Cootje and her ambitious whiskers


Don’t you just love that cats have whiskers? I love the long, elegant whiskers most cats have. The thing is: Cootje is a Devon Rex. Everyone knows Devons have short, curly whiskers. If any. Devons do not excel in hair growth. Cootjes fur is better than Pernods and her whiskers also made a promising start. By now it has become clear I should not get my hopes up too high. Cootjes whiskers grow into all directions. These are whiskers that need a hair dresser. So I decided to find out if Cootjes whiskers have any use for her. And guess what: they do! This is what I learned…_MG_8832

The Anatomy of the Whisker

A common mistake people make is assuming that cat whiskers and human hair are alike. The whiskers, unlike human hair, are actually touch receptors. These longer, stiffer hairs — also called vibrissae — are embedded more deeply in the cat’s body than the shorter top-fur coat. The vibrissae are connected securely to the sensitive muscular and nervous systems, sending information about the surroundings directly to the cat’s sensory nerves, giving it a heightened sense of feeling and helping the cat to detect and respond to changes in its surroundings – sort of like kitty radar. A cat’s tactile hairs may be the most prominent on either side of its nose and upper facial lip. You may be also able to see shorter whiskers above each of the eyes (kind of like eyebrows). But did you know that cats also have whiskers on their jaw line and on the back of their front legs?

Thou Shall Not Cut Your Cat’s Whiskers!

Another common mistake is presuming that cat whiskers should be trimmed. Devons, like Cootje and Pernod, even have curly facial whiskers, so you might think that it wouldn’t be harmful to straighten them out with a little trim. You’d be wrong! Grooming, trimming or cutting off a cat’s whiskers is a big no-no. Without their tactile hairs, cats become very disoriented and frightened. In short, whiskers enable cats to gauge and make sense of their environment. Whiskers do grow back, but cats need their whiskers to remain intact in the same way you and I need our touch senses to get around. That is, cats use their whiskers in the same way that we use the touch receptors in our finger tips to feel our way around in the darkness, and to alert us to potentially painful situations. Cat whiskers shed and grow back naturally, and should be left alone.

18 thoughts on “Cootje and her ambitious whiskers

  1. It is true, the whiskers are indeed a sort of measurig tool for the cat. They “feel” how large an opening of something is first with their whiskers. And normally, when the whiskers pass, the head passes, the body passes. Nature has its ways…

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  2. Love your photos and blog! My Devon boy weighs about 10 pounds and has gorgeous whiskers. His half-sister weighs 7 pounds, and has broken, curly, or missing whiskers. Neither has real ‘eyebrow’ whiskers, and I also don’t see any on their chins or front legs.

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  3. I have also read that whisker width is relevant to a cat’s body width. They use the whiskers to first determine if they can go in a tight space. My Kitty Boy’s whiskers are almost like regular cat whiskers with a little curl. They are fairly long and he is a chunky Devon. He weighs 11 pounds. My Calliecat has the short barely there whiskers. She is very petit and weighs 5 pounds.

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      1. It is true, the whiskers are indeed a sort of measurig tool for the cat. They “feel” how large a width of something is first with their whiskers. And normally, when the whiskers pass, the head passes, the body passes. Nature has its ways…

        Like

  4. Just checked with Pitou and … there they were: 3 small whiskers (about 3 cm each) on each front leg. And saying I am a cat lover since childhood and never noticed 🙂

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  5. That is why some cats don’t want to drink water out of to small bowl…..the wiskers touch it,that’s what i read one time in a magazine.

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  6. Very interesting.
    Veronique devons also have 12 whiskers on each side?
    The mother cat sometimes bites the whiskers of her kittens off as they walk too far from the nest.

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