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Cat Whisker Spot Patterns in Lions, Leopards and Me

Friends, did you know that you can identify a lion from the whisker spots that are found in rows on each side of the face?  We learned that we can also identify a male lion by his mane in our post Lion Guardians Give Each Lion a Maasai Name, but a mane can change throughout the lion’s life depending upon age and health. Only the whisker spots remain unchanged throughout a lion’s life.

Whisker Spot Pattern

Whisker Spot Pattern from www.livingwithlions.org

There are two rows; the reference row and the identification spots.  The reference row is the top complete row of whiskers spots.  The identification spots form a row that is incomplete and above the reference row.  There can be up to 5 spots.  The identification spots, are the spots that give the whisker spot pattern.

The pattern is different on both sides of the face and is unique to each lion.  Isn’t that interesting?  With some practice I think we can become quite good at seeing the different patterns and identifying lions too.

There are also unique spots and color patterns that help to identify an individual cat.  Of course, there is the distinct

Legadema photo by Beverly Joubert

Legadema photo by Beverly Joubert

personality of each cat, but there might also be a marking that distinguishes one individual from another.

There is a beautiful leopard named Legadema.   She is quite stunning, as are all leopards. Legadema’s story is told in the National Geographic documentary Eye of the Leopard, created by Dereck and Beverly Joubert.  (You will recognize their names from their amazing documentary, The Last Lions.)

Eye of the Leopard tells the story of Legadema, (her name means “Light from the Sky”), from her first days as a cub through her first three years of life in Botswana.

Gracey looking at Eye of the Leopard

Eye of the Leopard by Dereck and Beverly Joubert

Legaduma has a spot just between her long first  row and her second row of whiskers.  I was touched while reading the Joubert’s book Eye of the Leopard, by the following quote:

Her one distinct spot between that long first row and the second is still, as always, a flag for us. None of her spots changed of course, none of the 840 she has. I know, there is something sad about a filmmaker sitting in the dust and heat in utter boredom counting spots over and over, but I can confirm 840 give or take a few.”

I didn’t think  it was sad that the Joubert’s counted Legadema’s spots, did you? I found it a bit sweet and showed the depth of their connection and feelings for  her and this love for her shows in their film and the book.

I have a stain to the right of my nose inside my whisker pattern.   Just as Legadema has her unique spot, I have my unique stain.

Gracey and Lagadema Whisker Identification

Legadema and Gracey's Identification Markings

Does your cat that you share your habitat with have a unique spot or marking that you think makes identification “spot on” ? ( Sorry friends, I couldn’t resists that one.)  I would love for you to tell me and even show me with a photo your cat’s unique markings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/malia.ragan Malia Ragan

    Smoki’s whisker pattern appears to be identical on either side…

  • Roadkillracing

    My friend has a cat that looks like Gracey.  He has a spot just off his nose (left side) that is a perfect heart.  Of course he is a lovey kitty. 

    • Anonymous

      Oh how wonderful.  Can you upload a photo of the heart shaped spot.  That is super sweet.

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