Everything You Need to Know About Cat Whiskers

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close up image of cat whiskers

If you’re a cat owner, you’ve probably noticed that Mittens has a lot of cat whiskers all over their face. Have you ever wondered what these long hairs are for? Spoiler alert: they’re not just for decoration, unlike men’s facial hair! They serve as a second pair of sensitive and sharp eyes. Today, we’re looking at the key facts about this fascinating sensory organ. We’ll help you understand the anatomy of your feline friends and give you some useful pet parent tips!

Cat Anatomy 101: A Close Look at a Cat Whisker

Cat whiskers are pretty weird, aren’t they? They look like stray hairs but are thick and coarse. What’s up with them? A few decades ago, we didn’t know exactly what whiskers were made of or what their purpose was. Today, we know a lot about our furry friends’ facial hair.

For starters, whiskers are made of keratin, the main component in all kinds of hair. However, they are two or three times thicker than a normal strand of hair. That’s why they can protrude so elegantly from Mittens’ face.

When you take a close look, you’ll see that at the end of these long strands of hair there is a hair follicle. These follicles are loaded with nerve cells and blood vessels. That means that every time something brushes up against your kitty’s whiskers, they feel it. It’s your cat’s brain getting the message from the nerve cells. At the end of the day, it’s this aspect that makes cat whiskers tactile and sensory organs!

How Many Whiskers Does a Cat Have?

Let’s split hairs: how many cat whiskers do our furry friends have? Most cats have about 24 whiskers around their muzzle. Try it! Count how many whiskers Mittens has around their nose.

Additionally, cats have smaller whiskers in other parts of their body. You’ll find short whiskers around your kitten’s chin, eyebrows, cheeks, back of their legs, and paws. That’s right—they have more of these sensory organs!

Remember, every thick strand of hair is connected to hair follicles and thousands of nerve cells. That means Kitty has feeling not just on their face, but also on the rest of their body.

cat with an extra long cat whisker

Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?

Mammals have the amazing ability to grow back parts of their bodies. As you grow hair every day, so do our feline friends. Their cat whiskers can grow back quicker than most pet parents expect.

An interesting fact is that these sensitive strands of hair can change color with a cat’s age. For instance, your Mittens might have been born with dark whiskers and end up growing white whiskers when they get older. It’s a bit like what happens with us, right?

That said, you should never, ever, ever cut your pet’s whiskers. It will cause them immense pain and take away their ability to feel their surroundings as effectively. Cats without whiskers get very disoriented (and sad!) easily.

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers and What Are Whiskers For?

You can compare cat whiskers to a cat’s eyes. They are both sensory organs and help Mittens take in the world around them. Since cats don’t have 20/20 vision, their whiskers help them get around. It’s here that all those sensory nerves come in handy!

Let’s look at some of the awesome things cats can only do thanks to their elegant and fabulous whiskers.

Sensing Vibrations

Did you know Kitty can feel air currents with just their 24-or-so whiskers? These thick strands of hair are more sensitive than you could ever imagine. The tiniest vibrations can put them on edge. This is particularly useful when your pet is chasing prey. If a mouse dashes from one side of the room to the other near your kitten, they’ll feel it. It’s hunting time!

Depth Perception

Cats are amazing at a lot of things. But gaging depth perception with just their eyes isn’t one of them. Your kitten relies heavily on their whiskers to understand how far away things are from them. If they want to squeeze into a tight space, their whiskers will let them know how they should contort their body to fit.

cat looking up wondering how many whiskers does a cat have

Navigation: Close Up Vision and Seeing in the Dark

Seeing things up close also isn’t a feline’s forte. Stuff gets blurry and poorly defined. Mittens wouldn’t know you’re standing right in front of them if they didn’t have their whiskers to fall back on.

You’ve likely heard that cats can see perfectly in the dark. It’s not so much seeing, but “feeling” in the dark. That is, their eyes alone couldn’t guide them much in a dimly lit room. Instead, their whiskers would give Mittens the support they need to navigate easily without any light.

They Help Express Your Cat’s Mood

A cat’s meow can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling. So can their body language. But did you know that cat whiskers can also reflect your kitten’s mood?

Interestingly enough, a large percentage of cats can change the shape of their whiskers based on their mood. If Mittens’s whiskers are pushed forward, they’re probably content and relaxed. Yet, if their whiskers are tense and pulled around their face, you’re looking at an unhappy cat!

They Protect Your Cat’s Eyes and Face

Humans have eyebrows and eyelashes to protect our eyes from dust. Cats, too, protect themselves with the help of their long whiskers. They keep small harmful particles away from their cute faces. If they didn’t have whiskers, it would be much easier for dirt, dust, and water to make their way into your kitty’s eyes.

Sometimes, They Just Get in the Way

As awesome as cat whiskers are, sometimes they are frustrating and get in the way. Since they’re so sensitive, they can get overstimulated.

For instance, when a cat drinks from too small food and water bowls, their whiskers are always touching the sides of the bowl. After a while, that gets uncomfortable and leads to what animal health specialists call “whisker stress.”

There’s an easy way of fixing this: and it isn’t by trimming Mittens’ hairs! Simply get a wider water and food bowl for your pet.

gray cat yawning wondering why do cats have whiskers

Cat Whiskers Are Unique!

A rather cool fact about cat whiskers is that they’re ultimately unique! Despite all cats having these strands of hair for the same reason, they don’t all look alike. Did you know that the Devon Rex cat breed has curly whiskers? So chic!

Common Questions on Cat Whiskers

What are cat whiskers made of?

Can I trim my cat’s whiskers?

Can cats feel through their whiskers?

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