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By Diana Fineran

There are long ones, short ones and those in between. Different from fur, which is always shorter and has a knap to it, showing the direction the fur lies, whiskers grow straight out from the skin.  Their correct name is tactile hairs or sinus hairs. (Hmmm, I wonder if those are the same sinus hairs…). The largest number can be found on the sides of the muzzle, but they can also be found growing from the chin and as eye brows above the eyes.  Eye lashes are not considered to be the same as whiskers, however.

The stiff whiskers have an inner core containing branches of the cat’s main facial nerve, called the trigeminal nerve.  A combination of this nerve, with the whiskers and the way the cat uses them together is considered to be what helps the cat to orient himself in darkened places.  Balance, closeness to objects or prey, depth perception, and sensitivity to his surroundings gives the cat an extra sense, that he truly takes advantage of. 

The emotional feelings of your cat can be clearly understood by the way your cat positions his whiskers.  Pulled forward means your cat is happy and relaxed.  Pulled back means your cat is defensive. Pulled straight and spread out means your cat is displeased about something and could lash out.

The cat is one animal known to use its facial muscles to smile, adding to their expressiveness.  So there you have it.  These sharp tipped instruments are a window to your cat’s state of mind, ready for you to “read” if you are paying attention.              



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