Why Do Cats Have Long Whiskers?

Why do cats have long whiskers

A cat without whiskers is like a fish without water. Cats need their whiskers; not as a decoration, but as sensors. Cat’s whiskers are special to see, and if you look at them closely, they are just different from each cat. Cat whiskers are cool and have various functions. Cats even have whiskers on their paws how special and fun is that.

The whiskers of a cat are part of a whole collection of whiskers. These hairs are on the upper lip, above the eyes, on the chin and the back of the front legs. Whiskers work as a kind of navigation system, something like Google Maps that the cat has received at birth. They perceive the smallest vibrations in the air, which are translating into useful information with which they can orientate and move in the dark. Cats can also easily navigate through narrow spaces. Cats estimate distances, the size and the exact location of the prey. Also, the best place to bite the prey is determining by the whiskers.

Those big long whiskers make our beloved cat complete! Long tickling whiskers on your face when your cat wakes you up in the morning. However, they are not mean for that! Almost all cats have whiskers, long or short, curled or not. But what are they used for? Is it true that the cat uses them to see if it fits somewhere? So, why do cats have whiskers? What can whiskers tell? How can a cat communicate with them? By reading this blog post, you will learn more about the whiskers of your cat.

The cat’s whiskers

A cat uses his whiskers for hunting, as a navigation instrument in his environment and to indicate his mood. A cat has whiskers above the eyelids, on the chin, and the back of the front legs. These hairs are two to three times thicker than the fur of the coat. A cat has about 24 whiskers. There are 12 on each side of the face. They are fixing in four rows. Whiskers are three times deep in the cat’s skin than the fur hairs. Nerves and blood vessels surround a whisker. The whiskers are also surrounded by muscle tissue, allowing the cat to move its whiskers forwards and backward. The top row moves independently of the bottom rows. The nerves with which whiskers are connecting give the stimuli, as seen through the whiskers, directly to the brain.


You might be surprised, but there are cat owners who keep the loose whiskers of their cat. One reason for this is a myth which it is claiming that whiskers can use for magical spells. There is also a myth which is saying that when you make a wish and then burn the cat’s whisker, the wish will come true. Whether you want to believe in these myths or not, for cats, whiskers have an essential function.

Long white cat whiskers

Sense of touch

Whiskers are very important for a cat. They are very sensitive tactile organs, which transmit much information to the cat. At the beginning of each whisker hair is a cushion. In that cushion, a follicle, there are muscles and nerve receptors. Therefore the cat feels the least touch and can even detect airflows. Because the whiskers are so sensitive, it is good to take this into account when you choose a feed and water bowl for your cat. Some cats find it annoying to have to eat from a high bowl because they always bump their whiskers against the side. A low, flat bin is more accessible for your cat.

Whiskers as a navigation system

During the day the cat does not use his whiskers so much as a navigation system. They are only used intensively when the cat does not see well. When a cat moves its whiskers forward and backward during the day, the ends of the whiskers detect changes in air or vibrations. These are converted into information (movement of prey or objects) to the brain. If it gets evening and the cat sees less than it uses its whiskers.

The whiskers and their function

The location of the whiskers determines its exact function. Whiskers in the face of a cat have been developed to help with the hunting skills. The whiskers that are within in a muscle helps the cat to navigate in small and narrow spaces. Although it is often saying that the cat uses the whiskers to see if it fits through something, this is never scientifically proven. What is proven is that a cat uses the whiskers to learn information about the prey. By moving the whiskers back and forth, your cat can determine when it can give the fatal bite and sense when the prey has died. The hairs on the back of the front legs provide information about the captured prey. Because cats see badly at close range, they often can not see what prey they have caught. The whiskers on the legs give the cat information about the size and position of their prey. With these whiskers, the cat also notices when a prey tries to escape.

Whiskers and the cat’s feelings

During dinner and a fight, the whiskers are placing backward, so it is not in the way. During a greeting, the hairs are putting right forward.

Shy or scared
The whiskers are pulled together and lie flat against the cheeks of the cat.
It makes a face narrow and less threatening. This position can also mean that the cat is angry or feels vulnerable. It is a typical attitude for cats who greet each other.

Tense or excited
To observe the surroundings as well as possible while hunting, playing or walking, the cat has the whiskers in front during these activities. The cat uses the long and short whiskers. With the short whiskers, the cat can observe the position of the prey.

Satisfied and relaxed
If the cat feels satisfied and relaxed, you can also see it on the whiskers. By these two feelings, the whiskers are straight to the head of the cat.

Cat with long whiskers

Cats lose the whiskers

In 2007, a 23-year-old man was sentenced in Austria to 6 months suspended prison sentence because he had cut the cat’s whiskers in a drunken mood.

Although your cat does lose a couple of whiskers from time to time, you should never trim cat whiskers. If your cat loses the whiskers, it can feel dizzy, disoriented and sick, because it’s no longer receiving those vital navigation signals. Imagine if somebody grabbed you and put a blindfold on you and you couldn’t take it off for three weeks. Seeing nothing for a few weeks, that is not a nice feeling.

Mother cat

Sometimes a mother cat wants to bite off the whiskers of her kittens to ensure that her kittens do not go too far. But a fallen or bitten whiskers grow again. However, DO NOT cut off the whiskers! With this, you make your cat disabled.

Do fat cats have longer whiskers?

In the absence of scientific evidence, I asked my vet who sees the whiskers of different cats. Generally, thick cats do not have longer whiskers than thinner cats. Small kittens sometimes have even more and longer whiskers than older cats.

Cat with longest whiskers

The record for the longest whisker on a cat measured 19 cm (7.5 in) This belongs to Missi, a Maine coon. Who lives with her owner, Kaija Kyllönen. The whiskers were measuring in Iisvesi, on 22 December 2005 in Finland. Missi was born on the 30th of December in 2001. Missi’s full name is” Fullmoon’s Miss American Pie.”

Cat whiskers can change color

What color are your cat’s whiskers? When pets get older, the color of the whiskers can change. Although the change is small and can be sometimes hard to detect, cats do gray with age. White hairs can appear to change black. You probably noticed when your cat was young; their whiskers were white. When a cat gets older, the whiskers can change color. Think of it like a person that begins to get gray when showing the signs of aging. Don’t be surprised if you find a white whisker growing in your pure black cat’s fur as is ages: Cats do start going gray with age, but it’s not noticeable unless your cat’s hair is a dark, solid color.

Why most cats’ whiskers are white

Normal cat hair is available in different colors such as black, white, brown and orange. However, the hair of the whiskers differs with the hair of the fur. It is thicker, the roots are deeper, and a dense solid bag filled with blood vessels and nerves surrounds the whisker. For some reason, the whiskers usually have no access to melanin (the dye that colors hair), and therefore cat whiskers are usually white.

BBC video: how do cats use their whiskers?

This four-minute video explains how cats use their whiskers. With ultra-high-speed cameras, they follow a cat, and you see the whole motion of the cat. Very interesting and impressive to see.


The whiskers of a cat are very useful, and your cat does not have them for ornamental purposes. The whiskers belong to a cat. A cat uses the whiskers as a navigation instrument in the environment, for hunting and to indicate the mood. You may never cut off the whiskers because a cat can get sick of it. Be proud of your cat’s whiskers, and you now know that your cat needs them

Maybe you have ever wondered if cats can dream. Do you want to know more about cats and their dreams? Then you can read Can Cats Dream When They Sleep?

Hopefully, you have learned something cat whiskers. Also, when you know someone who likes to know more about cat whiskers then feel free to share this post. Additionally, how long are the whiskers of your cat?

By Marleen

Marleen is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.

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