I found one of Lexie Lee’s whiskers on the floor recently. I sat and studied the fascinating whisker. Then a couple of days later, I saw Lexie Lee approach a long narrow box that a shipment had come in. The box had a six-inch square opening on each end of the five-foot box. I left the box on the floor speculating it would make a great play tunnel for Lexie Lee.  But she has determined she will not fit into the box—thanks to her whiskers. She stuck her head inside the opening, stayed there a few seconds and then pulled out.

A cat’s whiskers are long thickened hairs that grow on the whisker pad, the puffy area between the top corners of the mouth and outer edges of the nose. Generally, eight to twelve whiskers protrude from each side. I tried to count Lexie Lee’s whiskers. I think she has nine, but they are a little tricky to count!  Cats shed whiskers, but not all at the same time. The whiskers grow back in two to three months. The whiskers are sensors on the head, surrounded by nerve endings that transmit information about the environment back to the cat. Therefore, whiskers should never be cut off or trimmed nor should they be pulled on due to their sensitivity. Whiskers serve several purposes for the cat’s benefit and safety. Cats depend on whiskers for a measuring device, for navigating around especially at night, and for showing their mood.

Just as a dollar bill can be used to measure six inches, whiskers help a cat determine space on either side. Whiskers extend about the width of the cat’s shoulders. If the whiskers touch the edges of the opening—like the edges of the box that Lexie Lee was investigating, she will retreat knowing she will likely get stuck.  Lexie Lee has not attempted to go back into the box. Otherwise, if the head and shoulders fit in the opening, the body will be able to follow.

Whiskers guide the cat in the dark, so they don’t run into objects or knock things over.  Because the whiskers sense changes in air currents, the cat knows a piece of furniture is nearby and turns away.  Some experts suggest that whiskers warn cats about a storm due to air changes.

Whiskers are also clues to moods since the cat will alter the position of the whiskers depending on what is happening. For example, if the cat is happy and content, the whiskers are more relaxed and pushed forward. When the cat is eating, the whiskers are held close to keep them out of the food. When walking, the cat moves the whiskers as far out as they will go. But if frightened, the cat flattens the whiskers back against the face to keep them out of danger.

How many whiskers does your cat have?

Bountiful Blessings!

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