About the Author

James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on The Cat’s Whiskers

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This is a fantastic article, James. I will be visiting Kirstenbosch and doing the various sensory walks with a new curiosity and insight!

Hi Penny,
Good to hear; it’s well worth the visit!

What a beautiful, informative and well written blog, James. Also hats off to Dave Dampier’s stalking image. Exquisite….as are those trusty vibrissae!

Thanks Joanne,
Dave’s image is definitely one of my favourites!

So interesting, James. Thank you so much for this lesson on whiskers, or should I say “vibrissae”? I had noticed that most domestic cats have THE most marvellous whiskers – but dogs don’t on the whole. Now I know why Dogs run in packs if they are hunting eg pack of wolves or pack of African Wild Dogs. Thanks again. Wendy M

Hi Wendy,
Yip, I imagine the canine vs feline whiskers debate is something similar to that between lions and leopards.

Really interesting, James! I’d never thought of whiskers as touch sensors – and the photo of the Ndzedzeni female really brings home the concept!

Hi Mary Beth,
I should actually be wary of putting in that photo of Dave’s; it steal’s the show every time!!

Thanks for another great read!! When I’ve seen pictures of lions swimming in the Delta, they always pull their faces into a grimace to prevent their whiskers touching the water as long as possible. So they evidently retain some sensitivity there.

Hey, next time you’re in CT, would you like to meet up? I’m really keen to learn about certain key aspects of Londolozi and how your guiding programme works.

Hi Callum,
I probably won’t be back in CT for quite some time but am happy to send you any info you would like on the Londolozi Guiding program…

Thanks James, I’d really appreciate that!

And I pratically live in Kirstenbosch!! My photos on my instagram account prove that, the birds there just pose for the camera!

Interesting blog James. Domestic cats can squeeze through the smallest spaces relying on their whiskers. Imagine how a leopard depend on it.

Hi Marinda,
Absolutely. Whiskers are probably a leopard’s most undervalued hunting tool (undervalued by us that is!)

Master Tracker

My aim is to combine a trip to Londolozi with a trip to the Botanic Gardens at Kirstenbosch , in the mean time the photo of the Ndanzeni female is wondrous to behold .

Hi Ian,
Kirstenbosch is a must-do if you’re in Cape Town!!

You’ve written an extraordinarily informative article that answers many questions about the use of vibrissae, or the long whiskers and fur in animals mostly in the feline world. Dave’s photograph of the stalking Ndzanzeni female is fantastic- wish it was mine. I’ll not look at cats the same again.

Hi Denise; you’re not the only one to feel slightly jealous about Dave’s photo!!

Senior Digital Ranger

Thanks for this enlightening blog! Some of us have domestic cats and I would think the same holds true for them if they are left in the wild. I love cats, all sizes and shapes, but I think leopards and tigers are the top spots for me.. Other than my feline companions here at home! I have been on one of those sensory walks at a Botanic Garden here in the US.. They are amazing!Thanks again.

Hi MJ,
Thanks for the comments. I imagine that domestic cats would find just as much use in their whiskers should they be left to fend for themselves…

James, That is fantastic information that makes sense! We never knew how much the whiskers helped the hunt. They do add to the beauty of the leopards! Is there a difference between the males and females whiskers?

Hi Michael.
Good question. I wouldn’t have thought so, both of them being solitary hunters. If there was any possibility of a difference, I’d imagine it would lean towards females’ whiskers being slightly longer. Males, being much bigger, can steal kills from females, so have alternative means of procuring meals. For the females it’s far more a case of successful hunting or nothing.

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