Sometimes our furry friend’s whiskers, also called tactile hair, grow really long and we wonder how in the world they can stand it. Our first impulse is to trim them down to our liking, but those whiskers serve several, necessary purposes.
Whiskers are longer, thicker and more rigid than hair. According to Vetstreet.com, each whisker is rooted in a hair follicle that is filled with blood vessels and nerves that occasionally fall out and grow back. Most cats have 12 whiskers arranged in four rows on either cheek, but dog whiskers vary per breed. Those hairs sticking out above your pet’s eyes are whiskers, too, as well as those under the chin. Cats can even grow whiskers behind their wrists.
So what are all these whiskers for? Well, believe it or not, the primary function of whiskers is to aid with vision, especially in the dark, because they provide sensory information. They are the animal’s antennae. Even though they are filled with nerves, the whisker cannot feel anything. However, they vibrate when they touch an object, which then stimulates the nerves in the hair follicle. This makes perfect sense because the scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae, which is derived from the Latin word, vibrio, which means “to vibrate”.
Cats use the whiskers on their head to know whether or not they can fit into a narrow space and use the whiskers on their legs to sense prey and to climb trees.
40% of a dog’s brain can detect when something touches their face because of their whiskers.
Both dogs and cats can use their whiskers in the dark to warn them before they bump into things, without even touching anything. Amazing, right?
The whiskers above the eyes protect them from long grass and other objects close to them.
So, if you trim your pet’s whiskers, you take away your canine and feline friend’s ability to feel and protect themselves. The bottom line is, it’s best to leave them alone.
- Kassira McKee