Ever notice how a cat’s whiskers are always moving? As it turns out, cats use their whiskers for a variety of things, and if the whiskers are cut or damaged in some way, there can be some pretty serious consequences.
Cat’s whiskers are secured by follicles surrounded by muscles rich in nerve endings that are connected directly to their brain. These nerves are so sensitive they can pick up slight air movement when it vibrates the whiskers. The nerves are so finely tuned they can even pick up air movement around furniture so the cat knows there’s an object there, even in the dark. Since cats are nocturnal, this “whisker sense” helps them hunt in darkness.
Whiskers are so important to cats that research has shown if they are damaged, the cat may have trouble estimating the size of an opening and get stuck as a result. The whiskers also help with equilibrium, so if they’re damaged a cat may have balance issues and have trouble walking or running.
In experiments done with cats whose whiskers were cut short, they had trouble judging distance correctly for jumping and tended to run into things.
Cat’s whiskers, a pretty compact and complicated GPS, I’d say!