What’s one thing that makes cats stand out? Their adorable whiskers. You can’t have a kitty without them! But, whiskers serve more purpose than just for looking cute. This has us wondering – why do cats have whiskers?
This is a question that doesn’t have just one answer. Whiskers are an essential part of any feline for many reasons. Keep on reading to discover the reasons why cats have whiskers!
What Exactly are Cat Whiskers?
Cat whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are hairs that are more sensitive than fur. That’s because whiskers are thicker and said to be three times more deeply rooted in a kitty’s skin. This means losing a whisker is much more painful than losing hair.
Usually, cats have around 24 whiskers on their face. While many of us think whiskers are only around a cat’s nose, they can also be around their eyes, ears, jaw, or even forelegs.
When it comes to whisker length, this all varies per kitty. Cats that are larger tend to have longer whiskers. Yet, the whiskers don’t continue to grow when your cat gains a couple of pounds. So, if your cat has gotten a little more round lately, don’t be surprised if your cats whiskers look a little shorter…
They Help Cats Express Themselves
Whiskers are a way for cats to show their emotions. Just as we humans move our mouths to show expressions, whiskers move around to show just what a kitty is feeling.
Our cats are little hunters. You’ll know if they’re in hunting or play mode when their whiskers are more forward and pronounced. It’s a way of our cats showing that they’re very curious about something.
If your cat is relaxed, then its whiskers are relaxed too. It’s quite the opposite when your cat is tense or threatened. You can notice how their whiskers go from relaxed to stiff and much closer to their face.
Whiskers are a Cat’s Six Sense
What is interesting about whiskers is how they help cats navigate through their day-to-day activities. They’re almost like a 6th sense, helping cats see and feel things they wouldn’t notice otherwise.
Whiskers pick up vibrations, helping cats notice things nearby that they just can’t see very clearly. When a cat moves towards an object, the cat shifts air currents which bounce off solid objects in the area. These currents create vibrations that whiskers pick up on, notifying the cat that there is something is nearby. This happens when a kitty is hunting or just searching for its food bowl.
You may be wondering – don’t cats have eyes for this? Well, cats actually have blurry vision when compared to humans. So, whiskers are an essential kitty tool for navigating any environment. This is especially true at night when walls and other objects are sometimes hard for cats to see. (For more on how cats see the world, check out this article here!)
Whiskers Help Protect Cats
Whiskers are like little pieces of armor for cats. Their placement all over a cat’s head helps protect a cat from the little things that can do serious damage to its eyes and face.
For example, cats have superciliary whiskers (or ‘eyebrows’ for kitties.) These whiskers catch any little particle that could potentially fall into a cat’s eye from above. What’s even cooler is that these whiskers act sorta like antennae. They sense nearby movement and will. send signals to the eye to blink in case something is moving towards a cat’s eyes.
Even the whiskers on a cat’s chin serve as little protectors. These are called genal whiskers. These are particularly important for kitties that love to roam outside. Genal whiskers also sense movement around a cat’s face, prompting a blink response if when something is too close to a cat’s face.
Remember: Cat Whiskers are Very Sensitive
A cat’s whiskers may sound pretty strong. But, these hairs are very delicate. They need to be handle gently and with care, otherwise, you may cause pain and confusion for your cat.
Damaging a cat’s whiskers can also do a number on your cat’s livelihood. As touch sensors, whiskers help your cat’s brain process its surroundings. They send little signals to the brain, helping a kitty stay alert. This means keeping your cat’s whiskers intact is a top-priority.
With that said, you shouldn’t ever cut your cat’s whiskers. Cutting whiskers will not only change your kitty’s unique look but also affect your cat’s ability to function. Clipped whiskers have been said to leave kitties disoriented, even causing them to run into objects. We love our cats because of their agility, so let’s not take that away from them!
Whiskers were not given to cats by the gods for only aesthetic purposes. These hairs are a significant part of a cat’s body. Without whiskers, cats would not be able to be the smart, crazy, and gravity defying creatures that we love.