We are all familiar with the whiskers on cats’ faces but what about the ones on the front legs? Why do cats have whiskers on their legs? Let’s find out.
Have you noticed the whiskers on legs of your cat? It looks a bit odd to have whiskers on the the legs, doesn’t it? Well, whiskers might be even more important than the eyes for cats in some situations. They are not just some aesthetic hairs that add to the elegant and charismatic looks of our feline friends. So why do cats have whiskers on their legs, you ask?
Whiskers are like GPS and radar systems for cats. They help cats navigate in the dark, measure distances of tight spaces to learn if they can fit there and even protect their eyes by letting them know when to close their eyelids or move their heads. They are a huge part how cats sense the world. Whiskers can sense even the smallest changes in the air currents that we are unable to notice. But these functions and some others are covered by facial whiskers.
How come whiskers have such functions? Aren’t they just hairs after all? Actually they are more than hairs. You surely noticed that the whiskers are a lot thicker than normal cat hair. Each whisker is filled with tiny and supersensitive nerves that allow the cats to use these hairs as sensory organs.
But the more important difference comes from where we can not see. Whiskers go way deeper than normal hairs. The follicles which are the sacs that hold the whiskers where they are have lots of nerve endings which send signals to the cats’ brains. The sensory organ at the tip of the whiskers pick up vibrations in the environment and tell the kitty what is going on. The lightning fast reflexes and the amazing survival stories we hear all the time probably would not exist without whiskers.
Whiskers are also good indicators to tell the mood of a cat. Thanks to the muscles at the roots their facial whiskers, cats can move them. This allows cats to widen the area they can sense. You may notice this when you cat is playing with its toys. Just observe its whiskers when you play with her using a feather wand, you will notice her whiskers going forward. This shows that she is in a hunting mood. Another example would be when a cat is upset or nervous, the whiskers would be pinned back towards her face.
Whiskers are so important that you may want to learn why cats have whiskers and why you shouldn’t cut them. These information can change the way you understand how and why your cat acts the way she does.
Why Do Cats Have Whiskers on Their Legs?
The whiskers are called vibrissae in general and the whiskers behind the front legs are called carpal vibrissae.
The carpal vibrissae are crucial when your little friend is hunting. Cats are known for the strength of their sight but this is not true when their target is closer than 12 inches to their eyes. Yes, your cat is near sighted just like the rest of its species. However, they have a better tool to know what is going on there.
The carpal whiskers let the cats know if there is any movement when they have their preys in their front paws. Since nerves are faster to transmit the information to the brain compared to eyes therefore cats know if their prey needs another blow to be stunned or killed.
They also tell where the prey is so they don’t just work after the hunt but they also help during the vicious attacks. The whiskers on the legs can make all the difference between a healthy and strong cat with a full stomach and a weak starved cat in the wild.
Our cats today don’t really need to hunt because we provide their food but they do hunt by choice because it is in their nature. Whether your cat does not leave your house at all or she likes being outside, she hunts. She may hunt flies or insects, play with its toys or bring you small trophies from outside such as mice or lizards, they are hunting practices from a cat’s perspective. So the main goal doesn’t need to be feeding.
Always remember, cats are carnivorous animals which makes them predators. They deserve the respect you would show a wild predator. So, in addition to many practical and health reasons why you should not cut your cat’s whiskers, showing respect to these little predators require them to have their whiskers no matter how long they are.