It is said, “If you cut your cat’s whiskers, it would start moving in circles!” Ever pondered on, if this is a myth or a reality? But how can this be possible? It seems exactly like if a man cuts his mustache, he would not be able to see! Even if for a second, we believe that this thing has a possibility, then what can be the reason behind it? Imagine your pet without those whiskers. It would be same as Charlie Chaplin without his famous mustache, We are so much habitual of seeing whiskers on our pet’s face that we can’t picture our pet without whiskers, Although cutting or trimming them would seem cruel on our part, but as this knowledge is usually lacked by most of the pet owners, her are a few facts about why your pet is equipped with these whiskers.
Whiskers are much thicker than normal hair of the animal, and even are much more deep seated inside the flesh of the pet than hair, These whiskers are connected with blood capillaries and nerves, that give signals to brain. Although a touch on the whiskers won’t make animals feel anything, but the vibration the touch will cause would give signals to these nerves, which further would give a signal to brain and help in sensing. Presence and use of whiskers in different animals is told as below.
We see whiskers on the mouth of a dog, on the sides of its nose. It seems as of it is dog’s mustache, grown in such a manner that the number of whiskers can be counted, unlike human mustache, where counting the number of hair would take you ages. Whiskers work on the process of vibration, and hence, are also known as “vibrissae”, which is adapted from Latin language. Each whisker on both the sides of dog’s nose are connected to hundreds of nerve cells, and hence can sense even a slight change in the breeze.
The vibrissae are really sensitive. The dogs usually make use of these whiskers to guide itself of the direction to follow. A dog cannot see things close to it properly. This is the part where whiskers come to play. These whiskers guide them through the route, preventing the dog from striking walls or other obstructions. Dogs cannot even see in a downward direction properly as its muzzle blocks the sight. So they use these whiskers, with the help of which, they can prevent themselves from an obstacle, without actually touching it. Dogs also use these whiskers to gather information about the shape and size of the object or the obstacle, which they do by rubbing these whisks on the surface of the object. These whiskers are extremely sensitive, and touching one of them will lead the dog to take preventive actions by twisting its head in the opposite direction.
As everyone is well equipped of the similarities between these enemies, cats and dogs differ slightly in making use of their vibrissae. Like dogs, cats have whiskers, not only on their nose, but also on their eyes, just like human eyelashes, and also some little whiskers behind their claw. These whiskers function in almost the same manner as that of a dog, but the place where the difference arises is the use they make of these whiskers. According to a few experiments, cats use whiskers to attack at the exact position of their prey, which lies at a particular place in their neck. If cats grab them with their teeth, a little above that position, it would lead to a harm to cat’s teeth, and attacking a little lower would not make a good grip, and the prey will go lose or harm the cat by attacking it.
They also use whiskers to sense the motions around them or the objects that they may strike in. And the myth that cutting cat’s whiskers would make them walk in circular rounds is not true. Although cutting one side of cat’s whiskers would make them bow their head in that direction so that they could sense things in that direction easily, but this does not mean that they would start walking in round circles. But cutting whiskers doesn’t feel good and decent. Whiskers also help cats to judge distances of gaps.
There lie a few similarities between the whiskers of cats and dogs. Whiskers do grow back if lost under sickness or any other reason, just like hair. Both of them can judge a thing in front of them with the help of their whiskers, without even getting them in physical contact with the object. This is because of the sensitiveness of these whiskers, which also sense the differences in air currents, helping these animals to walk properly in dark regions. In both the animals, these whiskers also indicate their moods, just like their tails do. If they are angry about something, they would pull their whiskers back, while if they are in a good, joyful mood, their whiskers will be in a relaxed form. On the whole, these whiskers are like antennas to insects. Although they can survive without them, but that would just make their course of life, difficult, till these whiskers grow back.