Why do cats have whiskers?

We all like cats, one of the most fascinating aspects of cats are the whiskers which they have. It is unlike any other animal.

These whiskers have always been a subject of intrigue and rightly so, because of their functions.

Some say they are just normal hair whereas some others say they are actually useful for the cats.

What is the truth?

Why do cats have whiskers?

Does it really help them?

In order to understand the purpose of whiskers you would have to 1st go into the anatomy of whiskers to understand how they work and what are the function of whiskers in cats.

Anatomy of whiskers:

For those of you are thinking that the whiskers of the cat are normal hair you are completely wrong because the whiskers are much different than normal hair and these are actually used for the reception of touch.

If you look into the biological part of the whiskers of the cat then you would realise one thing that whiskers are actually much more deep-rooted in the body of the cat as compared to the normal hair. This is because whiskers are needed to sense the surrounding.

If you look into the anatomy of the body of the cat, you would realise that the whiskers are directly connected to the nervous system of the cat which enables the nervous system to send the signals from the whiskers of the cat all the way to the brain. This is how it enables the whiskers to be used for touch. It is like a sensory system for cats.

The most noticeable whiskers in the body of the cat are on the mouth of the cat or just above the mouth of the cat but there are also whiskers in other parts of the body of the cat as well like on the jaw line and on the front legs as well and sometimes on the eyebrows as well. These help the cat in navigating as well as in detection and therefore these are important part of the body of the cat.

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You should not cut the whiskers of the cats:

Many people make the mistake of cutting the whiskers of the cat thinking that they are like normal hair and when they grow long they should be cut. This is not true. The moment you are getting the whiskers of the cat, the cat would not be able to sense properly and would be entirely confused and sure enough the whiskers would again grow in size but till then the sensory organs of the cat would not be working properly and the cat would never be able to navigate properly and the cat would not be able to sense properly as well.

Why do cats have whiskersAlso, a general tendency among people is to straighten out the whiskers which are available above the mouth of the cat but this again is a problem because the whiskers of the cat are in a particular position because it makes the cat easier to sense and detect the surroundings when the whiskers are in that particular position and therefore if you make any changes to the whiskers of the cat, then the sensation of the surrounding and the navigation would be affected.

If you are making any changes to the whiskers of the cat, the cat would be very afraid and would not have the confidence to move around freely. The cat would not be able to perform the athletic jumps which it normally does. Neither would the cat be able to judge the distance is properly. You can associate the whiskers of the cat and their touch functions in the same way as we use our hands to touch something and to sense it.

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Whiskers help the cat in seeing/sensing even in the dark:

If you look at the structure of the whiskers then you would realise that at the end of the whiskers there is a sensor which is known as proprioceptor. Since the whiskers are directly connected to the nervous system and with the help of the nervous system they are directly connected to the brain of the cat, this sensor directly passes the signals to the brain. The function of this sensor is to tell the brain regarding the location of each and every part of the body of the cat whether it is the limbs or whether it is the tail or whether it is the front leg of the body of the cat. This enables the brain to take the decision regarding what should be the next moment of the cat. These decisions are often taken within split seconds thanks to the communication which is done by the whiskers.

If you look at the whiskers of the cat, you might have seen that when the air is flowing, the whiskers moves because they are very light and this enables the brain of the cat to understand about its surroundings including the speed of air. Even in the dark, due to the vibrations in the head and the moment of the air, the brain is able to see through the gaps and is also able to judge whether the cat would be able to go through these gaps or not with the help of whiskers.

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Also, the whiskers of the cats are directly responsible for telling it about the distance and helping the brain to judge whether it would be able to pass through this distance by a single jump or not.

Mood Indicators of the cat:

Another function of the whiskers of the cat, is to indicate the mood of the cat. If the whiskers of the cat are pointing forward when the cat is moving, you can say that the cat is in the hunting mode and is searching for its prey.

Similarly, when the cat is resting, the whiskers of the cat are not moving and are in the same place for the duration of the rest.

Also, if the whiskers of the cat are in a bunch around its face then you can assume that the cat is scared.

The whiskers point completely forward when the cat is excited or when the cat is surprised.

All of these mood types can be detected by just looking at the position of the whiskers of the cat.

As you can see, whiskers play a very important role in the day to day activity of the cat and are vital to the well-being of the cat and therefore it is always a good idea to leave the whiskers of the cat alone even when you’re bathing the cat or playing with cat.