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Why do cats have whiskers?

 by lucy on 26 Apr 2017 |
1 Comment(s)
They may look like a mustache, but for our feline friends, whiskers are far more than a fashion statement. A cat’s facial hair helps him judge his place in space, “see” in the dark and even avoid hungry predators and catch prey. For these reasons, it’s crucial that you never trim your cat’s whiskers, which can leave him disoriented and unable to skillfully escape from dangerous situations.
 
Also known as tactile hairs or vibrissae, whiskers are filled with highly sensitive nerves that help cats judge distance and space. That’s thanks to a tiny sensory organ at each whisker’s tip, called a proprioceptor, that allows cats to pick up vibrations from other animals nearby or changes in their environment. Follicles embedded deep in a cat’s skin then relay these messages to his brain, giving your cat his graceful, lightning-fast reflexes.
 
Cats’ whiskers don’t just grow on their upper lips, however. Our feline friends have the same sensitive hairs along their eyebrows, chin and near their feet. Each set of whiskers correlates to the position of your pet’s body and limbs, making them a crucial part of knowing where he is and making split-second decisions about his movements. Whiskers on your cat’s back legs help him climb trees, for example, while those on his upper lip are just about as wide as his body, allowing your pet to judge whether he can fit through a small opening. Whiskers are highly sensitive, too, allowing cats to feel changes in vibrations in the air, which helps them while they are chasing prey or avoiding a hungry predator.
 
While whiskers’ main function is as your cat’s GPS, they also act a barometer for his moods. A complex set of facial muscles controls cats’ whiskers and a relaxed feline will leave his whiskers immobile, sticking straight out from the sides of his face. Cats engaged in hunting or other intense pursuits often press their whiskers forward, while nervous, angry or defensive cats pull their whiskers back close to their face— a hint that you should back off and give your pet some space.
 
Just like other hair, whiskers shed and grow back, so don’t be alarmed if you find one on the floor. You should never trim your cat’s whiskers, though, since they are a crucial part of his mobility and sense of security. Without them, your cat wouldn’t be able to skilfully navigate his surroundings, leaving him disoriented and vulnerable to dangerous situations.

Comment(s)1

Donna - Comment
Donna27 Apr 2017Reply
So why is my chubby cat's whiskers so small? so she doesn't get stuck? they are shorter than the width of her body. where my other cats' whiskers are longer or as wide as their body.

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Yael David Lavi
Yael David Lavi
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