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Cat Facts: Whiskers 101

True or false? Cat whiskers and human hair are alike. False. Cat whiskers are unique because they actually have touch receptors. Touch receptors are embedded more deeply in the cat’s body and are connected to the sensitive muscular and nervous systems, sending information about the surroundings directly to the cat’s sensory nerves. Whiskers help the cat to detect and respond to changes in its surroundings.

Yes, or no? Should you cut cat’s whiskers?

The answer is no. Some people assume that cat whiskers should be trimmed. Some cats, like the Devon Rex, have curly facial whiskers, so you might think that it wouldn’t be harmful to straighten them out with a little trim. Please do not trim any whiskers of any shape and size. Whickers actually enable cats to gauge and make sense of their environment.

A cat’s whiskers not only help it to gauge whether it can fit into a tight space, they can even respond to vibrations in the air, such as when the cat is chasing prey. What would they do without them?

Do whiskers grow back?

Yes, whiskers do grow back, but cats need their whiskers. Cats use their whiskers in the same way that we use the touch receptors in our fingertips to feel our way around in the darkness, and to alert us to potentially painful situations. Cat whiskers shed and grow back naturally. They should always be left alone.

What makes whiskers so amazing?

Cats have a sensory organ at the end of their whiskers called a proprioceptor, which sends tactile signals to the brain and nervous system. The proprioceptor is related to the position of the body and limbs, an important part of knowing where every part of the body is so that decisions can be made for the next immediate movement. This organ makes the cat’s whiskers very sensitive to even the smallest change in the cat’s environment.

Whiskers also serve as a way for cats to visually measure distance, which is why they are able to leap so quickly and gracefully onto a narrow ledge or out of harm’s way.

Whiskers are a vital part of a cat’s mobility and sense of security. Without whiskers, cats would not be able to achieve the great acrobatic feats that are so awe-inspiring, or protect themselves from dangerous situations. (pet md)

Fun Fact: Did you know that cats also have whiskers on their jaw line and on the back of their front legs? Cats are awesome creatures!

-Photo Credit: From flickr by Ian Barbaur

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