Why Does My Cat Have Whiskers?

The whiskers on a cat’s face serve a far more important function than simply being adorable.

On the side of your cat’s face, next to their lips, you’ll see the most noticeable and visible collection of whiskers. On the other hand, shorter whiskers can be seen above their eyes, around their jawline, and on the backs of their front legs.

It is normal for cats to be born with whiskers and hairs that develop on their top lips, chin, above their eyes, and on the backs of their forelimbs at the back of their wrists (called carpal whiskers). In the anatomy of cats, these whiskers are a necessary feature.

The whiskers are essential to the way in which cats interact with their surroundings, and they perform a range of tasks. The ability to navigate narrow areas and judge the distance between objects, as well as the ability to jump elegantly, are all important for your cat’s way of life, and whiskers help these specific sensory skills.

Compared to the stiff hairs, which are composed entirely of a protein called keratin and do not contain any nerve ends, the hair follicles at the base of the whisker are densely packed with nerve endings and blood vessels as sensory neurons that carry information to the brain. Additionally, whiskers assist cats in compensating for their limited short-range eyesight by increasing their senses and delivering essential information about their habitats.

What Is the Purpose of Cat Whiskers?

Cat whiskers are essentially a swarm of tiny radar sensors that aid the cat in navigating around the environment. They help cats in their spatial orientation and their appraisal of their surroundings. Cat whiskers can even detect whether a surface is firm or soft.

Cat whiskers are capable of some pretty astounding feats. Here are some examples of how cats make use of their whiskers.

Sense of Touch

The most significant function of a cat’s whiskers is to provide a feeling of touch. In addition to hair follicles, sensory cells surround the areas where these hairs develop. These cells offer touch information to our brains like the impulses sent by our fingertips.

The slightest vibrations in the hair cause the sensory cells to fire, allowing cats to detect solid things that they brush against and even air currents caused by movement in the vicinity.

This assists our largely farsighted felines in the following ways:

  • Improve their ability to assess their surroundings up close.
  • Keep branches and insects out of their eyes and faces, irritating them.
  • Hunting is more successful at night.

Orientation

It is also possible for some whisker follicle cells to have proprioceptive abilities, which means that a cat’s orientation regarding the ground can be determined based on the way gravity pulls on its hair. That is extremely crucial for an animal that is expected to land on its feet at all times!

Communication

Finally, there is evidence suggesting that cat whiskers may communicate with other cats and even with their owners who are paying attention. When cats are agitated, the tiny muscles surrounding the base of their whiskers allow them to point their whiskers in the direction of prospective dangers and relax them when they are satisfied. When a cat isn’t feeling well, it may frown and draw its whiskers back against its face.

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What Is the Average Number of Whiskers on a Cat?

Cats are born with 24 whiskers, divided into two sets of 12 whiskers placed in four lines on either side of their face.

While kittens have shorter whiskers that gradually get longer with age, the length of adult whiskers differs from breed to breed. Maine Coons have longer whiskers than short-haired or hairless breeds, which is a characteristic of longer-haired breeds. The world record for the greatest cat whiskers was granted to Missi, a Maine Coon cat from Finland, who had whiskers that measured seven and a half inches in length.

Cats have conical or tapered whiskers, which are narrower at the tip than at the base, and they have longer whiskers than dogs. As a result, cats have higher mobility and greater accuracy in their motions in their surroundings than other mammals with cylindrical whiskers, such as harbor seals, according to research.

Cats do shed their whiskers from time to time. Despite the fact that shedding is a natural process and that hairs eventually come back, excessive whisker loss or breaking may be an indication of an underlying medical condition in your cat. According to Gonzalez, sudden stress, high fever, endocrine abnormalities, and parasites such as ringworm or demodectic mange are all probable causes of whisker loss or breakage in cats, as well as ringworm and demodectic mange. Cats having chemotherapy treatments for cancer may also have whisker loss throughout the treatment.

Whether you find your cat’s whiskers falling out or breaking, contact your veterinarian to determine if there is a medical reason for it.

When the medical condition is addressed, it is common for whiskers to regrow. A veterinarian may trim or pluck diseased whiskers as part of treating certain infections, including ringworm.

Can Cats Injure Their Whiskers?

Although cat whiskers carry sensory information, the hair itself is formed of keratin, much like the hairs on your head, and therefore does not have sensation.

It has been shown that each cat whisker follicle can be connected with as many as 100-200 neurons and that overstimulation of the whisker, often known as “whisker tiredness,” is a severe problem in cats. Typically, whisker fatigue is produced by persistent, repeated pressure on the whisker and firing of the neurons in a manner that overstimulates your cat. It is frequently related with food and water dishes that are of insufficient size.

If you observe that your cat avoids eating from their food dish or appears disturbed until they scoop the food out onto the floor, you should speak with your veterinarian about this. Your cat’s delicate whiskers may benefit from some shallower bowls, which can be found in pet stores.

Cat whisker follicles can be affected by diseases that might affect the haircoat, such as infection, mange, and vasculitis, which can cause them to fall out or cause their growth to be delayed.

In addition, some treatments, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause a cat’s whiskers to fall out entirely. Always consult the veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding the health of these vital organs and tissues.

Is it Possible to Cut a Cat’s Whiskers?

Cat whiskers do not need to be clipped or maintained, although occasional shedding or breakage is natural.

