Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?


Have you ever been woken up at 4 am in the morning by a pair of whiskers tickling your face? Though your cat may be the cutest thing on earth, nobody likes those early morning calls! Those whiskers aren't just an alarm for you to wake up. Neither are they a fashion accessory which helps beautify your baby's sweet little face.

These whiskers, or the vibrissae, are more like sensory receptors. What's so amazing about these are that they aren't just present on your kitty's face but they are also found on their legs and the lower jaw line. And those things which you think look like eyebrows are actually your cat's whiskers as well.

Some interesting facts about cat's whiskers

Lots of people assume that a cat's whiskers are similar to human hair. Though hair is found on the surface of the skin, whiskers go way beyond the top fur coat. Whiskers are more deeply embedded in the cat's body and are connected to the muscular and sensory nerves. These more or less serve as a sort of radar and help your cat become more perceptive of their surroundings

  • Cats brush their whiskers along an object and can immediately know about its shape, size, and dimensions
  • Whiskers help a cat sense objects or prey even in the dark. This is because at the end of these stiff hair is a highly sensitive follicle known as proprioceptor.
  • Whiskers help a cat detect air currents so it can sense danger approaching.

Cutting off those whiskers is a big no

Imagine going to work without contact lenses or your glasses. Rather think of how you would feel driving to an unknown place without Google Maps? That is exactly how these whiskers help your cat. The tactile hair helps them find their way through tight spots by gauging the amount of space. Plus, they help them stay on alert from potential danger.

Cutting off a cat's whiskers is considered to be a big no. Though you might feel that your kitten would look great with a little trim, you might just mess things up for the poor dear. Cats tend to become disoriented when they lose even a bit of their whiskers. Don't worry about trimming them, they shed and grow on their own accord.

You can track your cat's moods with the help of her whiskers

Ever wondered what's on your cat's mind? Taking a look at those whiskers might help you gauge their mood. Taut or stiff whiskers, pulled back towards the face mean a cat is feeling vulnerable. Whiskers which are relaxed and away from the face show the kitty is feeling pretty comfortable.

Cats can feel their way with the help of whiskers

The proprioceptor at the end of your cat's whiskers is highly sensitive and can help your cat gauge the space. So the next time you see your cat poking its face in the doorway, it's actually trying to see if it can squeeze past the small opening.

Plus, cats are pretty much agile because the whiskers are responsible for limbs and muscles coordination. This is the reason cats can leap easily from a high place without getting hurt.

Helping your cat become a pro at hunting

Whiskers under a cat's wrists are known as carpal. These help cats handle their prey efficiently. Since cats cannot see well from up close, whiskers help determine the position of the prey and assist in taking the fatal killing bite.

Whiskers are a means of protection

The whiskers above the cat's eyes help it maneuver away from thorns and other dangerous objects. Anything which touches these whiskers produces an immediate eye blink, thus helping your cat's sense trouble.

Whiskers are sensitive to air currents as well. Cats can detect its prey from afar and if there is any threat to their wellbeing, whiskers put the cat on high alert.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018