Have you ever wondered how fat cats can get through tiny holes despite their fat body? It’s because of cat whiskers; they help the animals navigate better. Here are some fascinating facts about their whiskers!
Cats’ whiskers not only helps to highlight their face but also serve an important function. Cat whiskers are sensory devices specially adapted to guide cats through everyday functions.
1. Cat whiskers help them go through tiny holes
Cat whiskers have many purposes:
– Detect environment
With a sensitivity comparable to that of human fingertips, the whiskers are deeply embedded and connected to both the muscular and nervous systems. Basically, cats can sense objects in the same way we do with our fingers.
These whiskers function as precise measuring tools that enable cats to accurately assess distance. This is why cats can go through a small hole although their body is bigger than that hole. Their whiskers allow them to determine whether the space is within their reach or not.
– Maintain their balance
Proprioceptors, specialized sensory organs located at the tip of a cat’s whiskers, play a crucial role in keeping the cat’s brain informed about the position of its body and limbs. This allows the cat to have a heightened awareness of each part of their body, aiding in their ability to expertly balance and navigate in tight areas or on narrow edges.
– Feel vibrations
When a cat approaches an obstacle, it disturbs the air currents which rebound upon when hitting solid objects. The whiskers, which work like radar detectors, have the ability to detect these very small vibrations generated by the changes in air currents.
In their natural habitat, these whiskers allow the cat to detect prey, possible attackers, or the position of its groups. In a domestic setting, these same whiskers assist it to find its preferred food bowl or toy during nocturnal hours. In short, cat whiskers assist the animal in nighttime hunting and avoiding collisions with objects in the dark.
– Support cats to see in the dark
Have you ever wondered how your feline friend effortlessly navigates in the dark without running into things? This is made possible by their whiskers which serve as tactile hairs.
As indoor airflows differ depending on the arrangement of furniture, cats rely on their whiskers to gather this information and transmit it to their brain. Along with their exceptional night vision, this allows them to navigate with ease in the dark, surpassing our own abilities.
– See up close
Cats’ sense of sight is not their strongest suit, as they struggle to focus on objects within a 30cm range. However, their whiskers play a crucial role in helping them “see” things that are close by.
These whiskers constantly transmit information to the cat’s brain, making it easier for them to perceive objects located just below its nose. This allows them to have a better visual understanding of their environment. By brushing against an object with their whiskers, cats can determine the object’s location, size, and even texture.
– Protect the face
Cat whiskers serve multiple functions, one of which is safeguarding their sensitive body parts against harm. The whiskers located around the eyes are highly responsive and can detect even the slightest touch, such as dust particles. This enables the creatures to shake or blink swiftly to clear it.
Furthermore, cat whiskers aid in the detection of sharp objects, protecting their eyes and charming faces.
2. Cat whiskers – sliding picture puzzle
3. Cats’ whiskers are all over their bodies
Although many people believe that cats only have whiskers around their mouths, these sensitive sensory hairs can be found in various locations on their bodies. In addition to their face, cats have whiskers on their eyes, ears, jaw, and forelegs.
Typically, cats have 24 whiskers in their snout, with 12 on each cheek, placed in 4 horizontal rows of 3. While some cats may own more than 24 whiskers, the total number should always be even. The whiskers must be spread equally on the sides of the cat’s face so that they can accurately interpret their surroundings.
4. Whiskers stress
Cat whiskers are extremely sensitive, to the point where even the pressure from a deep food bowl can cause stress. This condition, known as whisker fatigue, occurs when a cat’s whiskers repeatedly hit the walls of its bowl while eating. If your cat touches food with its paws or takes food on the floor to eat, consider feeding it in a larger or shallower bowl (relief bowl).
However, there are some arguments against this. Some argue that whisker fatigue is not real. There is no difference in eating habits between a cat using a whisker-friendly cat bowl and a deep food dish. You can see more here.
5. Cat whisker size is proportional to their body size
The length of a cat’s whiskers is directly proportional to the width of its body, which includes its fur. Cats with long whiskers usually have bigger and chubbier bodies. For instance, the Maine coon cat, which is the biggest domesticated cat breed, can have whiskers that are as long as 15cm. On the other hand, the whiskers of a Cornish Rex are very short.
The world’s longest whiskered cat on record is Miss American Pie, also known as “Missi,” a Mainecoon cat residing in Finland. In 2005, the Guinness World Records confirmed that its very long whiskers reach to the size of 19cm in length.
6. You can read cats’ emotions through their whiskers
Apart from the effects mentioned above, a cat’s whiskers also reveal its feelings and emotions. When the whiskers are stiff and drawn in around the cat’s face, this indicates that they are feeling frightened. On the other hand, if the whiskers are loose and relaxed, it suggests that the cat is feeling happy, secure, and pleased. And if the cat’s whiskers are pushed forward, it indicates that it is curious.
By observing a cat’s body language, you can read its mood.
7. Leg whiskers help cats hunt
If the facial whiskers are used to navigate and sense objects, what are the roles of leg whiskers? These whiskers can be found on the underside of the ankles at the back of the front legs. They aid the cat in climbing trees and hunting prey.
When a cat grips its prey with its front paws, it can’t look down to see if the prey is still alive or not due to its poor up-close vision. This is why leg whiskers are important, as they provide this information to the cat and let it know if it is in a favorable position to bite.
8. Cats can move their whiskers
The cat’s snout contains multiple whiskers, with each strand being linked to a distinct muscle fiber that enables that cat to move them separately. Furthermore, the cat can employ the larger muscles surrounding the whiskers to move them as a collective unit. The cat can maneuver its whiskers in various ways, including extending them forward while hunting or yawning and retracting them into its cheeks.
9. They can change color
Cat whiskers are typically white due to their thickness and lack of melanin, which is responsible for skin and coat color. However, they are not always white. Some cat whiskers may exhibit different colors, such as half white and half black.
Similar to how human hair changes color with age, cat whiskers may also darken and turn gray, or even turn black as they get older.
10. They can fall out on their own
It’s common for cats to lose their whiskers, even on one side, just like they shed their hair. You may often find your cat’s whiskers around the house, but don’t worry, they can grow back. However, if you notice a sudden increase in whisker loss, it could be a sign of allergies, a skin disease such as feline acne, a fungal infection, or an injury.
Cat whiskers can take 2 to 3 months or longer to grow back. Sick cats need to to recover before their whiskers can regrow. Diet, cat breeds, and health problems are all factors that can influence whisker growth.
11. Cat whiskers shouldn’t be trimmed
Cat whiskers are similar in appearance to human hair. They are made up of a protein called keratin and lack nerve endings, so it doesn’t hurt when a cat loses a whisker, and cutting them does not cause physical pain. However, whiskers are much more than just hair – they serve as important sensory tools for cats to explore and interact with their surroundings.
Trimming or cutting a cat’s whiskers, even by a few centimeters, can disrupt its ability to sense objects and movements around them, leading to balance issues and disorientation. Don’t mess up their life by trimming or pulling their whiskers.
The whiskers of cats (commonly referred to as “tactile hairs”) are much more than just a cute adornment. They play a crucial role in the feline sensory system, serving as reliable touch receptors that help cats navigate and interact with their environment. As such, it is important to treat a cat’s whiskers with care, avoiding actions that could damage or impair their function. Remember, under no circumstances should you pluck or trim a cat’s whiskers.