Some 40 years ago my sister then about 10 years of age took it upon herself to trim the whiskers of a Siamese cat we lived with at the time. She didn't realize (and I don't blame her of course) that she was amputating a very important part of a cat's anatomy.
I love to play with and touch my cat including her whiskers. But she doesn't really like me playing with her whiskers, why?
Here's another example of how cats are better than humans in some ways. Most people think that a cat's whiskers are simple feelers that allow the cat to judge the width of a passageway or a hole. They are far more sophisticated than that.
When you are stroking your cat and tweaking her whiskers, you're teaking a piece of high technology that humans cannot emulate in machinery. A cat won't like you fiddling with her whiskers because they are so sensitive.
A cat's whiskers can sense air currents around objects. In the dark her whiskers assist her to maneouvre around objects with great precision.
The accuracy of the information that a cat's whiskers sends to the brain is astonishing and demonstrated in a cat's ability to kill cleanly and efficiently.
Her whiskers act as a guidance mechanism for her jaws allowing her to bite with great precision at the exact spot on the neck of her victim (the nape) that will kill the animal quickly. The whiskers apparently can almost be said to be feeling the prey by wrapping around the animal as the jaws approach. Without whiskers in good condition a cat is unable to kill cleanly at night.
Whiskers are much thicker than ordinary hair as we know and the ends are deeply embedded into the upper lip to connect with a mass of sensitive nerves. They are not just found on the upper lip. If you look closely you can see them over the eyes, on back legs and on the chin. They all detect movement.
The long whiskers on the upper lip are the most important however. When we next look at our cat we should remind ourselves that we are looking at some fabulous high tech machinery well beyond the ability of man to manufacture.
Photograph reproduced under creative commons copyright itakebetterphotos (Flickr)