Maine Coons have a friendly and sweet temperament which is quite a contrast to their facial features. These cats have medium-width heads, well-tufted ears and manes in their neck, making them look like miniature lions. Their extra-long whiskers complete their look and add a final touch to their ferocious-looking face.
Maine Coon Whiskers Explained
Whiskers are also called vibrissae, a Latin word which means “to vibrate”. These are tactile hairs that are three times thicker than a cat’s fur. They are located on each side of a cat’s muzzle and also known as mystacial whiskers or large and rigid whiskers.
Maine Coons possess the longest whiskers among all cat breeds. They are as wide as their bodies and very sensitive. Most cats have 24 mystacial whiskers, and approximately 8 to 12 on each side of the muzzle. However, some Maine Coons may have 16 on each side and may have four rows of four whiskers on each side of their face.
These gentle felines may also have shorter whiskers on their chin, above the eyes and on the backs of their lower front legs. No matter what their fur’s color is, they will generally have white whiskers while some with black or grey fur may have darker whiskers. They may also change color as your cat becomes older and the white whiskers may eventually turn into black.
What are the purposes of whiskers?
Whiskers do not only serve an aesthetic purpose. Here are some of their functional purposes:
1. They help cats to sense and feel their surroundings.
Whiskers have tiny, sensitive nerves that allow cats to estimate distance and space. The areas where the whiskers grow may also gain an increased in blood flow and nerves allowing the cats to sense the slightest changes in the wind around them. The sensitive whiskers are essential since they allow cats to detect potential threats such as predators by sensing the changes in air currents. They also heighten their hunting skills and allow them to detect prey.
2. They aids them to gauge sizes.
When felines brush their whiskers against objects, they can detect the precise size, texture and location of the object even in the dark. This helps them to gauge if they can fit into a tight space or opening.
3. They help to communicate your cat’s emotions.
If you notice that your Maine Coon cat’s whiskers are flattened against the cheeks, it may mean that she is scared or angry. If they are sticking out sideways and looking relaxed, it means that your cat is calm and content. Also, if you notice the whiskers facing forward, it denotes that your cat is alert and excited.
Is it okay to cut Maine Coon whiskers?
No, you should never cut or trim your cat’s whiskers because it will cause considerable pain. It can also lead to confusion and disorientation, loss of navigational capacity and doing so will not gain any benefit at all. Also, you should refrain from touching your cat’s whiskers as they may be very sensitive.
Whisker fatigue and other whisker issues
Like all other essential parts of your cat’s body, whiskers may also undergo some form of distress like whisker fatigue. It occurs when a cat is overwhelmed by the sensory input. It is usually characterized by an overload of information and your cat may not be able to control or handle it which may result in stress or anxiety.
Other whisker issues may include the following:
Curly or bent whiskers
It is unlikely for Maine Coons and cats, in general, to have curly or bent whiskers so if this is the case you should investigate the cause. One possible culprit is your cat’s feeding bowl. The ideal bowl should be wide and shallow so that it will not touch your cat’s sensitive whiskers. We recommend the CatGuru whisker stress-free cat food bowl to prevent curly whiskers and whisker fatigue.
Whiskers are falling out
Just like fur, cats shed their whiskers which usually happens two to three whiskers at a time. This should not be a cause for concern since it is part of a cat’s normal process and the whiskers will eventually grow back in two or three months.
Maine Coons may lose their whiskers due to medical conditions such as alopecia, mite infestation, facial bacterial or fungal infection and due to immune or hormonal disorders. However, it may also be due to non-medical reasons such as catfights or getting accidentally cut by a groomer while trimming your the fur.
A Maine Coons whiskers help your cat to sense their surroundings and gauge sizes but most importantly, it aids them in their hunting capacities and helps detect predators and prey.
Image: istockphoto.com / Gleti