Cat Whiskers 101: How Much Do You Know About Your Cat’s Whiskers?

Your cat is a creature of mystery, mystery that permeates everything she does and every adorable feature of her precious little face.

Everyone knows that one of most recognizable parts of a fabulous feline is her whiskers! No one disputes the beauty of these bristly appendages, but what are they for? Why do they invariably adorn every feline?

Well, the fact is that whiskers are multi-faceted feline ornaments! They are much more crucial to your kitty’s functioning than you may have ever imagined, and have lots of little quirks that will fascinate you. So let’s get going with Cat Whiskers 101!

Make sure you pay attention. Your cat is giving you a quiz tonight, and if you don’t get an A+ you will very likely be woken up at 3 am for an impromptu feeding and play session. Make sure to get the cat nip toys and treats ready, just in case.

Should You Trim Cat Whiskers?

We all know that cats are sensitive.

Well, just like the cat herself, a kitty’s whiskers are very sensitive. A cat’s whiskers are deeply routed in her skin – even deeper than her fur – and they tell her all sorts of things about her immediate environment.

Even the tiniest touch to the whiskers, the slightest change in the direction of a breeze will be acutely registered by your feline. Your cat needs her whiskers’ sensitivity to live and thrive, as well as successfully find and terrorize any unsuspecting mice that may be lurking around.

Answer: Whiskers should never, ever be trimmed! Cutting or clipping a cat’s whiskers is pretty much the same as depriving a human of the sense of touch – yes, cat whiskers are that important. Leave ’em alone!

Oh,  and if you have a blind cat – cutting his whiskers is especially cruel since blind cats rely hugely on their whiskers to navigate the world.

Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?

Once when my sister was young, I got back home from school to discover that our cat just looked…wrong. I couldn’t put a finger on it for awhile until I took a good, close look and realized that half her whiskers were missing!

My sister was clearly the only person who could’ve inflicted this damage and she soon admitted that she just wanted to know what the whiskers were for so she’d trimmed off the left-half side. Poor cat. She never forgave my sister for this.

Answer: Cats whiskers do indeed grow back as long as the hair follicle itself isn’t damaged beyond repair. To regrow to its full length, though, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, during which time your cat can be disoriented and even a little bit frightened since cat whiskers are absolutely essential to a cat. Here’s why…

What Are Cat Whiskers For?

Some cats, like the Sphynx, has little to no whiskers. Which might leave some people thinking that these cute little hairs aren’t totally necessary. Well, nothing could be further from the truth…

Answer: A cat’s whiskers aren’t just decorative – they’re an essential sensory mechanism. The only part we can see of a cat’s whiskers are the long hairs but what makes them important is that these lovely whiskers are deeply embedded in muscle tissue that are rich in nerves and sensory cells. These nerve cells connect to a special area of your cat’s brain, enabling your cat to receive messages on a whole lot of things like…

  • Air movements. A cat’s whiskers are super sensitive, so sensitive in fact that they can pick up air movements. That’s how your cat is able to sense her way around objects, even in the dark, by picking up the air flowing around a sofa or chair.
  • Determine distance. Your cat is farsighted. It’s true, but don’t rush kitty to the optometrist for a sight test using cans of tuna and various backyard birds. Rest assured that your cat does not need special fish-scented glasses. She is certainly not alone: all cats have this sight issue. But it’s whiskers to the rescue! Whiskers allow your cat to figure out just how close that tasty little mouse is to her mischievous teeth.
  • Measure openings. We all know how much cats love testing just how small of a place they can squeeze themselves into. Put a tiny cardboard box on the ground and you’ll quickly see what we mean! But did you know that it is the cat’s whiskers that help her figure out how small of a space she can safely get into (in order words, how tiny of a hold she can crawl into without your having to call the fire brigade to rescue her out)? And the whiskers don’t even have to touch the space for her to know this – that’s how sensitive they are!

One super cool fact about cat whisker is that they tend to grow as long as your cat is wide. Unfortunately, there’s no proof that whiskers get longer to fit with your kitty’s, ahem, expanding girth, so that’s one more reason to hold back a bit with the extra cat treats!

Where Do Cat Whiskers Grow?

“You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many whiskers.” We think this was said by some ultra-glamorous 1930s Persian kitty in Monte Carlo, but it doesn’t really matter who said it as long as you understand the very important principle of the matter (although your cat might well disagree with the “thin” part).

The more whiskers, the better!

Answer: We all know that cats have whiskers on each side of their wiggly little noses and above their huge, glowing eyes, but did you know that felines also boast whiskers above their eyes, on their chins and on the back areas of their lower front legs?

How Many Whiskers Does a Cat Have?

Chances are good that your cat has never been cooperative enough to let you count her magnificent whiskers. As the primitive creatures we are, humans lack such ornamentation. Perhaps your kitty thought you might try to steal hers!

Answer: Your cat has between eight and twelve whiskers bristling on each side of her nose, and there’s no way you’re getting even one of them!

Cool whisker fact: Much like human fingerprints, each cat’s whisker pattern is totally unique to that cat.

Do Cats Whiskers Change Color?

You might find that a kitty who has always had completely white whiskers suddenly have a black one or two pop up. What’s going on?

Answer: Whiskers have special chameleon-like powers. Just kidding! Feline whiskers don’t change for any reasons of subterfuge, but they do actually change color! You know, everyone likes a little bit of a change now and then.

Are Cat Whiskers a Means of Communication?

Watch the whiskers if you want to stay in your cat’s good books! It’s not just the movements of your cat’s tail or the direction of her ears that tell you whether you have been a very annoying human.

If your cat’s whiskers are relaxed and point directly out to each side in their usual cute and bristly fashion, chances are good that you have not displeased your feline friend. If your cat has an inkling you might cave to the pressure for tuna tonight, her whiskers may be pushed forward, showing excitement!

But if they’re flat against her cheeks – that’s not usually a good sign. Watch yourself, you might be in for a cat face-sitting tonight.

Wow! Who would have thought that there was so much to your cat’s whiskers! While wonderfully beautiful (your cat says you’d better agree), whiskers are not there simply to enhance your kitty’s already off-the-charts level of cuteness. So leave ’em alone and all will be good!

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1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Anne February 10, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    First off, it was interesting to learn more about a cat’s whiskers. I may refer to the this article in the future.

    That said, I wanted to question if a cat’s whisker pattern is unique since you compared it to a human’s finger print. I found out late last year that human’s finger prints can be the same. The chance is just quite miniscule.

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