My Greek kitty crew

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Magical sensing rods

If you're kitty person you might already know a few vital insider facts about whiskers. I adore whiskers and find that they add such grace and impishness at the same time. Aren't whiskers a little masterpiece in itself?! Such beauty combined with such a great sense of purposeful function - purrrfection!!

Here's a few facts about whiskers...

A cat's whiskers are what are known as "specialized sensory hairs." Their extreme sensitivity can register very small changes in air pressure, enabling the kitty to avoid objects while moving around in the dark. It's also thought that they may also be used to establish the position of prey and help locate the exact position for the killing bite. This idea is somewhat borne out by the fact that cheetahs, who mainly hunt by day, have less developed whiskers than many other "night hunting" cats. 

Whiskers are grouped in three specific locations on the cats head. The Supercilary whiskers are positioned above the eyes, the Genal whiskers to the rear of the cats cheek area, and the Mystacial whiskers (which are the longest and most prominent) are carried either side of the cats muzzle. The Mystacial whiskers are primarily used as an alternative sensing device when the eyes are no longer effective (i.e. in the dark). It's now though that there's a link between visual and other sensory input in the cat. Indeed, research indicates a degree of parallel processing takes place within the cat's brain. This can be demonstrated by simply touching the end of the whiskers - the automatic response is for the cat to blink. 

It's also thought that whiskers are used a a sort of "magic sensing rod," enabling kitty to test their ability to fit through small places and get around obstacles. Cats are able to change the position of their whiskers depending on what they are doing - at rest the whiskers are elongated, at 90% to the head, while when walking they are tilted forward to aid their sensing ability. 

The whiskers are not just for judging the width of gaps or the proximity of objects. They are also mobile and help to indicate the cat's mood. In a normal relaxed "neutral" state, they are held slightly to the side. As the cat becomes more interested in something around it, the whiskers perk forwards, ultimately coming forwards in front of the muzzle. The cheek pads also seem to swell out as the muscles pull the whiskers into position. If the cat is fearful, it pulls its whiskers back alongside its cheeks to signal that it is non-threatening. This also makes its face look smaller.

You should never touch or manipulate your cat's whiskers - especially if in doing so the whiskers are moved in a position counter to their natural alignment, which can be uncomfortable for the cat, and sometimes downright irritating. It's also important that you never cut or trim your cat's whiskers. Regrowth of an entire set could take two or three months, and your cat would have a difficult time maneuvering around without them.

Your cat’s whiskers are not just a part of his good looks; they fulfill functions of vital importance by supplying sensory information about his environment and his prey and are essential to his survival. If you pay attention, you will gain a deeper respect for the amazing sensitive world of your cat’s whiskers.

Whisker facts via
The beautiful image © Petr Osipov

Friday, October 8, 2010

All embracing thoughts...


May all be blessed with peace always;
all creatures weak and strong,
all creatures great and small;
creatures unseen or seen
dwelling afar or near,
born or awaiting birth,
- may all be blessed with peace!

... as with her own life 
a mother shields from hurting her own, 
her only child,
let all-embracing thoughts
for all that lives be thine, 
- an all-embracing love
for all the universe.

From the Buddhist Sutta-Nipáta

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Focus and determination


It's not that I like ants. If you've ever been stung by a larger ant, you quickly come to realize that it's altogether wiser if you stay out of their path. So we've kind of made an unspoken pact, that if I stay out of their way, they'll stay out of mine. Of course I'll try and avoid stepping in their path, but sometimes one does it unwillingly - and that's when I got stung, ouch!!! That taught me a lesson as to not be so disrespectful as to step in their tracks. You'll probably laugh, but it did indeed teach me a lesson. Now, if I walk in a nature area, I make sure to observe my path!

Anyway, as with all animals I always find a quality which is admirable. For sure you could call ants focused and determined. As with these ants when they found a few scattered cat food pellets. On this photo they're trying to drag the pellets up the step. It took them a long while. They kept dropping the heavy load, but went back down and picked it up and started all over. The big ant just grabbed it with it's fangs and dragged it up whilst walking backwards. Pretty amazing if you look at the size of it. I hope they got to enjoy part of the meal after all the hard work!!