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17 July 2010

Whiskers Are Wonderful

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="227" caption="Whiskers"]Cats Whiskers[/caption]

I collect my cats' whiskers. I know that sounds like an odd thing to do, but it amuses me. 

Whiskers are a specialized type of hair and are part of a cat’s senses. Whiskers are thicker and longer than normal hair. They are set deeply into the skin and are connected to muscles and nerves. This makes it possible for a cat to move its whiskers and use them to feel, sense, and respond to their surroundings. 

Whiskers are used to measure the size of an opening, to help sense what’s going on at a distance by sensing air movement, to help feel and locate prey when it’s right in front of the cat’s mouth, and to communicate. 

A calm cat holds its whiskers out to the side a bit. A curious cat who is investigating what’s in front of him will push his whiskers forward. A scared or angry cat will pull its whiskers back against its cheeks. 

A cat usually has 24 whiskers on his face, 12 on each side, in four rows. The top two rows can be moved independently from the bottom two rows. Cats also have whiskers above the eyes, on the chin, and on the back of the front legs. 

Whiskers naturally fall out and are replaced. A cat's longest whiskers are as wide as its body. If a cat loses weight and becomes thinner (narrower), its longer whiskers will fall out and be replaced by shorter ones. 

Since whiskers are not just hair, but are a specialized sense organ, they should never be pulled or trimmed. 

In our house, finding a whisker is considered good luck. It’s easy for a whisker to get swept or vacuumed up, so you have to be on the lookout for shed whiskers. Sometimes we find them in the cats’ favorite beds. Sometimes they’re just lying in the middle of the floor. You never know where you might find a whisker, and that's part of the fun. Figuring out who the whisker came from is easy if you have different colored cats. Raven’s whiskers are black and Sammi’s are white. Smokey's were gray. It was harder to tell Felix and Ed's whiskers apart. They both had whiskers that were black at the base and white along the length. Ed's tended to be shorter & thicker and often had a kink at the base. Felix's were longer and finer. 

Cats Whiskers photo credit.

7 comments:

  1. Great post! I knew cats used their whiskers to get around, but not the other facts. I'm sure I couldn't tell the difference between my kitties' whiskers, but most of them are orange cats. Aren't felines fabulous?

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