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November 1, 2014

All About Whiskers


Author: Celeste Glassman

Grey cat lying on bed

All About Whimsical, Wonderful Whiskers!

For those of us with dogs and cats, we are familiar with the whiskers on their face that give them their own unique look. Some of our pets may have long white whiskers, black, or maybe a combination of both. However, those long projecting hairs or bristles growing near the mouth and nose play an important role in our pets’ everyday lives.

Whiskers are far from just a cosmetic feature. Whiskers are longer, thicker, and more rigid than the rest of the hair on your pet’s body. They are embedded in the skin and rooted in a hair follicle filled with blood vessels and nerves. Whiskers provide important sensory information for many mammals such as allowing them to successfully move through the dark and avoid colliding into walls, as well as react quickly to their surroundings.

Kitties use their facial whiskers to determine if they can fit through small or narrow spaces. They also allow them to sense changes in their surroundings by detecting vibrations, giving them the opportunity to react quickly even when they cannot see. Cats also have small whiskers on their jaw line and the back of their front legs. The tactile hairs on their legs can aid in sensing prey and climbing trees. It is always amazing to see a cat jump off the top of a high object and land perfectly on a small ledge; whiskers allow cats to visually measure the distance needed to successfully land on all four paws. Watching a cats whiskers can also be a good tool in determining what type of mood they are in. Just as their ears and tail reflect different moods and behaviors, whiskers tend to follow suit.

Similar to cats, dogs use their whiskers to sense changes in their surroundings. Whiskers help a dog determine the shape, size, and movement of objects around them, especially in the dark. Now that our dogs live in the comfort of homes without having to catch prey or worry about predators, whiskers can aid a dog in finding their way around a dark house. Whether it’s finding their water bowl in the middle of the night or heading to the favorite sleeping spot without colliding into walls or falling down stairs, whiskers play a large role.

Trim, or not to trim, whiskers? Trimming your pets whiskers may not necessarily hurt them physically however, it is clear that whiskers play an important role in their everyday life. It is recommended that whiskers be left to grow and fall out on their own. It all seems to make sense why a kitty takes a look into a small area before crawling in, or why dogs are able to move without making a sound throughout the night. Whiskers!

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