There are some people who believe that trimming a cat’s whiskers will help prevent him from wanting to go outside. Is there a grain of truth in this idea or are you going to cause more harm than good?
Should you trim a cat’s whiskers?
No, you should not trim your cat’s whiskers. There is no truth to the belief that cutting your feline’s whiskers will stop him from wanting to go outside. And while his whiskers may look unruly, especially as these grow longer, it is best to just let these be. Eventually, your cat will shed some of his whiskers.
But why exactly is whisker trimming not recommended?
Trimming your cat’s whiskers will cause a few adverse side effects. For one, cutting the whiskers will make it difficult for him to orient himself in an environment. These specialized hairs are used by felines to detect objects around them and even the movements in a surrounding area.
Although cats are great at seeing things from a distance, they are far-sighted and cannot see objects well when they are near them. To compensate for this, they use their whiskers to detect surrounding objects and avoid getting hit by them.
Cats also use their whiskers to judge whether they will fit into an opening or not. Trimming the whiskers removes that ability from them. If you trim or pull out your cat’s whiskers, they can misjudge the size of an opening and they can possibly get stuck.
Whiskers also help cats balance themselves. If you trim your pet’s whiskers, he may move clumsily and he may not be able to walk or run in a straight line. Worse, he can tip himself over because he might have a difficult time balancing himself.
Initially, it was thought that trimming the whiskers can cause pain. However, that is not true. But that does not mean that you should cut your feline’s whiskers.
Why do cats have whiskers?
Whiskers are also called vibrissae which is derived from the Latin word vibrio. In Latin, vibrio means vibrate. To a large extent, that provides an insight into why cats have and need their whiskers.
Whiskers may seem like a specialized type of hair found in your cat’s eyes, chin, front legs, ears, and lips. However, whiskers are not like the hair that you can find on your cat’s other body parts. Whiskers act as sensory organs that allow cats to observe and judge the world around them.
Each whisker contains a sensory organ known as the proprioceptor which can be found on the tips. Furthermore, the whiskers are connected to nerves and muscles, making them sensitive to the environment.
For cats, their whiskers are not just hair-like growths. According to experts, these specialized hairs function like human fingers, giving felines a sense of their surroundings and what is happening around them.
Whiskers are made out of a protein called keratin. The whiskers themselves do not contain nerves, contrary to what some people may believe. Instead, the whiskers are connected to the hair follicles. And it is these hair follicles that contain nerves and blood vessels.
Cats are born with 12 pairs of whiskers on their faces.
How do cats use their whiskers?
It is no understatement to say that your pet’s whiskers are one of his most important body parts. But just how important?
1. Your cat uses his whiskers to see in the dark
Although technically cats cannot see in pitch darkness, they come close to seeing in near-total darkness. Unlike people’s eyes, cat eyes have evolved to allow even the tiniest amount of light to get in.
But aside from that, they have another specialized tool: their whiskers. And if you trim your pet’s whiskers, he will have a difficult time navigating a dark room.
2. Your cat uses his whiskers for hunting
As previously mentioned, cats are far-sighted. They can see well from a distance. But when an object is close to them, they cannot see clearly.
That flaw can become a problem when they are trying to take down their prey. Fortunately, they can compensate for using their whiskers.
Cats can use their whiskers to gain a variety of information about the animals they are trying to hunt, including the exact location and size.
Furthermore, when a cat has an animal in its grasp, he uses his whiskers to know exactly where to deliver a fatal bite.
3. Your cat uses his whiskers to tell you his mood
If you want to know how your pet is feeling at a particular moment, look at the position of his whiskers.
For example, if he is frightened, you will notice that his whiskers are drawn close to his face. On the other hand, when is at full attention and curious, his whiskers will point in the direction of the object that has caught his fancy.
Why are my cat’s whiskers so long?
There is no actual length that can be called a standard for all cat whiskers. Instead, the length of your pet’s whiskers will depend on his breed and body width. This is why larger cats like the Maine Coon have considerably longer whiskers compared to smaller cat breeds.
This is also the reason why a cat can know beforehand whether he can fit in a tight space or not.
But does that mean the whiskers will grow longer the fatter your cat gets? Not necessarily. There is no evidence that can prove that.
Do cat whiskers fall out?
Like other types of hair, whiskers can fall out and grow. If you see that your cat is missing one or two whiskers, you do not need to worry much.
But what if he loses whiskers after getting into a fight? His missing whiskers can grow back, taking anywhere between two and three months.
But be aware that whiskers can also fall out due to health conditions like alopecia and allergies. If you notice that your pet is missing a few whiskers, observe him and watch out for other symptoms that may indicate that your cat is sick or dealing with a health condition.
Never trim your cat’s whiskers
If you are annoyed that your cat’s whiskers look unkempt and unruly, just let them be. Never trim or attempt to groom your pet’s whiskers.
Otherwise, you risk upsetting your cat and making him anxious. His whiskers are vital for a variety of reasons and nothing can justify trimming these off.
Image: istockphoto.com / Sonsedska