Cat-Vibrissae
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Literature

Please note, that most of the literature about the anatomy of cats is in English.

Important note:
Some articles are based on experiments done with cats: We are strictly against all animal experiments, which harm the animal. But, even it is very tough to read such articles about animal experiments, they provide necessary information to understand the cat's anatomy better.

 

An overview on congenital alopecia in domestic animals. Lars Mecklenburg, Vet Dermatol. 2006 Dec. 
 
Compensatory plasticity and sensory substitution in the cerebral cortex. Rauschecker JP, Trends Neurosci. 1995 Jan. 
 
Hairless cats in Great Britain. Hendy-Ibbs PM, J Hered. 1984 Nov-Dec 
 

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Cat-Vibrissae

Vibrissae in cats

Vibrissae

The cat has vibrissae on many parts of the body:

  • in the face: eye brows, whiskers, some stiff, shorter vibrissae on the cheeks and on the chin
  • Tufts on and in the ears
  • on the inner and backside of the legs
  • Tufts between the toes and on the paw pads
Click on the term to get a short description.

Why does the cat need vibrissae?

Vibrissae belong to the primary sensory organs. It was proofed in experiments that vibrissae substitute the eyes of the cat, if the eyes loose their function - see the literature.
Vibrissae are very sensitive and may recognize minimal air movements.

Vibrissae have multifold functions:

  • They are used for orientation, mainly when it is dark, that the cat does not knock against.
  • The whiskers are used to measure the width of a whole or the distance to objects. The cat receives detailed information about its surrounding via the vibrissae, also when the vision is impaired or in darkness.
  • The whiskers are very important for hunting to recognized the prey, when it is close in front of the mouth that the deadly bite can be done accurately and precisely. The cat receives detailed information about shape and activities of the prey by moving the whiskers forward thus forming a basket.
    A cat, whose whiskers are damaged, will run the risk that the bite on the prey will be not precise.
  • The whiskers also play an important role in communication. Flat lying, backwards bent whiskers signal "Please, don't disturb me!", defense or aggression. Relaxed, normally carried whiskers signal satisfaction, the world is in order for the cat. Whiskers bent forward signal interest and inquisition, the cat is in a friendly mood.

Sphynx may have whiskers, mostly short or broken, or they may not have whiskers. Sphynx which do not have whiskers at all, i.e. whiskers are missing since birth, shall not be used for breeding, because they lack an important primary sense - see the literature.

In Rex cats eye brows and whiskers are crinkled and broken. Do not try to stretch out the whiskers, they will break off, because they are stiffer than in other cat breeds.

Questionable practices

The practice to cut off the eye brows and to trim the whiskers for exhibitions in some breeds, which shall have a round head - mainly in Persians and Exotic, is very close to cruelty.
Therefore, never cut the whiskers or the eye brows, because you deprive the cat of its orientation and of an essential navigation system.

You also deprive the cats of an important sensory organ, if you pluck the lynx-tufts on the ear tips, just to make the ears appearing smaller and rounder - mainly in Persians and Exotic. Also this is on the edge to cruelty.

Also the practice in naked cats - in particular in the Sphynx - to shave their face and to remove their whiskers and eye brows (to make the whisker pads appearing more prominent and the ridge of the eye brows more bulging) is on the edge to cruelty.
You deprive these cats of an important primary sensory organ, which they do need essentially for their orientation.

 

 


 
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