How do cats use their sense of touch?

Cats have been gifted with a highly sophisticated sense of touch, much of it channeled through their facial whiskers and the carpal vibrissae located on the backs of their front legs. Additional pressure-sensitive hairs are present above the eyes and on the cheeks and muzzle.

These organs augment a cat’s vision and act in a fashion similar to the way a human’s hands might grope in the darkness to navigate around obstacles. The facial vibrissae register changes in air current and allow the animal to judge distances, especially when squeezing its body into seemingly impossible spaces.

Throughout a cat’s coat, longer individual hairs called tylotrich also pick up sensory information and react sensitively to air currents, pressure, and temperature. Both the cat’s nose and his paws are also full of touch receptors, which aid in judging the density and texture of potential prey. This is why a cat will paw its kill before picking it up with its mouth, to ensure the prey is good and truly dead.

Some cats are so sensitive they do not like to be touched or scratched. In general, cats will appreciate having their chins and ears rubbed and even the back down to the base of the tail. They tend to be less receptive to contact on the tail, belly, and feet as these areas may cause the animal a degree of discomfort when petted.

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