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  #1  
Old 02 May 2009, 07:21 AM
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Hello Kitty Cat's whiskers are as wide as its body

Comment: Is it true that the width of a cat's whiskers is the same as the
widest part of the cat's body?
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Old 02 May 2009, 02:09 PM
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Taking an informal survey of two: Each cat has an accumulative whisker length that is wider than they are at their widest point. It appears that if both cats puffed up their fur, however, the whiskers are about that width - which means totally awesome whiskers on our long-haired cat.
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Old 02 May 2009, 03:31 PM
mrs.hi-c mrs.hi-c is offline
 
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A similar legend I heard when I was much younger was to never cut a cat's whiskers because they are "alive". I guess it means they would feel it like if you cut their claws too short.
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Old 02 May 2009, 04:45 PM
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Glasses

Also taking an informal survey of two, I have found that the whiskers on the fatter cat (Max, supergenius) are a wee bit less wide than his body. The whiskers on the younger, slimmer cat (Buttons, his faithful companion) are a bit wider than her body.

I had heard as an old wive's tail that cats whiskers are wider than their body to let them determine if a passage is wide enough for them to prevent them from being stuck.

Having rescued a stray cat and releasing her head from inside a soup can, I do not think a cat's curiosity will be deterred by whisker data.


Morning
still has a scar from the rescue
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Old 02 May 2009, 04:54 PM
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Gizmo's whiskers break pretty easily, so they're never that wide. They broke even more when he was a kitten, and he's picked up the habit of using his paw to see where the water level is in his water dish. Or in cups we leave out. ()
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Old 02 May 2009, 05:01 PM
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Hello Kitty

Informal survey of four: Mojo's whiskers are wider than his body, but he's still an adolescent. Sophie is about 1:1. Maude and Ren would have to more than double the length of their whiskers to be even close, the fatties!

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Old 02 May 2009, 05:52 PM
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Bonsai Kitten

I think the legend that underlies this question is the notion that cats use their whiskers to "measure" spaces -- that idea that if their whiskers won't fit through an opening, then cats won't venture into it. Of course, anybody familiar with cats knows that they can (and do) squeeze themselves through some incredibly small spaces.
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Old 02 May 2009, 06:48 PM
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Hello Kitty

It also doesn't take curly whiskers into account -- my mother's Persian has long whiskers, but they curl inward, toward his nose. They couldn't possibly be used to measure anything, because the ends don't stick out.

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Old 02 May 2009, 09:10 PM
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I don't know about cats, but it does hold true for rats. Rats use it to see if they can get through a hole or not, so never cut their whiskers. This is also one of the reasons it's illegal (in Sweden) to breed for hairless rats, as they have problems knowing if they can get through a hole and may get stuck (the other reasons are problems maintaining body heat, kidney problems and that they are easily scratched in normal rat scuffles).
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Old 02 May 2009, 11:21 PM
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Pixie should be the fattest cat ever and George needs to lose a bit of weight, going by this theory and my survey of two.
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Old 03 May 2009, 12:31 AM
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I doubt that it hurts to cut them. I've cut a cat's whiskers a few times when they (different cat each incident) got things stuck in them. And one cat (I don't care what the breed books say; Siameses are not very bright) once singed her whiskers off when she sniffed a lighted candle. Then, a year later, did it again. She looked really funny with whiskers on just one side of her face.

My parents neighbors once had a black cat whose whiskers and eyelashes were white. He was very cool-looking. I had one of his sisters. She had black whiskers, but a great personality.
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Old 03 May 2009, 01:08 AM
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Hello Kitty

Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
I think the legend that underlies this question is the notion that cats use their whiskers to "measure" spaces -- that idea that if their whiskers won't fit through an opening, then cats won't venture into it. Of course, anybody familiar with cats knows that they can (and do) squeeze themselves through some incredibly small spaces.
Yup. Chi has lovely long whiskers, being a longhaired cat, yet regularly slips behind the refrigerator and, once in her youth, got herself wedged in the space between the wall and chest freezer (which is about as wide as my hand). She is, however, a very small kitty under all that fur. (I can easily circle both my hands around her middle).

We haven't paid much attention to the length of Eddie's whiskers - as far as exploration goes he's a jumper, not a squeezer!
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Old 03 May 2009, 02:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
My parents neighbors once had a black cat whose whiskers and eyelashes were white. He was very cool-looking. I had one of his sisters. She had black whiskers, but a great personality.
My tuxedo cat Sammy had white whiskers on his face and his eye whiskers. He was so cute.

Now I don't think that cutting whiskers would hurt, since they're like hair and have no nerves outside of the root. However, (hangs head in shame) when I was a kid I once cut a cat's whiskers off and he did stumble around for awhile. I think his balance was off. So they may not tell a cat if he/she can fit through a space, but they do have their uses.
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Old 03 May 2009, 02:50 AM
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Whiskers may well not be used to measure anything, (and, to add to the sample others have already provided, a fast check of my own cats agrees that they don't necessarily match the width of the cat); but they apparently are involved with cats' senses.

http://www.upei.ca/histology/html/sensory_hairs.html

http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/4474383

From the second link:

Quote:
Whiskers are more than twice as thick as ordinary hairs, and their roots are set three times deeper than hairs in a cat's tissue. Richly supplied with nerve endings at their base, whiskers give cats extraordinarily detailed information about air movements, air pressure and anything they touch. Vibrissae possess exquisite sensitivity to vibrations in air currents. As air swirls and eddies around objects, whiskers vibrate too. Whiskers may detect very small shifts in air currents, enabling a cat to know it is near obstructions without actually seeing them. Cats use messages in these vibrations to sense the presence, size, and shape of obstacles without seeing or touching them.
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Old 03 May 2009, 10:18 AM
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IIRC from anatomy classes, whisker roots (?) are encased in blood-filled cavities. These cavities are surrounded by nerve endings. So even the lightest vibration of the whiskers make the blood in the cavities move, which the nerve endings pick up, and that's how cats can "see" the surroundings.
It's pretty similar to how the ear and body balance works, I reckon.
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Old 03 May 2009, 11:30 AM
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Looking at my cats, Pibs whiskers look about as wide as he is, but he is also a bit tubby, and Olo is only about 6 months old, but he is slightly slimmer then his whiskers, but he is starting fatten up a bit, though I think he may always be a long lean cat just fromt he look of his build, where Pib has always carried a bit more weight.
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  #17  
Old 03 May 2009, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
I don't know about cats, but it does hold true for rats.
I've owned rats, and I'm fairly certain their whisker span can be wider than their body. Even if their whiskers aren't that long, rats can certainly squeeze through spaces a lot smaller than the widest part of their body.

The world through a rat's whiskers
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