Whiskers, oh, how I love those twitchy little extensions of our feline friends. Some people love them so much that they even save them once their cat has lost one. Not myself, but I’ve certainly heard of it. We know a few basic facts about cat whiskers. For starters, we should never, ever trim them like we would our cat’s nails. And we also know that cats use them for balance, as well as a way to determine whether they can squeeze themselves through a tight opening. In case you didn’t know, your feline friend has free-floating clavicle bones, so those whiskers are necessary to let them know if their cat caboose can squeeze through! Okay, I’m giving away too many facts all at once. Let’s go ahead and take a closer look at your cat’s whiskers to give you even more insight into the feline kind.
Cat whiskers serve as necessary hunting tools
You may not have known this, but your cat’s vision up-close isn’t so great. But you know what is great? Those whiskers of theirs! They have the ability to detect the slightest movement in the air, and this is what cats use to hunt their prey. When a cat is hunting, especially a moving object such as a mouse, their powerful whiskers will sweep forward to help them sense the prey directly in front of their face which their eyes cannot clearly see. Obviously your cat knows exactly where their next meal is coming from. But keep in mind that our feline friends were not always a domesticated species. So, for cats, the main purpose for their whiskers is to aid them in hunting when their eyes fail them.
Curious as to how your cat sees the world? Learn all about your cat’s vision here on cattitudedaily.com.
Your cat’s whiskers serve as their sensory mood barometers
Your cat’s whiskers are embedded nearly three times as deep as their fur is. And those whiskers are filled with highly sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels. So, like mentioned above, that’s why you should never trim them because ouch! Your cat’s mood is easy to read if you understand feline body language, and their whiskers can give you insight to their mood, too.
Mary Fuller, DVM with VetStreet says that whiskers themselves cannot feel anything. Instead, objects that brush up against a whisker cause it to vibrate, which then stimulates the nerves in the hair follicle.
Because of this, it clearly explains the scientific name for whiskers, which is vibrissae. It’s derived from the Latin word “vibrio” which literally translates as “to vibrate.” And these whiskers of theirs also serve to protect their face, which is a highly sensitive region of their body. Because if those radar receptors detect danger, a cat will rapidly move away from it as not to hurt their face.
So, do all cats have white whiskers?
Most cats will always always have white whiskers. The only time you’ll see black whiskers is typically when the cat is completely solid black. Or solid brown if they’re a Havana Brown—the only true brown cat. An Oriental Shorthair cat can be brown, too, but their whiskers will be white.
If a mostly solid color cat like a tabby or a black cat has white on their body, like my tuxedo cat shown above, then they’ll have white whiskers. Occasionally, some cat’s whiskers will have a mix of black and white. My ginger cat Tom has a few solid black whiskers mixed in with his white whiskers, which you can see below. And if you have a solid black kitty in your life, don’t be surprised if those all black whiskers start sprouting a white whisker here and there as they reach their senior years.
Whiskers, whiskers everywhere!
Those prominent asymmetrical wisps on either side of their nose aren’t your cat’s only whiskers. If you look closely, you’ll notice that your feline friend has other whiskers, too. On their face, you’ll find roughly 8-12 whiskers on either side of their nose. But almost every single cat has a few little whiskers under their chin, right about their eyes, and on the back of their front legs. It’s been speculated that if your cat is to gain weight, then their whiskers will grow in length, too. But there hasn’t been much scientific evidence to back up this feline rumor.
Did you learn anything new and interesting about our feline friends? Share this article with other cat lovers that you know so that they can learn something, too.
Want to learn more about your cat’s tail and what’s it’s trying to say to you? Learn how to decode tail talk here on cattitudedaily.com.