One of the most distinct facial features of a cat would be the whiskers. While the most prominent whiskers on a cat are above the upper lip, they have them in several locations including the eyebrows.
Different cats have varying lengths of whiskers, but do all cats have eyebrow whiskers? Yes, all cats have eyebrow whiskers, but may be much less noticeable than others. Keep reading to learn all about a cat’s whiskers and the purposes they serve.
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What Are Whiskers?
A cat’s whiskers may not look like anything other than just long, thick hairs but they have a very significant purpose in a cat’s life. Whiskers, or vibrissae, are modified hairs that are sometimes referred to as “tactile hairs.” Other than humans, platypus, and echidnas, most mammals will have whiskers at some point in their lives.
Whiskers grow directly from the hair follicle just like any other hair, but they are set much deeper and are full of nerve cells and blood vessels. They work through the vibration that stimulates the nerves within the follicles.
Top 5 Interesting Uses of Whiskers For Cats
Whiskers serve as a messaging system to the brain. The sensory receptors in these hairs communicate messages to the brain about body and limb position so that the cat has full awareness of its body. This is one of the reasons why cats are so famous for landing on their feet.
Whiskers are also an indicator of body language cues. They can help you determine a cat’s current mood. If the whiskers are pushed forward and erect, something has sparked your cat’s interest or curiosity. If they remain rigid and are pulled around the face, they are feeling threatened or fearful. If the whiskers are relaxed, this indicates your cat is comfortable and content.
Cats are naturally crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is the time when wild cats are out hunting for prey. Whiskers are sensory organs that help them navigate through their environment, even when it is dark. They also assist with close-up vision, which is not a cat’s strong suit since they struggle to see things any closer than 30 centimeters in front of them.
The eyebrow whiskers are also a form of protection for the cat’s eyes. Having them in place can help protect them from debris getting into the eye, or even damage or injury. These whiskers are so sensitive that they will respond to even the tiniest fleck of dust that gets near, which gives your cat the chance to prevent it from getting in its eyes.
5. Locating Food
Whiskers also can help cats hunt and locate their food. Not only do they play a significant role in navigation, but they can also help them pick up on potential prey items through the vibrational can sense. For indoor house cats, their whiskers can help them locate their food and water bowls in the middle of the night.
Top 5 Facts About Cats’ Whiskers
1. Whiskers Can Grow Back
Any whiskers that become damaged, fall out, or are plucked can and will grow back. Cats have even been known to shed whiskers as they age. It typically takes about one to two months for whiskers to grow back in, but this varies depending on age and health status.
2. They Are Symmetrical
Most cats have an average of twenty-four whiskers, with twelve on each side of the face. The patterning of the whiskers is dependent on the individual, but they are symmetrical, nonetheless.
3. Whiskers Aren’t Just on the Face
The whiskers located above the upper lip and below the nose are undoubtedly the most distinct whiskers on a cat, followed by the eyebrows. Did you also know they have them on their ears, around the jaw, and even on the forelegs? The whiskers on the forelegs are called carpal whiskers and they are not nearly as prominent as the others but still serve the same purpose and are very helpful when hunting.
4. They Can Change Color
None of us can avoid the effects of aging and while your cat will show age in a few ways, their whiskers changing color is one of them. Rather than turning light gray to white like a lot of hairs do when you age, a cat’s whiskers will turn darker gray and may even turn black.
5. You Should Never Cut Whiskers
Whiskers may be able to grow back, but you should never cut them. These hairs are especially important because of the purposes they serve, and you could seriously disorient your cat by removing them. They would be unable to sense and navigate their surrounding environment as effectively.
All cats have eyebrow whiskers though the length, shape, and overall look of the whiskers can vary by individual. Not only are whiskers located on the eyebrows and below the nose, but they are also found around the ears, the jaw, and on the forelegs. These thick, sensitive hairs play a very important role in your cat’s day to day life and serve many different purposes.
Featured Image Credit: Kalo Kanev, Shutterstock
- 1 What Are Whiskers?
- 2 Top 5 Interesting Uses of Whiskers For Cats
- 3 Top 5 Facts About Cats’ Whiskers
- 4 Conclusion