Whiskers are very useful for cats and help them in sensing their environment. Whiskers grow in patterns not just on a cat’s muzzle but also in other parts of their body – above their eyes, ears, jaw and forelegs. The whiskers on their forelegs, called carpal whiskers, help them determine the movement of their prey.
If the number of whiskers makes you curious, cats have an even number of whiskers on their muzzle with 24 in total. Each side has 12 whiskers in a completely symmetrical distribution, so they can accurately measure the space or environment.
Why do cats have whiskers?
A cat’s whiskers, also called vibrissae or tactile hairs, are two to three times thicker than regular cat hair. They are a well-honed sensory tool that helps a cat feel their way in the dark.
Sensing and feeling
Each thick whisker is filled with tiny, sensitive nerves that help your cat judge distance and space. Blind cats use their whiskers to navigate rooms very well by walking around and letting their whiskers get a sense of where they are.
Whiskers make cats aware of their environment and allow them to detect even subtle changes. By brushing its whiskers against an object, a cat can detect the precise location, size and texture of the object, even in the dark. This is useful for a cat trying to gauge whether it can fit into a tight space. Whiskers also detect changes in air currents, helping cats detect approaching danger.
Whiskers are also a good indicator of its mood. Whiskers that are pointed out front and tense typically mean the cat is feeling aggressive or is in hunting mode. Relaxed and pushed forward whiskers mean a relaxed and happy cat.
Are cat whiskers sensitive?
Yes, whiskers are very sensitive. Unlike human hair, whiskers are deeply embedded and connected to the nervous system. The whisker tips are equipped with sensory organs called proprioceptors that help the cat determine an objects distance, direction and even surface texture.
What is the approximate length of the whiskers?
The general rule is that the length of the cat’s whiskers is proportionate to the size of the cat. The long whiskers are found on their muzzles. Those above their eyes, jaw and forelegs are much shorter. But it is also to be noted that they are genetically controlled since they do not increase or decrease in length as cats gain or lose weight.
Do whiskers fall out?
Whiskers go through a natural process of growth, dormancy and shedding. You may not notice the typical shedding of whiskers at all. Normally, a cat will only shed one whisker or two. If there is noticeable shedding and the whiskers are not regrowing, you should bring your feline to the vet.
How long will it take for whiskers to grow back?
It will take an average of two to three months before the whiskers grow back. For senior cats, it will take a little bit longer.
Do the whiskers need trimming?
No, whiskers do not need to be trimmed. Like other hairs on a cat’s body, whiskers normally shed but should never be trimmed. With cut whiskers, a cat may become scared and disoriented. Trimming their whiskers is like taking away one of their ways of identifying what is in their environment. Even if your cat’s whiskers grow long, leave it to fall off naturally and regrow again.
Do cat whiskers help them balance?
There is a myth saying that cat whiskers control balance. This is false and whiskers are not involved in sensing balance.