It’s true! Feline whiskers are deeply rooted in a bed of super-sensitive nerves that can pick up the faintest of vibrations and lightest of touches, including the gentle drift of air currents eddying around furniture.
This helps her navigate at dusk and dawn – a cat’s favorite hunting hours – as well as locate and catch prey even when visibility is poor.
In fact, whiskers – which are not hairs, by the way, but stiff “vibrissae” – are so sensitive that a movement as small as 1/2000th the width of a human hair triggers a signal that is sent to the cat’s brain.
This fun little fact takes on a bit more significance if you think about typical feline feeding habits. How many times have you seen your cat pull food out of her bowl and eat it to the side, or scoop food or water out with her paw before eating/drinking it? How often does your kitty meow for food when his bowl is only partially empty, or ask for food only to turn away once the bowl is placed in front of him? It’s not because she’s eccentric (‘though she might well be) and it’s not because he’s obsessed with having a full bowl or trying to make you serve him… it’s something called “whisker stress” – yes, that’s a real thing! – and it’s pretty uncomfortable for the cat. It can often interfere to the point of preventing cats from eating as much as they should at meals. Each time the cat dips her head down to reach for the food, the sides of the bowl put pressure on her sensitive whiskers. As individuals, cats can take this pressure to an infinite variety of degrees, but the discomfort forces many to quite eating before they’re truly full.
So your best bet is to toss those bowls out and feed your cats on flat plates. Glass salad plates are great for this, and glass meatloaf dishes make very nifty water bowls.
Another whisker fact? Those wonderfully delicate whiskers are set in 4 rows of about 12 whiskers to a side, 24 in total, and the top two rows can move independently from the bottom two. How cool is that?
This is CatCentric’s first Fun Fact Friday post. If you enjoyed this and would like quirky little fun facts every Friday, please like it and share it (naturally! *smile*), but also drop me a quick note in the comments about it. I enjoy writing and sharing these, but that’s not important if you’re not interested in reading them, right? 😉