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What do cat's whiskers do?

Cats are the number one pet worldwide, more common than even dogs. Cats have been associated with humans for thousands of years, and recent discoveries have found that they were kept as pets even earlier than once thought. This article will give you an insight into the planet's favourite furry friend.

Cats facts

Cats in general Household cats are small, social animals that are closely related to other feline species. They have been kept as pets for around 9,500 years, and their close association with humans has allowed the domestic cat to inhabit almost every area of the world, sometimes to the detriment to the local habitat. Lifestyle Cats are carnivorous, feeding mainly on meat protein. They are normally nocturnal and hunt small rodents. However, the association with humans has led to many cats becoming diurnal. Cats have developed a number of well-honed senses, such as great eyesight, sense of smell and hearing as well as whiskers. These all allow cats to operate in the dark and hunt small, fast prey.

Cat senses

Eyesight You may have noticed that the eyes of cats reflect in the dark. This is due to a layer in the eye called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light that finds its way to the retina back into the eye, allowing them to see incredibly well in the dark. Smell Cats have a very well-developed sense of smell, and can be very sensitive to certain pheromones. The detection of certain smells can lead to the stimulation of sexual or social behaviours. Hearing Household cats have an extremely acute sense of hearing - even greater than that of a dog. This is because the cat has evolved to hunt small rodents which emit very high-pitched noises. The detection of these sounds is aided by the fact that the cat is able to move the outer parts of its ears. Taste Over time, cats have lost the ability to taste sweet foods, and can only detect bitter foods, acids, or amino acids. Touch The cat's whiskers are its way of touching its surroundings. Whiskers, or vibrissae, are specialised hair follicles that end in a sealed capsule filled with blood. When the whisker is moved, the follicle end moves the blood in the capsule, which amplifies the movement to mechanoreceptors. In some cases, the blood capsule is surrounded by muscle, which allows the whisker to be moved. When the cat is moving through gaps, or through a darkened room, the whiskers 'feel' the surroundings and can elicit certain responses. For example, a movement of the cat's whiskers near the eyes will cause the eye to blink, thereby protecting the eyes from damage.

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