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Why do cats have whiskers?


Did you know that saying something is "the cat's whiskers" means that it's excellent? It's an old-fashioned idiom meow-adays. But whiskers are most definitely excellent! They help cats sense what's around them and see where they're going, especially in the dark.

Whiskers are stiff hairs on the face, nose and even legs of an animal. They have tiny nerves that send messages to the brain. The scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae, from a Latin word meaning to vibrate. Cats use their whiskers to feel vibrations in their environment and avoid danger. They can figure out how to fit through a gap in the fence, jump on tables, climb trees... or find a hidden spot to curl up for a catnap!

Whiskers are also a method of communication. Folding them back could be a warning to stay away. Lots of animals have whiskers, not just cats! For example, seals use their whiskers to sense movement and find food underwater. Can you think of any other whiskered animals?

Feline like learning more? Check out this video about whiskers on Kanopy Kids, or find a purr-fect book about cats.

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