Whisker Stress

peachesupcloseWhat is “Whisker Stress?”

Of all the animals that have whiskers, few seem as interesting as the cat. Maybe this is why some people have been drawn to clipping them off. If they just want to see what happens, I have a better way of figuring out what whiskers mean to your cat.

You don’t hear about dog whiskers being cut off, and I’m pretty sure no one is going after rat whiskers. But cats certainly have well designed and attractive ones. There are a lot of articles online that describe and explain them, and people should read these to appreciate their value to the cat.

One thing I did as a kid that instantly gave me a better understanding and appreciation of these “feelers” was to “try them on.” Anyone who has cats knows they shed hair, and whiskers are shed, too, as they are a specialized type of hair. When you find one somewhere, save it, and the next one. Rinse them in water or alcohol or something if you think they’re “dirty,” then put these two whiskers lightly into the corners of your mouth, root first. Now close your eyes and just feel your surroundings. You can feel subtle air currents, anything that comes close to you, and definitely if anything touches one. In fact, just touch one yourself. Try different weights of touch, from just barely to pretty strongly. Imagine if they are attached. You would not enjoy having them pulled on or pulled out.

Look at the whisker. Note that it is tapered. The thicker end is attached, by its follicle, to the extraordinarily sensitive lip area, and it narrows to almost nothing at the outer end. Feel it. It’s fairly thick at the base and very thin at the end. Try bending it. Brush one against your skin, your lip, your face.

Once you see and feel all the things that whiskers do, just imagine how much your cat depends on them. My blind cat kept hers pointed forward any time she was on the move, as they served her much like a blind person’s white cane.

Why would anyone want to take this special, often crucial, sense away from an animal?

A Catscapade Tale

By Patricia Fry

I’ve met, written about, and shared my home with some amazing cats over the years. This is the story of one such cat.

Have you ever noticed that the cat who is scheduled to go to the vet, to the groomer, or to be boarded, is nowhere to be found when it’s time to leave? Any other day, you can walk up to her and pet her or pick her up. But if you have a plan that involves a ride in the car, the cat darts under the bed. Right? Why? How do they know? Maybe this story will shed some light on the mystery.

It was not on Daisy’s agenda that hot summer day to see the groomer. She, no doubt, planned a day of lolling on the linoleum floor watching birds through the window. She didn’t know about her appointment with the groomer…or did she? She’d certainly made herself scarce all morning.

I’d lugged the heavy wire cat carrier from the garage and discreetly placed it just outside the back door. Rule number one: Don’t let the cat see the carrier or you’ll never get her near it. “Oh, there you are, girl. Come to Mama,” I crooned as I casually walked into the back bedroom where she lay curled up on a bed.

She looked up at me with sheer terror in her eyes and quickly disappeared under the bed. “How does she know?” I wondered. I probed the darkness with my hands where only dust bunnies and frightened cats go. But Daisy avoided capture.

When she thought the coast was clear, she crept out from under the far side of the bed and slunk down the hallway toward the kitchen. The gig was up—there was no place else where she could hide out of my range. This is going to be easy, I thought. But, in true feline style, the cagey cat outsmarted me again. Hugging her belly to the floor, she scurried into the living room. I knew better than to chase her, but I followed her just in time to see her silky tail disappear under a corner table. I scratched my head in disbelief. The little scamp had managed to position herself a scant few inches from my longest reach.

Obviously, this wasn’t working. And I knew full well that a cat that doesn’t want to be caught is usually a cat that won’t have to go to the groomer. Then I remembered something I’d read recently about using mind talk with animals. Could I communicate with Daisy through thoughts like J. Allen Boone had done with a dog and even ants and a gnat in his book, Kinship With All Life? Could I actually convince her to adopt my point of view? My options were few. What did I have to lose except, perhaps, a measure of dignity?

After bringing the wire carrier in, setting it in plain sight and opening the little door, I implemented my plan. I sprawled out on the floor and looked through the dimness under the table into Daisy’s large sea-green eyes. She stared back and I immediately began creating mind pictures. I visualized the plump calico standing up and walking toward the carrier, which sat empty a few feet away from me. I envisioned her stepping into the carrier then my closing the door and latching it behind her. I pictured the two of us going by car to the groomer where she would be lavished with attention. And then I created images of picking her up from the groomer and bringing her home flea-free, mat-free and just feeling wonderfully comfortable.

To my amazement, the moment I completed this mind-video, Daisy stood up, walked toward the carrier and, without hesitation, stepped inside. I lay there stunned as she moved to the back of the carrier and turned around until her tail was free of the little wooden door. Then she sat down and looked at me as if to say, “Well, close the door and let’s get on with it.”

Did I actually communicate through those mind pictures so Daisy understood? Did she choose to go to the groomer that day? Or was her compliance a fluke? I guess we’ll never know. But I can tell you that I’ve witnessed numerous incidents since that day to indicate that we can communicate with our cats. I’m sure you have, too. Now if we’d just learn to listen to what they have to say…

Patricia Fry is the author of the Klepto Cat Mystery series, cozy mysteries involving cats. The main cat character is Rags, an ordinary cat with some extraordinary habits. He can’t keep his paws off other people’s things and sometimes what he takes turns out to be a clue in the current mystery. Number 13 in the series is our first Christmas story—A Picture-Purrfect Christmas. It’s harrowing and it’s touching. Reviewers warn to have a box of tissues handy for the heart-warming ending. Available in print and for your Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Picture-Purrfect-Christmas-Klepto-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B016BBY2GY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448630793&sr=1-1&keywords=a+picture-purrfect+christmas

(For ages 18 to 118).