The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Should You Ever Cut Your Pet's Whiskers?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Should You Ever Cut Your Pet's Whiskers?

Should you ever cut your pet's whiskers? Think about it...why would you want too.

Although cats and dogs clearly relish cleaning morsels of food off their whiskers, the long hairs have other purposes, from sensing things close to their face to communication.

Most people think of whiskers as the sole providence of cats. They're not. Dogs have whiskers, too, and they're just as important to them as they are to cats. Through daily wear, injury or disease, dogs can loose their whiskers, though. They'll grow back, but the transition isn't always easy.

Whiskers are sensory organs and serve several purposes as such. They are very sensitive, being rooted around three times deeper in the skin than ordinary hairs, and being connected to many nerve-endings. They are able to detect minute changes in air currents, helping animals find their way in the dark (even cats, which have excellent night vision, need some light to see, though it's a much smaller amount than we require). They aid subterranean animals like moles in avoiding bumping into walls and suchlike underground. (Source: Someone who was previous a zoo keeper and studied animals.)

Are Whiskers Different From Other Hair?
When it comes to pet hair, whiskers are longer, thicker and more rigid, as well as more deeply embedded in the skin. Each whisker is rooted in a hair follicle that's filled with blood vessels and nerves. And like other hairs, whiskers will occasionally fall out and grow back.

Most cats have 12 whiskers that are arranged in four rows on either cheek, but the whisker pattern in dogs is more varied. Whiskers can also sprout above the eyes, as well as under the chin. Cats can also grow whiskers behind their wrists.

Why Do Cats and Dogs Have Them?
The primary function of whiskers is to aid with vision, especially in the dark, by providing additional sensory information — much like antennae on other creatures.

Although it's often called “tactile hair”, the whisker itself cannot feel anything. Instead, objects that brush up against a whisker cause it to vibrate, which then stimulates the nerves in the hair follicle. This explains why the scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae, which derives from the Latin word, vibrio, meaning “to vibrate.”

Cats use their facial whiskers to determine if they can fit into narrow spaces, and the whiskers on their legs may aid them in sensing prey or climbing trees.

Whiskers serve a similar purpose in dogs: Nearly 40 percent of the canine brain can detect when something touches a dog's face, especially the region where the whiskers are located.

Dogs and cats can also sense something even if it doesn’t actually touch a whisker. For example, a pet in a dark room can pick up on the fact that there's a wall nearby because of a change in air currents.

Cool Whisker Features
Some whiskers, especially those above the eyes, can also protect a pet from getting poked by long grasses and other objects.

The position of the whiskers can also clue you in to the mood of an animal. For example, felines may fold their whiskers back to say, “Stay away.”

Although it's an old wives' tale that cutting a pet’s whiskers off will affect his balance, it can compromise his ability to “feel” around his face. In other words, if you’re tempted to trim those unruly whiskers, it’s best to leave them alone.

Some animals that have whiskers are cats, bunnies, dogs, ferrets, otters, mice, rats and most animals in the cat family have whiskers

Harmful Effects of Cutting a Dog's Whiskers


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