The Cat's Whiskers

"She thinks she is the cat's whiskers" is a term used to describe someone who has an often over inflated opinion of their own worth and it no doubt arose from the importance a cat appears to place on its luxurious whiskers.

Although most mammal species have whiskers, none but the cat's have been
associated with sacred powers or the supernatural.

In some Asian cultures it is believed that putting ground-up tiger's whisker in food will cause an agonising death, or that burned and mixed with food whiskers are a cure for impotence.

In the 17th century it was believed that if you cut the whiskers of the domesticated cat it took away the cat's courage.

Cats' whiskers are a special type of hair, thick and stiff at the base and tapering to a fine and flexible tip. They grow from a follicle strengthened by a fibrous capsule and extend three times deeper into the skin than normal hair. They are surrounded by an extensive network of nerve endings and connected to muscles which allow them to be moved backwards and forwards. The whiskers across the muzzle are the most prominent and are located high on the cheek. They are placed in four horizontal rows of approximately 12 whiskers on each side of the face. The two top rows can be moved independently of the two middle rows. The cat also has 'eyebrows' long gracefully arched whiskers above each eye.

The cat's whiskers often advertise the cat's mood. When relaxed they will be extended laterally but when angry or threatened they will flatten back against the cheeks.

The belief that cats can see in the dark is not really correct. Although their night vision is considerably better than humans, it is the whiskers which allow the cat to negotiate objects in the dark. The sensitive whiskers do not have to touch an object for the cat to be aware of its presence, as they are so sensitive that they can detect changes in atmospheric pressure or the deflection of air currents around them. Cats which are born blind grow longer and thicker whiskers that sighted cats and they use them more vigorously.

Is it any wonder that cats appear so proud of their whiskers?