Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers

Cat’s whiskers may appear as these long cute strong pieces of hair that come out of their face. But have you ever wondered if whiskers serve a larger purpose to cats or if they are just there as an accessory?

Well, it may surprise you that whiskers serve a much larger purpose than just something that makes your cat look adorable.

How Do Whiskers Work?

Many people assume that cat’s whiskers are just like human hair; that it serves no purpose and are just there for looks. However, this assumption is incorrect, as whiskers has a unique and special purpose.

The whiskers are attached to tissue that have many sensory nerve endings and is then connected to the function to the sense of touch. Cats can detect objects through their whiskers without even seeing the object. In addition, they can sense movement and can measure the space before going through something.

Whiskers are just as important or even more important compared to the function of the nose. Additionally, it is really common for cats to have around 12 whiskers above their lip.

Never Trim or Cut Whiskers

Cutting, trimming or even grooming whiskers is something that you NEVER want to do. This is something that should not even be done if you consider the whiskers to be too long or if you just do not like the look of them.

Without whiskers, cats can become disoriented, frightened and even become ill. Additionally, when whiskers are clipped or trimmed it can cause pain and disturb their sensitivity. They are just as important as sound, touch and smell is to us. Cutting whiskers have the same effect if someone took our sight away.

Whiskers alert cats of a painful situation, as touch and sight do the same thing for us humans. However, it is important to know that whiskers shed and grow back naturally so it is important to leave them alone.

Touching your cat’s whiskers will not cause them pain but pulling, cutting and trimming will.

A Form of Navigation

Whiskers also serve the function as a type of navigation system for cats. This is because whiskers have sensory organs that are attached at the ends. Therefore, this makes cats whiskers extremely sensitive towards the smallest changes or shift in their environment.

They measure the distance and the space around them, even without them looking. This allows them to determine if they can fit through a small opening. Whiskers also help cats with navigating through the dark, which is why you see cats active and alert during the night.

Mood Indicator

As a pet owner, you can tell a lot about your cat’s mood and behavior by just looking and observing their whiskers. For instance, if your cat’s whiskers are hanging loosely this indicates that your cat is relaxed and is calm.

If their whiskers are flattened against their face this is a clear indication that you cat may be frightened or is getting ready for a fight. By having the whiskers to become flattened it allows them not to become damaged. However, when their whiskers are facing forward this means that your cat is alert, you will often see this if your cat is looking for something to hunt.

Moreover, it is important not to just make your judgment based just on your cat’s whiskers. And that it is also important to look at their entire body language before you make an assumption on their mood and/or behavior.

Used for Eye Protection

Whiskers are not just found above the upper lip, but they are also can be found above the eyes; kind of like eyelashes. They actually serve the same purpose as human eyelashes. This is because the whisker, in this case, protects cats from getting things into their eyes; for example, dust and dirt.

Furthermore, the whiskers cause the eye to blink when touched so that it protects cats from potential harm towards their eyes.


There is this myth that when cats get older and age, that their whiskers tend to grow at a faster pace; therefore, being longer.

But in reality they stay and grow at the same speed as if they were just a year old. The only thing that happens to the whiskers when cats get older is that they change in color.

Kind of the same way as humans age our hair becomes lighter and gray. So do not be surprised that as your cat ages that the whiskers turn from white to black; it is simply the cycle of life.

Balance and Whiskers

Many people believe that whiskers have to do with a cats balance. However, this may be true but this is not the only thing that helps cats maintain a balance. As their tail also helps cats maintain and have balance.