I know, I know. You think you know all about cats.
But did you know those cat whiskers are actually called vibrissae? Or that they grow in three different lengths? Cats use their whiskers to detect objects around them and help them navigate the world.
Here are 9 interesting facts about cat whiskers that will amaze you!
My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.
Let’s get into it!
1. Whiskers Help Your Cat Catch Prey
Did you know that cats need whiskers to help them hunt?
The whiskers themselves contain sensitive nerve endings that help with sense movement.
Sensory information provides your cat vision of what’s in front of them. This is essential information needed to track prey and land a fatal bite.
Did you know that the scientific name for whiskers is ‘vibrissae’, which translates to vibrate?
This vibrating feature, called whisking, is one of the main functions of the whisker. The whiskers gather sensory information about the environment during a search.
The whiskers act as tactile hairs, which means they are sensitive to touch.
2. Cats have 24 moveable whiskers on their face
Whiskers are important to help your cat balance and stay on its feet.
There are 12 whiskers on either side of a cat’s body around the face (either side of the nose), near the ears and chin.
Each side of your cat’s face has an even amount of whiskers which is important for balance.
Your cat has some whiskers on the base of its front legs and forelegs (called carpal whiskers) to detect vibration in the ground.
3. They show if your cat is confident or afraid
Whiskers show your cat’s changes in mood.
Your cat can display its mood changes in several ways. Since the whiskers connect to the brain, they will show stress or relaxation in your cat.
Think about that next time your cat struts around the house with a swagger.
4. They can help kitty squeeze through narrow gaps
Cats love squishing into whatever objects they can find. Cats use their whiskers to help navigate tight gaps.
They provide information on how wide or narrow a gap is, to see whether the hole is ok to fit through.
This will help your pet decide whether it’s ok to move forward.
Let’s be real though, they are going to try to slink into that gap anyway.
5. Why your cat’s whiskers are usually white
Everyone knows cats can come in with all kinds of colors and patterns. Despite this, a cat’s whiskers are usually white.
This is because melanin supplies the pigmentation of the fur.
Whiskers form from rings of dead skin cells that rise and protrude from the skin.
During this process, the layer of cells on the outside falls away and leaves the unpigmented shaft to turn into a whisker.
6. Cats have whiskers to detect sounds from the ground or air
Cat’s whiskers can detect vibrations in the air and ground.
Sound frequencies cause the whiskers to vibrate at a rate of ~0.1s. The whiskers on the legs help cats with ground detection.
This aids your cat in its hunting adventures, as it stalks a few flying insects around your backyard.
7. They can detect how hard a surface or object is
When your cat grinds up against a rough surface it tells your cat what is in store.
The nerves of the whisker give your cat an idea of what kind of object it is coming into contact with, and sends the information to the sensory areas of the brain.
A cat might have more confidence pushing into some bushes for example, as opposed to some hard stones.
8. They are sensitive to eating and drinking
A big bowl of food seems like a great idea when feeding your pet, but your cat might not be so impressed. This can be unpleasant to lick.
Your cat’s whiskers rub the bowl too creating a so-called ‘whisker fatigue’.
A better option is a flat saucer, or even a paper plate, which gives your cool cat an easier time accessing their food and drink bowls.
The bowl can be irritating especially if coming into contact with water. A cat finds getting its whiskers wet an unpleasant experience.
Check out my top 5 best cat food bowls for help with bowl selection.
9. Do not trim the whiskers
It might seem like a good idea to trim extra long whiskers, but this is not helpful to your pet.
Your pet needs its whiskers to help sense things in the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions – More Facts About Cat Whiskers
What happens when you cut off a cat’s whiskers?
Cutting a cat’s whiskers disorientate your cat and cause it to misjudge its movement.
The whiskers connect to the brain via nerves and provide information to it.
This is essential for navigation and getting around tight spaces (e.g. under the bed in your room). They aren’t only there to make your cat cute.
For example, they will not know if a gap is safe to squeeze through.
Can cutting a cat’s whiskers kill them?
No, your cat is not going to be directly harmed by trimming the whiskers.
However, trimming your cat’s whiskers will lead to a lot of daily complications in navigation.
In some ways, it’s like making the world ‘dark’ as the whiskers help with many things.
Cat whiskers do grow back similar to hair.
What is the purpose of a cat’s whiskers?
Cats have whiskers is to help your cat to navigate the world.
Whiskers are very sensitive and react to the world. Hunting and navigation are important functions aided by the whiskers.
They are thicker than hair and act as a ‘sixth sense’ to help cats stalk prey, and move around in the dark.
The tips of the whiskers create vibrations and greatly improve their search efforts.
How long do cats whiskers grow?
Cat’s whiskers grow in proportion to the width of its body.
This is important since the tactile hairs serve as a guide for tight space navigation (i.e. the whiskers tell the cat it can squeeze through).
Different breeds have variations in whisker length.
Conclusion: Facts About Cat Whiskers
In this article, I gave you the facts about cat whiskers you need to know to master your cat-owning skills.
Cat whiskers are responsible for many important life functions.
Whiskers communicate fear and aggression. Cat whiskers also help your cat detect changes in air currents or temperature.
They help detect motion and allow cats to navigate their environment.
In a way, a cat’s whiskers are like another set of eyes. This is why it’s important not to trim the whiskers and let them grow to their full length.
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