Cat whiskers are similar to human hair in that they do not have nerve endings, making it painless to cut them. However, removing a cat’s whisker—even just a few inches long—deprives the cat of a crucial sensory tool for navigating its surroundings. Whiskers should never, ever be taken out.

Any medical procedures, like the removal of an abscess at the base of the whiskers, would be carried out at a veterinarian’s office or clinic under the supervision of a veterinarian and with the appropriate anesthesia and pain medication.

What Happens If You Cut Cat Whiskers?

Because the nerves in a cat’s whiskers are related to the follicle rather than the hair itself, cutting a cat’s whiskers is not unpleasant in and of itself; still, you should avoid doing so. Even indoor cats rely on the sensory input provided by their whiskers, and a sudden shift in the amount of information they can get from their surroundings may be extremely distressing and upsetting for them.

If your cat breaks their whiskers or is forced to be clipped for medical reasons, the hairs will regrow as long as the follicle is not damaged in the process. While natural cat whiskers are shed regularly, they are seldom more than 1-2 at a time, exactly like other hairs on a cat’s body.

An adult cat’s face whisker might take from 6 weeks to 3 months to grow back to the required length for proper function. It is relatively common for white whiskers to reappear as black in some coat colors and vice versa in other coat colors. The change in hue will not affect their ability to function.

Do Cat Whiskers Keep Growing?

It is not true that cat whiskers develop at a higher rate as the cat gets older. In most cases, the stiff hairs on a cat’s body remain the same length throughout its whole life unless another cat unintentionally chops them. When a cat whisker falls to the ground, a new one will always be ready to take its place as soon as it is discovered.

Cats have extremely long whiskers, allowing them to navigate through areas they cannot see. Even though a cat’s whiskers appear excessively long, you should never clip them since doing so is extremely unpleasant. Nature is more than capable of dealing with the length of a cat’s whiskers. If your cat’s whiskers become too long, they will fall off and regenerate on their own.

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Why Do Cats Have Whiskers on Their Eyebrows?

Cats have numerous whiskers on their bodies, as is well known. On the other hand, Cat eyebrow whiskers provide a distinct purpose that is not shared by other whiskers.

Cat whiskers on the brows aid in the perception and feeling of the cat. For example, they will assist your felines when hunting in dense vegetation or areas with thick grass since your cat will blink if anything comes into contact with these whiskers, so safeguarding their eyes.

The cat’s whiskers are strategically placed on the cat’s body most of the time. These sites include the area surrounding the nose and lips, the chin and cheeks, above the eyes where humans have brows, and behind the forelegs. Although we may believe that the whiskers around the nose are the most frequently utilized, all whiskers are equally used and as necessary. On the other hand, the eyebrow whiskers provide a distinct role that is not shared by the other whiskers.

Are Eyebrow Whiskers the Same as Eyebrows? What Do They Do?

There is a straightforward solution to this question: no, they are not brows at all. Cats, on the other hand, do not have brows. Do you still not believe it?  When it comes to cats, the eyebrows serve no purpose. According to the theory of evolution, organs that aren’t needed don’t emerge or stay in an organism.

It is the same functions as the other whiskers, such as measuring distances, assisting in navigating in the dark, feeling prey and communicating, among other things, that the eyebrow whiskers perform. Except for one duty that others do not and cannot achieve: safeguarding the eyes, of course!

Although cat eyes are not as necessary as human eyes because our other senses are not as powerful or precise as a cat’s, vision is extremely crucial in a cat’s existence. When cats hunt, fight or play, their brow whiskers perform an essential role in keeping their eyes safe from injury.

They provide an early warning system for cats, prompting them to use their reflexes to avert any injury to their eyes or, in certain situations, to close their eyelids. This early warning system prevents a large number of cats from losing their eyes or suffering harm to the region around their eyes.

FAQs

 

Can I Trim the Eyebrows Whiskers of My Cat?

The whiskers of certain kittens’ mother cats are “shortened” by the mother cat chewing them off when the kitten becomes “too curious” and starts venturing into areas where the mother does not want them to go. However, you must constantly remember that the mother cat understands instinctively what she is doing, whereas you do not! There is so much about cats that science cannot explain that we can’t even begin to comprehend the genuine nature of these fascinating creatures.

As a result, the answer to that question is an emphatic NO! You may “believe” that they are excessively lengthy, but it is your viewpoint, not the cat’s natural behavior. Nature is completely unconcerned with human beliefs or thoughts. It always does what is required of it. In this sense, the whiskers are no different from the rest of us.

The importance of whiskers in a cat’s everyday existence is so great that some cats refuse to move even after they have lost their ability to smell. While there is the rare shedding and loss of the whisker due to playing with other pets or fighting, these are usually limited to one or two hairs at a time, rather than the complete set of whiskers being lost.

Can You Touch Your Cat’s Whiskers?

It is not painful to touch or tug a cat’s whiskers, but pulling them is. The long, dense hairs that curl so beautifully from a cat’s nose and over the eyes are more than simply ornaments; they serve as antennae or “feelers.” They assist the cat in navigating, maintaining balance, and staying out of trouble.

What Breed of Cat Has Lengthy Eyebrows Whiskers?

Although Missi holds the world record for having the longest whiskers, Maine Coons, as a breed, have significantly longer whiskers than other breeds in general.

Conclusion

Cats have around 24 whiskers on their faces on average. Besides being thicker and longer than normal hair, they are also embedded deeper in the skin, connecting to nerve endings and muscles that allow them to move their whiskers to feel prey and realize the environment in which they live.

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