Friday, July 5, 2013

Interesting Facts About Whiskers

  • Whiskers are not the same as fur or hair. They are thicker at the base than fur and get thinner as they extend. They feel harder than fur, and the base can feel almost as strong as the point of a safety pin (but not as sharp).
  • Whiskers are sensory in nature and are rooted much deeper than normal hair. They can sense distance and space, and they feel through vibration. 
  • Whiskers can be hard to see depending on dog's or cat's markings, but once they’re spotted, it’s amazing how many whiskers you will notice! And they don’t just come out around the nose, but also above the eyes and under the chin.

    My purrbaby Milo showing off her whiskers.
    She has way more than you might think at first glance! 
  • Cats and dogs use their whiskers to feel their way around the world. When trying to fit into small spaces, cats determine if their body will fit based on whether their whiskers fit. That’s why when your cat has a cone around her head after a vet visit, she might act very disoriented or use the walls to get around. She can’t “see” the same without her whiskers! 
  • Interestingly, mother cats use this knowledge to their advantage when their kittens are small. While grooming, a mother cat will often nibble the whiskers of her babies until they are very short to keep them from wandering away from her. It has also been reported that cats who live together have done this to one another as an expression of dominance. 
  • Despite what the mama cats may do, you should never trim or pluck your dog's or cat’s whiskers. Whiskers will fall out sometimes, but this occurs naturally, like shedding. Cutting or plucking out whiskers before they are ready to fall out not only will cause your pet to become disoriented (and probably stressed) for a few days but can also cause infection. There are many medical problems that could arise if whiskers are plucked, such as the exposed nerve mound becoming infected.

    Noelle has long whiskers that blend into her face.
    (Noelle is available for adoption.)
  • Dogs and cats with reduced vision are especially dependent on their whiskers, which guide them through the world in much the same way that humans with vision impairment have reported that their hearing skills have improved with the diminishment of the other sense.
  • Be careful at the groomer's! Some groomers are in the practice of trimming the whiskers of dogs to make their face look “neat and tidy.” When dropping your dog off for a day at the spa, be sure to mention that you do not want his whiskers touched. Hopefully, the groomer will be surprised you even mentioned it, as he or she didn’t plan on doing that anyway, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! 

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