Whiskers (Vibrissae): The First Installment

11/17/08 - by TheCatCoach


Miss Mushu

Many years ago there was a lovely cat named Mushu who refused to eat like most other self-respecting cats. Instead of putting her head into her food bowl, she would dip her right paw into the food and scoop up big chunks with the intention of depositing the food in her mouth. Unfortunately, Miss. Mushu wasn’t very adept at this activity and would fling food around the room. Her meals would regularly end up plastered on the walls and sometimes on the ceiling.

Why was Mushu depositing her meals on the ceiling instead of in her mouth? Was Mushu a clumsy example of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution? Was she learning to use a knife and a fork?

The answer to this mystery lies in her muzzle whiskers and the shape and depth of her food bowl. A cat’s whiskers help her define her world. They are an important part of her navigation equipment. Whiskers help her find her way around in the dark. Whiskers are very sensitive, sensing changes in the wind and air currents, allowing her to sense objects and navigate around them in the deepest night. Since they are the width of her body; she uses them to determine if she can fit into tight places. They also help her hunt, are like little fingers outlining her prey. Her whiskers help her determine where to strategically bite her prey in order to kill it. Whiskers help her see.  They are sensitive. They feel.

Small bowls can annoy sensitive whiskers. The bowl Miss Mushu ate out of was small and deep, her whiskers touched the sides. Since Mushu couldn’t verbalize that she hated the way the bowl felt on her sensitive whiskers, she scooped the food out with her paw and flung it on the walls and ceiling.


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3 comments on “Whiskers (Vibrissae): The First Installment”

  1. Jo,
    I don't know why your Tom has whiskers that he holds under his chin. Cats should be able to change the position of their whiskers. He should be able to flatten them against the sides of his face or hold them out. It's all very important for communication. More on that in the next installment.

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