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Why does my cat have whiskers?

Vibrissae, cat whiskers

Primarily found on a cat’s snout, under its chin, above its eyes, and behind its legs, cat whiskers serve as top-notch sensory receptors.

They rank third in importance for a cat, following Jacobson’s organ for smell and pads for touch.

Whiskers, like fur, constantly shed and regrow. Dive into this article to learn how these whiskers shape a cat’s view of its world.

Why whiskers matter

What are cat whiskers forVibrissae are ultra-sensitive organs, commonly known as whiskers. They relay information by vibrating with the air’s movement.

Deeply rooted in its skin, the ends of each whisker is surrounded by nerves and blood vessels.

They’re like antennas connecting the cat to its surroundings, sharpening every sense it has.

Moving safely

Acting as a trusty exploration tool, whiskers help our feline friends navigate their surroundings.

Indicating a cat’s full width, they tell the cat whether a passage is too narrow, and how to slink through, jump, play, or move in confined spaces. Especially active at night, whiskers enhance a cat’s vision, which only detects light waves in the dark. Sensing air movement helps ensuring safe movement in the dark. Always on the move, whiskers cause a cat to blink, help maintain balance, and alert the cat to potential dangers.

A hunter’s best friend

Cats use whiskers to huntEnhancing the sense of direction and wind speed, whiskers prove priceless for hunting.

Cats can analyze scents to find food, track down prey, or meet a lady in heat.

To overcome its farsightedness, a cat uses its highly tactile whiskers to check if its prey is still alive before letting it go. It’s a nifty trick to avoid injuries or a lunchtime escape.

A communication tool

Cat communicate with cat whiskersCats even convey their mood with whiskers:

  • When pointing forward, it’s on the offense or being aggressive.
  • When pulled back, it’s nervous or scared.

You can notice the difference when a new person or pet is introduced into the household.

Should you trim a cat’s whiskers?

It’s a bad idea. Although trimming doesn’t pose a life-threatening danger to a cat, it impairs their interaction with the environment.

Notably, mother cats often snip the whiskers of their kittens to keep them from straying too far from the nest.

  • If your kitten accidentally breaks its whiskers while playing, don’t fret! They’ll grow back in around 6 months. Your feline friend might just look a tad less dashing and be a bit clumsier!

Do all whiskers have the same shape?

Cats have between 8 to 12 whiskers on each side of their nose (not including the ones scattered over their body). Depending on the breed, these whiskers can be long and stiff, few and short (like the Devon Rex), or wavy and curly (as seen in the American Wirehair).

Smart tip

Avoid offering your cat food in a narrow bowl. Its whiskers might sense an obstruction, discouraging it from eating because it senses danger.

Images: Pixabay: Birgit, miezekieze, Frauke Riether, Pexels

Written by Lydie Dronet | With over 20 years in the field of animal care, Lydie shares her paws-on expertise and experience. Other topics she loves delving into are nutrition and the medicinal uses of plants.
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