Whiskers are one of the first things that come to mind when hearing the word cat. But do you know why a cat has whiskers and how whiskers help a cat in many ways?
What are whiskers
Whiskers are long, thick hairs on a cat’s head. The most prominent whiskers are the cheek whiskers. But a cat also has whiskers above the eyebrows and on their chin. And, usually unnoticed, also on their front legs. Whiskers are like a GPS navigation for cats. They tell a cat about it needs to know about their surroundings. Cats feel with their whiskers, using the air current that objects make when a cat walks towards them, to detect obstacles. Their whiskers also measure if a cat will fit through an opening or not.
Whiskers tell you how your cat is feeling
You probably noticed that sometimes your cats whiskers are faced inwards towards the body, and sometimes spread outwards. In the wild, cats spread their whiskers when chasing pray, this makes the whiskers even better at detecting their pray and surroundings. When a cat’s whiskers are turned inwards, it is trying to protect them from damage.
So by deducting this information, when the whiskers are turned outward, a cat is usually happy or excited (playing, getting a treat, purring) and when they are turned inward your cat might be scare or annoyed.
You will probably find a whisker from time to time. This is normal as cats shed them, much less often than regular hairs. This is a natural process, unlike trimming or cutting whiskers, this should never be done because a cat relies on them and trimming or cutting can be very uncomfortable for a cat.
There is not a fixed number of whiskers on a cat cheeks, although the average is about 24, 12 on each side. Some cat breeds can have curly or colored whiskers. A cat’s whiskers are about 2,5 times thicker then their coat hair. Whiskers are very very sensitive and blind cats rely totally upon them and get by remarkably well. The scientific name for whiskers is tactile hairs or in latin vibrissae.