Do Cats Have a Sense of Touch?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, discusses the role that cat whiskers play in cats' sensory experiences.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: June 10, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: Do cats have a sense of touch?

A: Yes, cats have a sense of touch, particularly with their whiskers. Not only are they cute, cats' whiskers offer a key sensory tool for cats. Known as tactile hairs, cat whiskers are super sensitive and can detect even the slightest puff of wind. They help your cat sense her surroundings and navigate in small spaces. In the darkness, cats’ side whiskers can extend out like shields to feel obstructions. Cat whiskers are also found around a cat’s nose, mouth and above the eyes and cheeks.

The good news for accident-prone curious cats and kittens is that whiskers will grow back. I remember a curious cat who got too close to a holiday candle and had her whiskers singed. Thankfully, that was the extent of the damage but I will take the opportunity again to ask readers to be very careful with lighted candles around cats. Also with BBQ season starting, please keep an eye on any hot grills and make sure you cat does not take the opportunity to bolt outside during a backyard party.

Paw pads are also part of a cat’s sensory perception makeup. Although the skin there is thicker than in other parts of cats’ bodies to protect the pads, cat paw pads are very sensitive to touch. Cats sweat through their paw pads — another way that cats leave their scent. That super sensitive nose, however, usually gets our attention. We’ve all seen our wonderful cats rub their noses on our legs and face. I think that they are leaving their mark on us as if to say, “I’ve been here and I like it!” We do too. As always I welcome your comments and stories.

See more articles by Jeanne Adlon>>


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Reader Comments

Gloria    Omaha, NE

6/30/2011 12:15:16 PM

I absolutely adore my cat, and when he rubs his whiskers against me, I think (hope) the feeling is mutual!

Anja    Topeka, KS

6/20/2011 3:06:47 PM

I didn't know kitties sweat through paw pads. One of my kitties, Maia, has a favorite spot in the kitchen - the china cabinet. She rubs her face against the side whenever she is happy. Since she has done this, there is a dark, slightly oily substance where she rubs - pheromones, is what I am guessing. I rubbed a little off one day and she sniffed it and began purring.

Steve    Wendell, NC

6/17/2011 4:59:46 AM

Great info. I had no Idea about the thickness of skin on the paw pads or that they sweat through those same pads. I also like when my Cats rub against me it says I own him he is mine. However when I am trying to sleep it is not the time to do it.

Marilyn    Columbus, NE

6/17/2011 4:42:53 AM

It is a great article. Very informative and interesting.

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