Cat whiskers are amazing!
A cat’s whiskers are not simply bristly, passive hairs. Whiskers serve many active important roles for a cat including sensing the world around them and communicating messages about their emotional state and physical intentions back to the world.
Typically, we think of the classic long whiskers on either side of the cat’s face. But, next time your are nose to nose with your kitty, look a little closer - there are also whiskers above the upper lip, along the jaw line, above each eye and even on the back of the front legs. These whiskers are rooted deeply into their bodies and connect to their sensory nervous system. These thick, long, stiff hairs act as receptors by gathering information about the surrounding environment. Whiskers are so sensitive that they can even detect vibrations in the air from the movement of prey.
Cat whiskers don’t just receive information from the world, they give information too. The position of a cat’s whiskers can signal their mood and intentions. A relaxed cat will hold their whiskers in a floppy relaxed state. But, when a cat is anxious or scared, it will pull its whiskers back away from the environment, almost laying flat on its face. Conversely, when a cat is ready to engage in play or hunting, it angles its whiskers towards the environment in a position that is ready to receive sensory information.
Cats count on the incoming information from their whiskers, along with their other senses, to navigate the world around them. Without the sensory input from their whiskers, they can feel unbalanced and physically a bit confused. So, if you have ever considered cutting your cat’s whiskers...don’t. Whiskers fall out on their own normally and will regrow.
Pretty cool, right?
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