specific areas and extend the feline’s sense of touch. Connected to the cat’s nervous system, whiskers send information directly to the sensory nerves.
2. Whiskers Can Be Found On Other Parts Of Cat’s Body
Since whiskers are mostly noticed on cat’s nose, some might think that it can only be found there. But actually, they are also seen on other parts of the cat’s body like chin area, above the eyes, and back of the legs(leg whiskers) too. Whiskers often serve as a protection and help cats in climbing.
3. Air Flow Can Be Felt By Cats Because of Their Whiskers
Cat whiskers are surrounded by muscle tissue with nerves and sensory cells which are connected to the area of a cat’s brain. Their sensitivity makes the cat feel even the slightest movements in air through their vibration.
4. Whiskers Are Great Help In Cat Hunting
Whiskers are such a big help in hunting for prey because they brush up against things which guide the cats to have efficient movements. Cats can see more clearly in the night because of it. The cat’s whiskers also help determine whether the cat can bite its prey or determine if it is dead by moving back and forth.
5. You Can Find Out Your Cat’s Mood Through Its Whiskers
Cats have different ways of expressing themselves and one way is through their whiskers. They have a big role when it comes to communication, as they serve as a mood indicator.
A facial whisker that is pulled back along the face indicates a threatened mood so you should avoid your cat; otherwise you might get hurt. Cat facial whiskers usually point straight as a signal that a cat is in a good mood and relaxed.
6. Cat Whiskers Are Extremely Sensitive
Since they are not just a typical hair and they contain lots of nerve cells, cat whiskers are highly sensitive that’s why you should never trim or pull them. A cat won’t only feel discomfort but dizziness and fear too. Cat owners must take care of their cats’ whiskers by not letting anything put pressure on it.
According to some studies, cats which have damaged whiskers have trouble going through small openings. Some cats are lucky because their’s grow back after getting damaged.
Whiskers send even the slightest changes around a cat and too much information to whiskers can cause whisker fatigue to a cat.
7. Whiskers Above The Eyes Serve As Cat’s Protection
If we have eyelashes that protect our eyes from dust, cats have whiskers. Cats are farsighted animals but they have whiskers to shield them.
Whiskers above the cats’ eyes serve as their glasses because they become aware if something is about to get into their eyes causing them to blink. A blind cat can use it to navigate because they help the cat distinguish spaces.
8. Feeding Your Cat in a Small Bowl Can Lead To Whisker Stress
Whiskers are very sensitive to pressure to the point that even a bowl that a cat uses to eat can cause whisker stress. A small bowl for a cat can be too narrow and for that reason, cat owners should give their cats bowls for food which are wide enough for their pets’ whiskers.
9. They Do Grow Back After Trimming or Natural Shedding
Cats’ whiskers normally shed but they usually come back and replaced by new ones. Sometimes, loss of whiskers in cats can mean that they are stressed. But if you notice a sudden loss of many of it, then that cat might have an underlying cause like fungal or bacterial infections, feline acne, and alopecia.
Loss of whiskers might also be because of catfights as damage from scratches can lead to whisker loss. Skin irritation in cats can result in loss of hair too. You should never touch your cats’ whiskers because they are so sensitive that even the light pressure can cause damage to them.
That being said, you shouldn’t purposefully trim or cut your cat’s whiskers as they act as sensors for your feline pet. Even though they do grow back if you cut them, you don’t want your feline to have some bad days where they would need to live in fear and anxiety, do you?
10. The Longest Whiskers in Guinness World Records is 7.5 Inches Long
A Maine coon named Fullmoon’s Miss American Pie owned by Kaija Kyllönen is the record holder for the longest whisker on a cat. Her’s was 19cm (7.5 inches) long and were measured in Finland on December 22, 2005.
11. They are Used To Determine If They Can Fit Through An Opening
Through the use of whiskers, cats can determine whether they can fit through an opening or not. They are sensory antennae which make the cat feel the wall before crashing into it. Cats are able to squeeze themselves into small spaces without getting stuck.
Whiskers are not just interesting but significant indeed for a cat’s life. They may be adorable but you should just watch them from afar. Avoid the things that can cause pressure to your cat’s whiskers to prevent it from unusual shedding.