Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?

Have you ever wondered why your cat grows such thick, long whiskers? Truth is, your cat’s whiskers serve a number of very important purposes. Let’s take a look at what whiskers are and how they help your cat.

What Are Cat Whiskers?

Your cat’s whiskers are actually called vibrissae, and are very different from the surrounding hair. Vibrissae are thicker and stiffer than hair, and are anchored deep within your cat’s skin. The nerve bundles in your cat’s skin are activated by any movement of the vibrissae, meaning that your cat can instantly register when wind or another object is moving his whiskers. In time, your cat’s whiskers fall out but they are replaced by new whiskers.

A cat’s whiskers are most noticeable on either side of his nose and mouth, and sometimes over his eyes. Cats also have less noticeable whiskers on the underside of their chin and on the back of their front legs. These whiskers are shorter and blend in more with the cat’s fur.

why do cat have whiskers

What are Cat Whiskers For?

Orientation Assistance

Your cat’s whiskers help him to orient himself. The whiskers actually help your cat to tell where his body and limbs are, giving him better balance and control. If you trim your cat’s whiskers, he can become confused and scared without this special navigational tool.

Nighttime Navigation

Because your cat’s whiskers are so sensitive, they can help him to move around at night. In addition to his nighttime eyesight, your cat relies on his whiskers to tell him about movement or changes in the areas around him.

Distance Measurement

Your cat’s whiskers help him to measure distance. Your cat can use his whiskers to help judge how far he needs to jump to make it onto a ledge, and the whiskers contribute to your cat’s incredible agility and accuracy when moving around.

But whiskers serve an even more important purpose – they help your cat judge whether he can fit into a particular space. Your cat’s whiskers grow to a certain length, and at that point they stop growing. If your cat is trying to get into a space and feels pressure against his whiskers, he knows that the space is too small for him. This is an important feature in helping to keep your cat from getting stuck.

Mood Indicators

Your cat’s whiskers also help to indicate his mood. When your cat’s whiskers are pointed forward, he’s generally in a playful mood. If the whiskers are relaxed back toward your cat’s head, then chances are he’s more relaxed or grumpy.

It’s important to never cut or groom your cat’s whiskers – by damaging or removing the whiskers, you’re preventing your cat from benefiting from the multiple purposes of his whiskers.

Have you noticed that your cat’s whiskers change position according to his mood?



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