I am in to cat whiskers at the moment (Jan 2012). I noticed that this lovely black and white kitten had very elegantly long whiskers.
I have not seen longer! LOL.
They are amazing. Which brings me to the subject of color…Cats whiskers are nearly always white but sometimes black. My boy has black whiskers. Am I sounding like some mad cat person!?
The interesting things is that the hair strands of a cat’s coat is pigmented in a variety of ways but not the whiskers. The mechanism by which the pigment (eumelanin) is implanted into the hair whisker is clearly different to what happens normally. I am yet to find out the reason. The underlying reason is probably similar to the cause of old people going grey.
Why are whiskers important to cats? In one sentence, through his or her whiskers a cat can detect movement of a whisker that is “2,000 times less than the width of a human hair”¹. With that kind of sensitivity cat whiskers are a powerful sensory device that assists the cat in a number of ways including feeling air currents around solid objects to avoid them in pitch black conditions and feeling caught prey as if the whiskers are fingers. You can read and see more here.
Note: (1) Encyclopedia of the Cat – ISBN 978-1-4053-2149-5
Picture by Pieter Lanser on Flickr published under creative commons license.