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Cats Whiskers

mittens2Did you know that the breed of cat called the ‘Sphinx’ often has little to no whiskers?  It’s true.  Do you even know what whiskers are and why cats have them? Well, truth be told – whiskers are quite important for our felines friends. The hairs commonly found on a cat’s face are called whiskers. They are long, thick, flexible, and they are also known as “tactile hairs” or vibrissae. Apart from the hairs which are located in horizontal rows on the cat’s cheeks, above their eyebrows and their chin, cats whiskers are also on their legs.

Cat whiskers perform a number of functions.

 

As a matter of fact, whiskers are the most sensitive parts of a cat’s body.  What purpose do they serve? Sit tight, we’re getting to that.

To navigate and feel their way around. How do cats move around without bumping into things? Well, a cat’s whiskers are so sensitive that they can detect even a minute change in the direction of a breeze in an enclosed space or in the open. Thus, the movement of air around obstacles in a place will emit vibrations that the cat can pick up with its whiskers, and so will be able to avoid whatever obstacles might be in its way. It does not matter if it is night or day; the whiskers help them find their way.

As an indication of mood. Have you ever wondered if you could read your cat’s mood and perhaps gauge its emotions? The whiskers can tell it all as they are usually a first-rate indication of a cat’s actual state of mind. Say what?  When a cat is angry, hostile or feels wary, the whiskers will be pulled back towards its body; when the cat is happy or comfortable, the whiskers will be more relaxed and pushed forward and when the whiskers are put up and stretched fully in a circle around the face, the cat is alert, interested and curious. Pretty cool, huh?

cats whiskers help in positioning the prey. Cats cannot really see things that are very close to them. Therefore, when they catch a prey or they are playing with a toy, they need some way to sense the position of things. Thus, for a cat to fully enjoy play time, its whiskers are very instrumental and important.

To judge whether or not it will fit through an opening. The whiskers are about as wide as the cat’s body and their tips are sensitive to pressure. Therefore, they act as a sort of measure to help the cat judge if its body will fit through an opening or not. It is not unusual to see a cat sticking its head in and out of and opening before putting its entire body in. it is simply trying to judge the distance.

Whiskers not only make cats aware of their surroundings, but can also provide humans with some insight into their pet’s state of mind. For example, a set of taut whiskers, pulled back across the face, is a good indication that Kitty feels threatened, while relaxed whiskers, pointing away from the face, indicate a content cat.

SHOULD YOU TRIM YOUR CAT’S WHISKERS?

If you have been thinking of doing this, it is time to stop. Having highlighted some of the functions attributed to a cat’s whiskers, trimming them will amount to a degree of cruelty. A cat with cut whiskers will have no means of knowing what is in its environment; this will leave the cat at risk of many dangers it might have avoided if it had its whiskers. Also, since you will not be able to judge your pet’s mood anymore, your relationship might not be what you would want it to be.