The whisker of a cat is a special kind of hair that is long, strong and very thick. Technically, the name for this kind of hair is vibrissa for one hair, and vibrissae for more hairs.
Some call the whisker a tactile hair, because it’s connected to the sense of touch and feeling, but there are no nerves in them. They are three times as deeply imbedded as the normal cat hair.
When the whiskers are touched, like when you push against them or when they are in a tight spot, blood will flow from one sinus to another. The surrounding nerves react to that which is why the cat knows it’s in a tight spot…so they know if they will fit.
The cat has five places where the whiskers are. The first people will notice are the whiskers on either side of the nose. They are the longest and most important of them all. They have sixteen to twenty-four whiskers, eight to twelve on each side.
Then, they have some above their eyes and some scattered on their cheeks and chin.
The last but not least are the hinds of the forelegs. They have some right above the feet. They use them for when they have caught their prey because they can’t focus on something so close to them.
So how do they use them for hunting and navigating?
Cats are hunters and hunt mostly at night. Now, even though they can see six times better than the human being at night, there are some things for which they need more assistance if they want to be successful.
The wind or a gust of air will move the whiskers when they hunt, for several reasons, which helps them find out where their prey is.
If a cat had no whiskers for whatever reason it can misjudge where the prey is and in the end will not have caught his prey no matter how hard he worked for it.
The whiskers on the cats face are always, or almost always, as long as the body is wide.
The whiskers above their eyes are also used for warnings for the eyes. Whether it’s a touch from someone or from a twig, or a change in the air, the reflex is when the whiskers are touched the eye closes.
Cats also communicate through their whiskers. When they are in a good mood, or generally happy with the way things are going, they will have them forward. Though when they are not happy, or mad, or just don’t like whatever is going on or happening, they will turn them backward, showing everyone and everything around that they don’t like something.
It’s never smart to cut a cats whiskers because they are needed!