A lot of cat owners are unable to take care of their cat's whiskers properly. Mismanagement of a cat's whiskers can lead to a lot of distress, so here's what you should know about your feline's whiskers.
When you see your cat's whiskers, what comes to your mind? A bit of sparse mustache, a patch of muzzle hair, or probably a mysteriously useless physical trait?
Well, the whiskers on your Ginger or Bertha may not seem to be of any utility, but they're actually quite important for a cat's survival. So no, these whiskers, scientifically known as vibrissae, are nowhere near pretentious. In fact, here's all you need to know about your cat's whiskers:
They Are A Part Of The Nervous System
When you look at whiskers, you can think of them as extended parts of the neurons because that's precisely what they are. Whiskers are a highly sensitive motion and environment detection trait that is naturally present in cats. Any signals that the whiskers pick up on its antennae are then transmitted to the cat's brain, which interprets those signals to anticipate or plan ahead.
Here's how they work: the whiskers-cum-radar detect the presence of an object depending on the air currents in their surroundings. They also estimate the size, speed, danger factor, and other variables before the cat decides what to expect. The whiskers then send all the information to the brain, which then causes the nervous system to respond. The whiskers serve as a pre-brain, in a way!
They Are Equal In Measurements
Another interesting fact about your cat's whiskers: they are naturally perfect in every way. They're usually a set of evenly distributed whiskers, 12 on each side with precisely equal measurements. This means that they're naturally aligned in a perfect manner to serve as properly functional antennae.
Since a cat detects the presence around itself using these whiskers, it makes sense to have an equal perimeter on each side of the cat. This helps the cat in detecting air currents from all directions!
Cats Have Whiskers in Five Places
Yes! Your feline is blessed with not just the whiskers around its nose, but it also has whiskers above its eyes, around the ears, jaws, and forelegs. However, since its face is the one we usually notice this most, many simply assume that it's only the face where they have whiskers.
All of these whiskers are situated at different altitudes and directions, are different in size, hence serve different purposes. For instance, the whiskers over the head have a stronger radar for detecting objects falling from above, which helps the cat dodge in time. Forelegs whiskers help it detect the distance it's jumping through, oncoming street traffic, as well as when and where prey is approaching.
They're a Cats Eyeglasses
You've probably heard that a cat's vision for nearer sights is pretty blurred. Anything in a field of vision of around 30 cm or closer than that isn't really visible to your little champ, which is why they have those whiskers around their eyes. Whenever there's any object nearing the eye, the eye whiskers warn the cat, signaling it to blink or rub it off. If there's an object that isn't visible by sight, then the whiskers help the car in identifying the object.
Whiskers Help a Cat Hunt at Night
With an already poor vision, night hunting or even a night stroll could be dangerous. But thanks to these whiskers, your cat can easily chase rodents and lizards, and even other cats during the night with the help of its whiskers.
Like most nighttime animals, cats have their own navigation system in the form of whiskers. They can sneak anywhere they feel safe, pounce on prey when it's near enough, and even detect all that tiptoeing your kids do during the night!
They Change their Color
Although they're not conventional hair, whiskers still exhibit some characteristics similar to human hair. For instance, your cat's fur coat won't change its color throughout its lifetime (unless the cat is on medication or you choose to dye its fur). However, the whiskers may sometimes turn to a duller shade of the color that was there during the earlier days of life. In fact, these are some of the most common signs of aging in cats!
They Help in Measuring Areas
Your cat's whiskers help it in determining how far an object is from its body. The stronger the nearness that the whiskers sense, the stronger signals go to your brain. This helps your kitten in adjusting to or simply refusing to get into different spaces.
Suppose it wants to give birth to a new litter. Your cat needs a cozy, private space where it can easily feed the babies. The cat will first examine the birthing bed you've prepared for her, the absence of major air currents (which means no disturbance nearby), and then it'll settle down to give birth in a tight, closeted nest. If the space is too uncomfortable, suffocating, and full of disruptions, then your cat may still demand a quieter space.
The Whiskers Can Get a Sensory Overload
Recall the times you felt overwhelmed by social media or by news from all around the world. You just feel drained of all energy, right? It's the same for these fragile whiskers on your beloved's muzzle. Too much activity in the surroundings or too much contact with any object with the whiskers can seriously disturb your cat's neural balance.
This condition is also known as whisker fatigue. If you feel like your cat is refusing to engage in any activity, has lost its appetite, or is generally feeling ill, then these may be signs of sensory overload.
Trimming Whiskers is a Bad Idea
Given all the uses of whiskers, it's downright cruel to trim them or chop them off. Even if you feel like the whiskers are too long or could do with a bit of touchup, you won't be able to achieve natural accuracy and precision. Instead, you'll only strip your cat of its vision assistance, danger detector, and prey radar!
Never thought much about cat whiskers? Well, now you know! So, whether you're deciding to be a cat parent or work in a cat spa, here’s everything you need to know about a cat's whiskers!