Cat whiskers: what are they for

A cat’s whiskers may seem like a habit as they are to us, but that’s not the case at all. They are also called vibrissae which is an almost onomatopoeic name since they are very sensitive to the “vibrations” of the environment and soon we will understand in what sense we are using this metaphor. If you have never wondered why these strange hairs are so long and particularly sensitive (try to touch them and you will see the reaction), now is the time to understand what lies behind them.

Cat whiskers, whiskers

The whiskers of cats, or the whiskers of these felines, are very particular hairs that cannot be confused with very normal coat hairs, even if the coat of our animal is long or semi-long. In fact, it is not only the length that makes the cat’s whiskers special but also the texture. They are stiff hairs and moreover they do not sprout everywhere but only and only on the cheeks of our friend. In a very well limited area.

The cat can lose a lot of hair without noticing anything, it has a lot of it, but these strange hairs are instead indispensable and fundamental for the survival of the animal itself, they serve as radar to explore the surrounding environment, to orient itself, to move easily as only he can do.

What are cat whiskers for?

We have already anticipated it a little while ago, the whiskers are very important organs because they provide the cat with the essential information to move and live. A lot of different information passes through the cat’s whiskers and we cannot even imagine such as the atmospheric condition, the movements of the air, the presence of nearby objects and what kind.

Sounds like real magic right? It is natural to ask how the whiskers get information from the environment and here is the answer. These magical hairs sense every movement of the air because it causes something like a wind and the cats’ whiskers vibrate. That’s why vibrissae is onomatopoeic! Cats are able to accumulate all the information that reaches the whiskers through messages transmitted by the nerve endings inside them, they process them and understand the presence, shape and size of obstacles. That’s why a blind cat still knows how to move through space without any need to grope around

If the cat is not moving, the whiskers are still active and are able to provide the animal with other information such as “weather” information. The direction of the wind, if it wanted to make a leap, or the possible presence of humidity in the air and all the possible micro-vibrations coming from the surrounding environment and which may be useful to know.

The whiskers are always the tool that allows the cat to discover the cracks or burrows of mice or other similar animals so we can say that the cat’s whiskers are also an excellent and indispensable tool for hunting. It has been shown by several experiments that a feline with damaged whiskers does not have the same predator performance compared to a similar one who has them intact, it is a fact. For example, a cat with damaged whiskers can risk biting prey in the wrong part of the body, allowing it to escape from its clutches. Therefore, even the movements of the prey are received by the whiskers and transmitted to the brain of the cat who wants to capture it so that it can do so successfully.

How many whiskers are there in cats?

Yes, there is a precise number of whiskers a cat must have. In total there are 24 of which twelve for each side of the muzzle. If we observe our friend very carefully we can also notice that they are usually arranged in four horizontal rows and move semi-independent from each other. That’s how. We have the two rows at the top that move completely independently of the two rows at the bottom.

As for the size of the whiskers, just to get an idea we can say that they are twice as thick as the normal hairs, even if the size of the hair can vary from breed to breed. It is an estimate to understand well that the cat’s whiskers are not confused with hair. They also have roots that go three times deeper than hair roots and it is also obvious that this is the case since there is a need to increase the power of nerve impulse transmission. The whiskers are also very sensitive because they are abundantly supplied by blood vessels and at the same time also equipped with nerve endings.

Cat whiskers: can they fall out and grow back?

Exactly yes. It may happen that the cat’s whiskers fall out and there is no problem because they grow back but it is very important that you check that they do not fall out suddenly and frequently. In any case, they grow back and therefore a cat from birth to his death must always have 24 on which he can count

Cat’s whiskers: they should never be cut!

The fact that they fall out and then grow back doesn’t have to be a justification for cutting the cat’s whiskers. Before, you might have found yourself in a position to ignore their importance but with everything said so far, there would be no more excuses for such a gesture. The whiskers are indispensable organs and it would be like cutting off their ear. Never trim your mustaches because they are also essential for keeping your balance!

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