Cat Health

10 Things You Never Knew About Whiskers

Cat with green eyes

They come in all sorts of types and sizes and are just so cute, but the whiskers your kitty is sporting aren’t just for show– they’ve got an important role to play in the health, well-being, and life of your feline friend! Here are ten things you may have never known about those sweet cat mustaches!

1. Whiskers are different than hair

While they may seem similar to the hair on your head, your kitty’s whiskers are very different to what you’re sporting on your noggin! They’re embedded deeply into your cat’s body and are connected to the nervous and muscular systems, making them much more sensitive than just hair.

2. They’re great for measuring

Cats don’t need to use measuring tape when they’ve got whiskers! At the end of each whisker is a proprioceptor, which is a sensory receptor that helps cats determine the size of things in their environment and helps them gauge whether or not they’ll fit in a space. This is often called a cat’s sixth sense. If you’ve ever seen your kitty poking her head into a space before entering, you’ve seen her using her whiskery measuring devices to check if she’ll fit!

3. They’re a warning system

Your kitty’s whiskers are sensitive enough to detect changes in air flow around them and allow them to respond to vibrations in the air, which can serve as a warning system as someone or something approaches them.

4. They’re helpful with night vision

Just as the proprioceptors help with gauging space and distance, that combined with air flow changes, help your kitty to “see” things in the dark. It can help to let them know as they near a wall or object, allowing them to prowl your home at night with ease!

5. They can change color

As humans grow older, our hair color often changes. This also can occur with your kitty’s whiskers! It doesn’t happen with every kitty, but sometimes whiskers may change color as your kitty ages.

6. They are mood indicators

You don’t need a mood ring to know how your kitty is feeling, when you’ve got their whiskers! If the whiskers are pulled back towards the cheeks, it can indicate fear or anger, while if the whiskers are relaxed, your kitty is generally relaxed and happy as well. Whiskers pointed to the front can show alertness or that your kitty is excited! You may see these fun, excited whiskers, while your kitty is playing with fun, interactive toys.

7. They’re not just for the cheeks

While we’re most used to seeing whiskers on the cheeks of these cuties, they can also be found on the chin, above the eyes, and on the back of their front legs, located just above the paws. These paw whiskers are called carpal whiskers.

8. They should never be trimmed

Whiskers are extremely sensitive and serve many important functions to your kitty and should never be cut or trimmed. Doing so could unintentionally harm your cat! They may fall out from time to time from natural shedding, which should be no cause for alarm; they grow back on their own!

9. They can get fatigued

When a kitty has to use too narrow of a food or water bowl and their whiskers are constantly brushing against the sides, your cat may experience whisker fatigue. This occurs when pressure is constant on the whiskers or happens too frequently and can cause discomfort or make meal time stressful. To avoid this, just make sure your kitty’s dishes are wide enough for them to eat comfortably.

10. They help protect

It’s harder for kitties to see things up close, and whiskers help to protect the sensitive areas on their face. While on the prowl, they help to alert kitties of any potential dangers, while the delicate whiskers around their eyes help to protect!

These hard-working whiskers play an important role in the life of your cat! Please let us know in the comments if there are any other whisker facts we missed!