I’m fascinated by kitty whiskers, how about you? Does your cat have lots of whiskers, or only a few? Have you noticed how s/he actually uses them? Seren has a “wild” whisker that’s started to grow curled forward now that she’s an aging kitteh. And for some of the longer furred cats, you might not even see all of the whiskers.
WHAT ARE CAT WHISKERS FOR?
Whiskers are a type of specialized hair referred to as vibrissae or sinus hairs. They’re most prominent on the cat’s muzzle. But take a moment and look–many cats also have whiskers on their eyebrows, toward the rear of their cheeks or below the chin, and Seren even has some on the underside of the lower forelegs. Whiskers are very long and stiff, yet flexible, and serve a sensory function for the cat. Think of cat whiskers as feline antennae.
The hairs are seated deep in the skin, with the base of the hair surrounded by a forest of nerve endings. These nerves register the slightest vibration or contact with the hair. Whiskers detect everything from the measure of a narrow opening, to shifts in the wind and barometric pressure. Whiskers also protect the cat’s eyes from injury, providing a startle reflex that shuts the eyes if anything touches them. Cats also communicate with their whiskers–learn to decipher felinese in the ComPETability book.
Whiskers are also said to be good luck. For a while, I collected the whiskers that Seren shed, when I could find them. What about your cats? Are the whiskers the same color as kitty’s coat, or a contrasting color? Curly or straight? Some cats groom off each others whiskers, too. (I wonder what they taste like…)
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments or dial me up each Monday night on the new weekly CAT CRAZY radio show. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!