Many people are aware that their furry companion has a collection of whiskers on its face. But some people may not know what the purpose is of the protruding hairs. Whiskers do a lot more than give dogs and cats their iconic looks – they are useful tools allowing them to navigate their environment.
“A dog’s or cat’s whiskers are specialized tactile hairs, sometimes called sinus hairs or vibrissae,” Dr. Marty Becker, a veterinarian, wrote in VetStreet. “In both pets, they’re located on the muzzle, above the eyes and beneath the chin. In cats, they’re also on the underside of the lower foreleg (carpal hairs).”
Whiskers grow from follicles similar to hair, but the roots can extend three times deeper into the skin. There are many nerve bundles at the base of each follicle that make whiskers extremely sensitive to surroundings. Additionally, these nerves can pick up pain in the animal if the whiskers are ever trimmed or pulled out.
Sensors – Every wonder how cats get around in the dark? Whiskers play a big part in nighttime navigation. These strands can pick up changes in the air and even help the animal sense if it can fit through a hole. According to Animal Planet, whiskers can also reveal the cat’s mood. When a feline is happy the whiskers are pushed forward, however, when a cat gets upset those tactile hairs will be pulled back.
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