Cats are peculiar creatures with many physical features that make them stand out from other domestic pets. Did you know that cats have 32 muscles that control their ears, compared to our six? Cats also see six times better than humans at night and have the largest eyes of any mammal in relation to their body size. They have five toes on each front paw but just four on each back paw. Cats also have twice as many odor-sensitive cells in their noses as humans.
Among the most interesting of a cat’s features is its whiskers. Whiskers play several important roles aside from making your kitty look cute. They are an essential component of a feline’s anatomy and serve as the ultimate sensory tool. While they may not seem like it, cat whiskers are very sensitive and help your furry friend perform various functions, such as navigating in the dark. Learn more about cat whiskers with these fun and exciting facts.
Cats are Born with 24 Whiskers
Cats are born with two sets of 12 whiskers arranged in four lines on each side of the face. The length of these whiskers is dependent on breed, with longer-haired cats like the Maine coon having longer whiskers than short-haired breeds. In 2001, a Maine coon in Iisvesi, Finland, landed in the Guinness World Records by having the longest cat whiskers measuring 7.5 in (19 cm).
Whiskers Can Determine Mood
A cat can be more difficult to read compared to other pets, such as dogs. However, like a cat’s tail, its whiskers can tell you a lot about its mood. If your cat’s whiskers are relaxed and at rest, he’s probably happy and content. If your cat’s whiskers are pointing forward, it can mean that your cat is alert. Cat whiskers that are flattened back against their cheeks can indicate that they are angry or scared.
Cat Whiskers are Very Sensitive
Whiskers are embedded much deeper into the skin than ordinary fur. The cat whiskers area is also filled with numerous nerves and blood flow, making the whisker tips highly sensitive. Due to this sensitivity, cats can experience pain or discomfort if they play with their whiskers. It’s also important to feed your cat from a flat, wide bowl instead of a small, cupped bowl to prevent putting pressure on her whiskers.
Whiskers Can Be Shed
Your cat’s whiskers should never be manually trimmed. However, they do experience natural shedding on their own. Cat whiskers go through a natural growth phase, dormancy, and shedding phase, similar to fur. It’s not uncommon to discover a lone whisker in the home now and again. If you find that your cat is suddenly shedding a lot of whiskers, it could indicate a problem, such as an infection, allergies, or trauma.
Cat Whiskers Can Change Color
Just like human hair, cat whiskers can change color over time. You may have noticed that when your cat was young, his whiskers were white. As he got older, his whiskers may have turned a different color, such as black. Similar to human hair, elderly cats tend to have greying whiskers as they grow old. The color of a cat’s whiskers is also dependent on breed. For example, Bombay cat whiskers are black, just like their fur.
Whiskers are Not Just on the Nose
When most people think of cat whiskers, they envision a series of cute whiskers on either side of their pet’s Nose. However, whiskers can be found on other parts of a cat. Most felines also have shorter whiskers positioned above their eyes and on their chin. Many cats also have whiskers on the back of their lower front legs that help them climb and remain nimble.
Cat Whiskers Help with Hunting
Many cats enjoy the occasional hunt, and their whiskers play a vital role in their ability to hunt down and kill their prey. The sensory tendrils located on the back of their front legs are essential for hunting. The whiskers on the underside of a cat’s wrists are known as carpal whiskers and let the cat know if their prey is still moving after it has been caught and secured under their paw.
Whiskers Let Them Gauge Size
An old wives’ tale says that if a cat’s whiskers touch the sides of an opening, the cat will know whether or not it can squeeze through. Unlike many old wives’ tales, this one is true. Felines use a “whisker check” to determine if they can safely fit through a tight opening or are at risk of getting stuck. If the tips of their whiskers touch the sides of the opening, they will often avoid going any further.
Cats Can Move their Whiskers
Another fun fact that many people don’t know about cat whiskers is that cats can actually control their movement. Each whisker is attached to a muscle “sling” that enables a cat to move each whisker independently. There are also larger muscles in this area that allow the whiskers to be moved all at once. Your cat may move their whiskers forward when yawning or pull them back against their cheek when mad.
If you have a cat, you probably have some curiosity about their whiskers. While it’s fun to learn about cat whiskers, it’s best never to touch them. Whiskers play an essential role in how cats operate in their environment and stay safe and healthy.