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How Do Cats Use Their Whiskers?

Updated: August 11, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

We can all agree that cats are fascinating creatures. They are agile, independent, live 9 lives and on top of that, they’ve got some secret abilities. It’s all in their whiskers. Contrary to what many people might believe, their whiskers aren’t simple hair but they’ve got features that give cats their special abilities. Let’s find out how do cats use their whiskers.

It’s a known fact that one shouldn’t cut a cat’s whiskers because that would do much harm to them – some people reported that in a couple of cases even death occurred to the cat in question. So never try trimming your little furry friend’s whiskers even if they look funny.

How Do Cats Use Their Whiskers

Before we delve deeper into the matter, let’s understand what makes whiskers so special. They’re not normal hair after all.

The whiskers – also known as vibrissae – are actual touch receptors that go deeper into the cat’s body than normal hair and they connect to the cat’s muscular and nervous systems, transmitting information about the immediate surroundings of the cat and the changes that happen there. Think of it like a radar, a kitty radar.

Now you can understand why it’s a bad idea to cut a cat’s whiskers. They will be disoriented and frightened.

Sense Receptors

At the other end of the whiskers, deep into a cat’s body, there is a sensory organ called a proprioceptor, which connects to the brain and nervous system. The proprioceptor is directly related to the spacial positioning of every part of the cat’s body, so that they can plan their every movement with great accuracy.

That’s how cats are able to walk on those narrow rooftop edges without the slightest care.

The proprioceptor makes a cat’s whiskers sensitive to even the slightest change in its surroundings, including vibrations in the air, enhancing a cat’s predatory skills or helping them sense danger and get out of harm’s way.

By touching objects around with the whiskers, the cat instantly detects the precise location, texture and size of the particular object even at night or in the dark.

Distance and Space

The whiskers and the proprioceptor behind are the instruments through which a cat measures distance and space with amazing accuracy. Yeah, that’s how they get to jump from ledge to ledge and land on narrow spaces while mysteriously getting out of harm’s way.

That’s also how they know they will fit into a small space even in the dark. They don’t need to see, because their whiskers feel it.

Showing their Mood

One other use for a cat’s whiskers is to display his moods. By watching the way your cat holds his whiskers, you can tell if he’s anxious, relaxed or in play / hunting mode.

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