A cat’s characteristic ‘moustache’ of vibrissae, made up of 24 or so mobile hairs, is accompanied by other less apparent whiskers above the eyes, on the chin and the back of the front paws (the carpal whiskers). These thickened hairs are alive with deep-rooted nerves that help our feline friends literally feel their way through a hunt, especially in the dark.

Facial whiskers align to body width to aid with judging distance while on the move, and precision killing is enabled by ‘proprioceptors’, special sensory organs on the tips that monitor the distance, direction and even texture of prey.

Whiskers also monitor airflow to further coordinate their locomotion. No wonder your cat is such a graceful beast!

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Holly SpannerStaff Writer, BBC Science Focus

Holly is the staff writer at BBC Science Focus, and specialises in astronomy. Before joining the team she was a geoenvironmental consultant and holds an MSc in Geoscience (distinction) from UCL.