Today is Whisker Wednesday on Twitter, and we thought Kittens Whiskers ought to participate in anything that has to do with kittens and their whiskers! So here’s a little info on why a kittens’ whiskers are so important to them. This info is long overdue! Now, if you’d like, you can follow us on Twitter, and then you can click on the hashtag #whiskerwednesday to see more cute kitties and their whiskers! We’ll be there and we’d love to see you there! Now, about those whiskers…
A kitten’s whiskers, or vibrissae, are actually touch receptors. They are more deeply embedded than regular fur, and are surrounded by sensitive muscles and nerves at the root. Besides the usual whiskers you see protruding from their cheeks, cats also have smaller whiskers above their eyes, around their jaws, and on the backs of their front legs. The whiskers on their legs help the cat gauge the position of their toys or prey, allowing them to accurately scoop it up with one bite or pounce. All of these whiskers work as a kind of radar system that relays information about a cat’s surroundings to it’s sensory nerves.
What Do Whiskers Do?
At the end of a cat’s whiskers is a tiny sensory organ called a proprioceptor. The proprioceptor sends information to the cat’s brain and nerves. This helps them gauge their orientation in space, makes them able to navigate in the dark, decide where they can or can’t fit, and enables them to leap gracefully onto a narrow ledge. Whiskers are also used when tracking or stalking prey, whether it’s a mouse or a laser light. The whiskers are even sensitive to air flow vibrations, which helps them when stalking prey, or with “seeing” in the dark.
Do Not Trim!
Cats whiskers have a cycle of growing and shedding, just like human hair. But you should never cut or trim your cat’s whiskers! They will become disoriented, nervous and confused. The whiskers will grow back, but in the meantime, your cat would be traumatized!
Along with their ears and tails, kittens’ whiskers have their own body language. Whiskers flattened against the face show fear or anger, while whiskers point straight ahead when a cat is in hunting mode or has been startled or is excited. A relaxed cat has relaxed whiskers. The muscles at the base of the whiskers is what allows them to be moved back and forth.
Some other interesting facts about kittens whiskers:
- Interestingly, there is also some evidence to suggest that whiskers aid somehow in helping cats detecting odors.
- Like human finger prints, every cat’s whisker pattern is unique.
- The breed of cat called the ‘Sphinx’ often has little to no whiskers.
- As you might have guessed, blind cats rely almost solely on their whiskers to navigate.
- Cats don’t have a true collar bone, which allows them to twist their way through very narrow openings.
- “To be the cat’s whiskers” is a British idiom meaning “to be better than everyone else”.
- Cat’s whiskers are typically as long as their body is wide.
- It’s not uncommon for a mother cat to chew off the whiskers of her kittens.
- The Devon and Cornish Rex breeds have shortened, curly whiskers.
- The whiskers behind the wrist on the foreleg assist with tree climbing and contact with prey.