The Anatomy Of Cat Whiskers


A cat’s whiskers are one of her most important assets. Not only are they a beautification of the face, these unique hairlike antennae serve multiple important purposes. Understanding how your cat’s whiskers help her navigate will give you great information to provide an even more cat friendly environment for her to call home. This post is all about the anatomy of cat whiskers.

The anatomy of a cat, more specifically feline whiskers, is as unique and complex as the human body.

Cat whiskers are also called vibaissae or tactile hair.

Although the tactile hair are far from being just stiff over-extended strands on a cat’s body, they are one of its key instruments for perceiving the world around her and act as a communication guide.

Unlike other hairs on a cat that make up her fur, the whiskers are firmly connected to a cat’s sensitive nervous and muscular system. These antennae communicate information about present surroundings the sensory nerves. So in a sense, the whiskers are literally talking to her brain. Quite extraordinary when you think about it!

The whiskers of a cat also help give her a stronger sense of feeling, and keeps her attuned to the environment.

RELEVANT: Why Do Cats Purr? What Is It A Sign Of?

Everyone knows there are whiskers on the side of a cat’s face, but most aren’t aware of the fact that there are also whiskers above the eyes, her jaw line and around the back of their forelegs.

Vibrissae Of A Cat Are Made Up Of Keratin

A cat’s whiskers aren’t part of her coat as they are more embedded deeply in the body of the cat. Just like the roots of a human hair follicle, a feline whisker is attached deep below the skin. There are many nerves (more than a human) down there, so it is advised to NEVER pull out a kitty cat’s whisker!

Cat whiskers have a unique structure, they are thick and hard textured.

Cats are known to have about 24 whiskers on their muzzle. Each whisker is deeply rooted in their body and reaches the very base where there are loads of blood vessels and nerves to draw from. It may shock you to learn that a single whisker of a cat is served by more than 200 nerve cells.

Functions Of The Whisker

  • Communication

The whiskers of a cat do a lot. As earlier mentioned, whiskers help a cat read its surrounding, but that’s not all, they are also a means of transmitting information. Cat owners should learn that when their feline’s whiskers are bent backward, it means she doesn’t want to be disturbed or isn’t in a good mood; when the whiskers are in their normal state, it means she’s at ease; and when the whiskers are bent forward, it means she’s interested and in a friendly mood.

  • Vision Impairment

Scientific experiments have proven that a cat’s whiskers can act as a substitute for the eyes if the latter ever stops functioning. Just as a cane helps blind people feel their way around, the whiskers do just the same for a cat.

food bowl
  • Sensing Vibration

Cats are known to make use of their whiskers for catching even the slightest vibration in the air. This helps them during periods of hunting as they are able to know when a hidden prey makes even slightly move.

  • Determining Space

Cats use their whiskers to check if a space they’re about going into will contain them. It’s a known fact that cats love tiny spaces.

Rather than getting stuck while trying to venture in a small space, cats use their whiskers to check the space first before making entry.

There is a trend that is picking up momentum because of cat whiskers and that is the wide mouth feeding bowl for felines. A wide mouth feeding dish is an excellent way to give your cat a comfortable and relaxed way to enjoy her meal. Relieving stress for your cat is of course, always a good idea!

Now you know what a cat’s whiskers really are and how much of a significant role each whisker plays in a cat’s life, you can understand why it is not recommended to trim or cut them for any reason. Gently touching her whiskers, even softly caressing them along their grain is okay. Pulling, tugging or removing them can be painful and will upset her overall anatomy. Tampering with your cat’s whiskers could cause her to lose coordination, become terribly slow and disoriented. Keep those whiskers healthy and enjoy your kitty cat!

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