Do cats’ whiskers disappear? It depends on what other cat parts or actions we consider unbearably cute (or insufferably aggravating) at any given moment. My mackerel tabby, Thomas, for example, has gorgeous green eyes. I’ve willingly drowned in those eyes many times. That said, I’ve also suffered as Thomas, next to me in bed, takes a loud, wet, slurpy bath (I swear they last 90 minutes) while I try to remain in the treacherous embrace of a detective novel. At such times, whiskers don’t register, so yes, they disappear. (An existentialist approach might be, “If a cat has whiskers but nobody notices, are they visible?”)
A few days ago I did notice Thomas’ whiskers. Damn, those things are long. I love whiskers, especially when they’ve “disappeared” for a while and I wonder how these prominent features, which are wider than Thomas’ head, escaped my notice for even a minute. They’re downright obtrusive! Cats are so weird. I love weird. What if I had whiskers that long?
During this whisker-notice session I looked at the smaller whiskers above his eyes and the tiny ones near his paws in addition to the big batches on his snout. I have whiskers too, but mine are purely decorative. Thomas uses his to navigate and express himself, among other things. I know this partly from JaneA Kelley’s “7 Cool Facts About Your Cat’s Whiskers” and Marilyn Krieger’s “Amazing Whiskers: 4 Roles They Play in Cat Behavior.” Our writers know cat anatomy and facts.
Then I noticed another whisker on Thomas — one I’d not seen before.
One that appears halfway between ear and snout. Can you see it here on the left-hand part of the photo?
Here, I’ll circle it for you.
I hadn’t noticed that whisker before. There’s one on the other side too. Were they there before, these “bonus whiskers”? How could I know, considering that by my own admission whiskers disappear and reappear, relative to nothing except for what I notice?
I consulted the works of the experts above — JaneA and Marilyn. In Marilyn’s article, she identifies whiskers as being “located above the eyes, on the sides of mouths, on chins, and just above the paws on the underside of forelegs.”
JaneA, meanwhile, writes, “In addition to the eight to 12 whiskers your cat has on either side of her nose, she also has shorter whiskers above her eyes, on her chin, and on the backs of her lower front legs.”
Ha! No mention of this “cat cheek” area! I might have found a loophole! What could this bonus whisker be? Did he negotiate it as part of a details package before he signed the paperwork at the dealership? Is it a mutation that gives Thomas added navigational ability? Is it an antenna that communicates with the Feline Mother Ship? Woohoo! Our house will be one of the first visited by the new alien cat overlords as they assume control of Earth.
I searched for “cat whiskers” images online. Again, my suspicions were confirmed! No bonus whiskers!
Several more photos of cat whiskers backed me up — no bonus whiskers. Thomas is a mutant, he has a whisker set that no other cat has!
Alas, I eventually found more bonus whiskers on other cats.
Then another, on a gray tabby, who has two on each side. I wonder how he got financing for THAT details package?
On it went. Bonus whisker. No bonus whisker. Bonus whisker. No bonus whisker.
So maybe Thomas isn’t the only cat in the world with the bonus whisker.
But he’s the only cat in the world who’s him — and what’s to say our house won’t be among the first visited when the cats come to assume leadership of our wayward race? I’ve met Lil BUB, who came to Earth from outer space, and she and Thomas share similar coloring and stripes.
Does your cat have unusual features you find endearing? Tell me in the comments.
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster.