Porky and Buddy Pet Health – What Are Whiskers Good For?

Porky and Buddy

Dear Porky and Buddy,
This is not exactly an earth shattering sort of problem. In fact it’s not a problem at all, just idle curiosity. What do cat’s whiskers do? They all seem to have them more than most other animals so they probably do something, but what? Just wondering.

Dear Bob,
Never doubt the power of idle curiosity.

Where do you think the law of gravity came from?

And as it happens, your cat’s whiskers really are vitally important to her well-being and how she navigates her space.

Most cats have 8 to 12 whiskers on the side of their nose.

Those long whiskers tell them how to judge distance and space, where they can fit, how high to jump, all the moves that cats make that are so agile and interesting are guided in part by their whiskers. (Speaking of the law of gravity!)

In addition to the whiskers your cat has on either side of her nose, she also has shorter whiskers above her eyes, on her chin, and on the backs of her lower front legs. (The ones on her legs help her climb.)

Each whisker is filled with tiny, supersensitive nerves. There’s a sensory organ at the tip of each whisker. It picks up vibrations in the environment that help the cat sense where she is and what else is going on are around her.

The follicles — the sacs that hold the whiskers — are deep, with a generous blood supply and lots of nerve endings that send messages to her brain.

The way a cat arranges her whiskers will tell you a lot about how she’s feeling.

When a cat is relaxed, her whiskers will remain still, sticking straight out from the side of her head. If she is curious or is on the hunt, she’ll press them slightly forward. Cats that are nervous or upset will pin their whiskers back toward their face.

Obviously you should never mess with your cat’s whiskers! She needs them. Leave them alone.

For instance, most cats like to eat from a flat plate or wide low bowl that does not interfere with their whiskers.

They are so sensitive that just bushing them against the bowl is irritating. Most important, you should never trim them.

She’ll become disoriented and may begin acting dizzy and confused and it could be weeks before they grow back enough to correct the problem.

P.S. Dogs’ whiskers perform similar functions, although not quite so critical, but they are also better left untrimmed.

Maybe you can find some whiskers (with a cat attached) at  the Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Celebration and Holiday Bazaar  on December 6 from noon to 3 p.m. at the YMCA/Armory at 265 W. First St.

It’s free and fun with lots of things to do and buy to benefit the animals.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Located at 110 W. Second St., Oswego, NY.

Phone: (315) 207-1070.

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.oswegohumane.org

Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other.