Why does my cat's paw have whiskers?
February 22, 2008 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Why does my cat have whiskers on his legs?

I was stroking my cat last night, and he was letting me touch his paws, which doesn't happen often, and I felt these odd little nubs half-way up his legs.

I found a cat physiology page (albeit one in French), and if you scroll 1/3 of the way down to the illustration of the paw, I'm definitely not talking about the cat's "thumb" (called tubercule de pouce in the illustration). It could be the tubercule carpien, higher and on the right hand side, but my cat doesn't have a formed pad, just something that feels like a growth on each side.

Here's the really wonky thing: he has three honest-to-goodness whiskers growing out of each of the little growths. They are definitely not guard hairs- they are the same thick, glossy texture to his whiskers, and are definitely whiskers. They are about 1.5" long.

I've never seen this on a cat. Can anyone tell me what is going on here?
posted by arnicae to Pets & Animals (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
yeah, I'm pretty sure most cats have them. and for the same reason they have the ones on their head: It allows them to gauge if they can safely stick their arms in a mousehole without getting stuck.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2008

They are curb feelers. Same function as his facial whiskers.

My cats have them, too.
posted by jamaro at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2008

That's an awesome reference. Thanks, jamaro.
posted by arnicae at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2008

Yep -- they're carpal vibrissae aka "paw whiskers."
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on February 22, 2008

my cat has these too! thanks for asking!
posted by kidsleepy at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2008

The excellent Felidae by Akif Pirinçci contains a vivid description of how cats are supposed to be able to sense their surroundings using the movement of air against their all over body whiskers as I remember.
posted by merocet at 4:39 PM on February 22, 2008

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