Have you ever wondered why cats have whiskers? Whiskers are the thick, long hair on the face of a cat which is normally flexible and that is why these are also known as tactile hair.
These can be located in the whisker pad that is between the outer edges of your cat’s nose and the top corners of its mouth.
Like humans, hair and nails fall and then grow then similarly cats’ whiskers also fall out and re-grow. You must be wondering why are these hair called whiskers if they are like normal hair on other parts of a cat’s body.
The reason is these whiskers are different from its body hair in a few ways: whiskers are never trimmed, these are thrice as thick as the thickness of cat’s body hair and lastly, whiskers have their roots deep inside the cat’s face area that contains blood vessels and high volume of nerves.
The whiskers grow in many locations of a cat’s body so as to help the animal to collect various sorts of signals and information that can lead to a big picture of its surrounding areas.
Apart from whiskers on its cheeks, cats do have shorter hair right above their eyebrows and on chin too. Now the question here is why do cats have whiskers?
Well, these flexible hairs on their face help cats to express their mood, to navigate and to measure an opening.
Helps in navigation: Whiskers help a cat to navigate its path around, as these hairs are so light and sensitive that when the breeze changes its direction, they can detect it.
Especially during the night when cats go on their prey-hunting mission, whiskers help him to quietly move around the place without hitting against any object around it. How does it help cats?
The location of the objects kept in a room direct in changing the air circulation within that area. So, as the cat moves around the room and comes closer to one of these furniture pieces he will get to know which direction to go in depending on the change in the direction of air current.
This is the primary use of having whiskers; they get information about their surroundings, which is important for their safety too.
Whiskers as mood indicator: Apart from helping them to navigate, whiskers help cats to indicate their mood. When a cat is in a bad mood or feels distrustful, these whiskers will be in backward direction.
On the contrary, if a cat is in a happy mood or is excited, the whiskers will be pushed forward and you can sense it. So, it can be said that whiskers are a part of their body language and you can understand what they are trying to communicate by looking at their whiskers and body language.
Helps in measuring an opening: Another reason to why cats have whiskers is that it helps them in governing the measurement of an opening.
What is the importance? It is important for a cat to understand whether he will fit through an opening or not by measuring it using its whiskers.
Whiskers act as a cat’s natural ruler as these are approximately as wide as its body and whiskers tips are quite sensitive to the applied pressure. You might have sometimes observed you cat sticking its head to an opening before it plans to put its body in.
By doing so, your cat is trying to judge the width of the opening to understand if his body can fit through it. Another advantage they have over humans is that they don’t have collar bones so they can turn and wriggle through any narrow opening after ensuring their body can fit in.
Whiskers are like antennas for your pet that are highly sensitive and detect not only the air currents in the surrounding areas but also the vibrations on the surfaces.
These sensitive hairs detect the movement and motion and send the signal to the brain in case of danger. Cats do treat the feedback from their whiskers as a guiding signal apart from all they see, feel and hear while exploring an unknown region.
Whiskers on Legs of Cat:
After learning in detail about the whiskers on the face of a cat, let us try to understand why cats have whiskers on their legs.
To keep a track of its prey, cats use the whiskers on their legs. As is it a well-known fact that cats have shortsightedness, whiskers help them to figure out how large a prey is and how far it is located at the current time.
According to researchers, as cats have limited vision the whiskers really help them in self-protecting by understanding the details of the prey. Apart from whiskers, they are gifted with acute smelling sense. So using this power of acute sense of smell and whiskers they handle their prey animals smartly.
It can be seen that whiskers are really important for a cat whether it comes to expressing their anger, happiness, confidence or for learning the surrounding details.
If at any point in time you see that your pet’s whiskers are falling out at a fast speed, it is a matter of worry. If a cat is losing its whiskers in a large number it might be an indication of bad health or some serious disease.
So, the moment you observe this, don’t wait any longer and contact your vet as without its whiskers your cat is like a blind animal and can no longer get information about its environment.