Most people associate whiskers with the feathery, appendage like hairs that they observe on a cat’s face and eyebrows. But, contrary to popular belief, cats actually harbor whiskers elsewhere on their bodies. If you were to examine your cat’s forelegs, you would notice these small hairs. Sometimes, they are not easily detected. But, if you observe closely, you will notice them.
About Foreleg Whiskers
If you are wondering about the practical purpose of foreleg whiskers, they do play a substantial role in your cat’s life. These hairs have a very thick diameter, and they emerge from a sensory region of the cat’s body. Nerves, however, are not embedded inside of the whisker itself. Whenever anything brushes against a foreleg whisker, this signals the induction of the nerve pathway from the sensory nodule that the whisker is attached to.
Determining the actual use of tactile foreleg whiskers has required some research on the part of scientists. Generally speaking, these foreleg whiskers assist greatly in hunting purposes. In essence, they do serve an inherently predatory purpose, while the facial whiskers are beneficial for navigating the environment.
Some have incorrectly deduced that they allow the paw to safely enter a mousehole, when in fact, this is incorrect. Clearly, the whiskers located on the forelegs do not pertain to measuring or navigating in the slightest.
Whiskers: A Second Set of Eyes
Whiskers often function as a second set of eyes for cats when they are engaging in predatory behavior, particularly a mouse hunt. Essentially, when a cat is stalking its prey, these whiskers allow it to detect movement. The neural pathways that these whiskers are connected to are highly sensitive to outside stimuli, as well. Not only do these whiskers indicate the presence of motion, but they also serve as indicators for the exact direction of that motion.
When a cat is in the process of stopping its mouse prey with the aid of its paw, it cannot physically see the mouse that is positioned under its paw. For this reason, the cat’s kinesthetic senses play an important role here. These whiskers actually relay information about their prey, so that they can process it neurologically.
These whiskers are especially important for cats that live in outdoor environments. These cats rely solely on their predatory skills to catch their intended prey and eat to survive. Of course, indoor cats do not require this survival mechanisms. However, in the event that a cat escaped accidentally, this whiskers would be of tremendous aid to the cat’s survival and well being. There may be additional, adaptable uses for these small, tactile hairs that scientists are unaware of.
How They Work
So, how do these whiskers work, exactly? First of all, they allow the cat to determine if the mouse is still alive and mobile. Furthermore, it is also an escape-detection mechanism as well. When the whiskers signal the indication that the mouse is attempting to escape the cat’s trap, the cat behaves accordingly to retrieve its prey.