Cat whiskers are highly sensitive touch receptors called proprioceptors. They are deeply embedded in the cat's body and are connected to the nervous system. This makes them incredibly adept at detecting even the slightest changes in their environment.
Whiskers help cats navigate in low-light conditions. The whiskers' ability to detect air currents allows cats to sense nearby objects, even in complete darkness. This makes them especially helpful for nocturnal hunters.
Cats can experience "whisker fatigue" if their whiskers come into contact with too many objects or surfaces. This can make them irritable, and they might prefer to eat from wider, shallow dishes to avoid whisker fatigue.
Cats use their whiskers to communicate with other cats. When a cat's whiskers are pulled back against its face, it may be a sign of fear or aggression. Whiskers pointing forward indicate a more relaxed state.
The width of a cat's whiskers is approximately equal to the width of its body. This allows cats to gauge whether they can fit through a narrow space, helping them avoid getting stuck.
A cat's whiskers can also indicate its mood. When a cat is curious or interested, its whiskers may be forward. If a cat is scared or threatened, the whiskers may be pulled back.
Cats have different types of whiskers serving different functions. The longest and most noticeable whiskers, called macrovibrissae, are found on the sides of the nose. Shorter whiskers, called microvibrissae, are located above the eyes, on the chin, and on the back of the front legs.
Changes in a cat's whisker behavior, such as them being constantly pulled back or asymmetrical, can be an indicator of health issues or pain. If you notice significant changes in your cat's whisker behavior, it's advisable to consult with a veterinarian.