We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the cat’s whiskers’ used to describe something that’s extraordinarily good, and when you realise everything your cat’s whiskers do, you’ll understand why!
Cats’ whiskers are twice as thick as their normal hairs, three times as deep and connected directly to their nerve endings, which makes them extremely sensitive. It’s not only the long whiskers on their cheeks either, they have the same type of whiskers on their chin, above their eyes and in the back of their front legs.
So what exactly is it about your cat’s whiskers that makes them so very special? Read on to find out…
Your cat uses his facial whiskers to determine whether he can squeeze through a space, because his whiskers should be the same width as his body (as long as he isn’t too overweight!). They’re even sensitive to air currents, which makes moving around in the dark easy for him. Objects nearby will cause almost imperceptible movements in the air around them, which your cat’s whiskers will use to sense the shape and size of the objects before they reach them.
Help with Hunting
When your cat is hunting (even if his prey is only a toy mouse), his whiskers move forward at the point of capture to ‘read’ the outline of the prey. This allows for the most effective kill, and is actually so quick that you probably wouldn’t even notice it with your bare eyes. Try recording your cat when he’s playing with his favourite toy, and if you can slow the video down, you might just be able to spot it! The whiskers on the back of his front legs also help when he’s holding onto prey, as well as giving him an idea of the size and shape, they also tell him how much the prey is moving.
Those cute whiskers above his eyes are there for a reason – if something is coming too close, like a foreign object, another cat’s claws or fast moving animal, he’ll sense it through those whiskers and blink to avoid any damage to his eyes.
We know how important body language is when it comes to our cats, but did you know that their whiskers are part of their communication? If your cat’s whiskers are relaxed, and pointing out to the sides, that means he’s a relaxed kitty. If his whiskers are fanned out and pointing slightly to the front, it means he’s alert and possibly tense. Hopefully you won’t see his whiskers flattened to the side of his face and bunched together, because that indicates a frightened cat. You’d also notice his whiskers against his face if he were to get into a fight, because it helps to protect these precious things.
As you can see, whiskers are vitally important to your cat, so if they get damaged or are purposely and cruelly clipped it can cause huge discomfort and confusion.
Image: April Killingsworth via Flickr.