Boom! Pow! When you think of superheroes, who do you think of? Wonder Woman? Black Panther? Batman? Well, did you know that there’s a superhero you’ve likely met that might even live in your house? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a cat! Yup, that’s right…cats have superpowers!
My Feline Senses Are Tingling
Cats can “see” what’s around them even in the dark, detect predators, and almost always land on their feet. How can cats do this? All of these superpowers are helped by a kind of radar you’ve seen right on their face – whiskers! Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are long, thick hairs that are packed with “super” nerves and are sensitive enough to detect even the slightest movements of air. At the end of each vibrissa is an organ which tells the cat about the position of its body and legs, helping them move stealthily and react quickly.
Vibrissae on a cat can also act as a “cat-signal” to let people know what that cat is feeling. When a cat is relaxed, its whiskers will mostly be still and at rest. One “cat-signal” to watch out for are whiskers that are bunched together and lying flat on the cat’s face. In this case, the cat is telling you “back off” or “I’m scared” so you should give that cat some space – you don’t want that cat to “hulk out” on you! You can also tell when a cat is going into hunter-mode when its whiskers are pointed slightly forward.
Rule Number One
If you are the sidekick to a super-cat at home, you must remember one thing: never cut or trim your cat’s whiskers. Cutting a cat’s whiskers will leave them scared and disoriented. Whiskers can be shed and grown back naturally. So don’t mess with a cat’s whiskers! Hands off!
Did you know that cats have whiskers in places other than their nose? It’s true! Cats have whiskers above their eyes (like very long eyebrows), on their chin, and even on the back of their front legs! Whiskers on the back of a cat’s front legs help with catching and trapping prey. These vibrissae tell the cat whether their prey is struggling or trying to escape. It’s their secret weapon!
Imagine you could have the superpower of anything in nature. What power would you choose?
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Explore nature together. Visit Nature 360 for activities and information.
Blog post by Melissa Cagan.