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
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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
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
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
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.
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
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.