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…
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.