Your cat’s whiskers are like a Multi-Tool: equal parts weathervane, tape measure, mood chart, and Spidey Sense. However, to many cat lovers, the “how”, “what”, and “why” of whiskers remain a mystery. By learning more about them, you can better understand what makes your favourite feline tick.
They don’t just sprout from the nose
Think the nose is the only domain of your cat’s whiskers? Think again. They also sprout on the chin, above the eyes, and behind the front legs of your cat.
Each whisker is stemmed deep in your cat’s skin, and is surrounded by nerve endings which allow your cat to detect even the slightest vibrations in the air. As cats can’t see well from a close range, they depend on these clusters of whiskers to locate their prey up-close – from mice and rats, to their favourite cat toys.
They come alive in the night
When the first cats first roamed the earth, they shared a food chain with dinosaurs. Biologists believe cats first grew whiskers to allow them to hunt at night, when raptors weren’t as likely to gobble them up.
These days, cats don’t need to play hide-and-seek with T-Rexes, but their whiskers remain the same: they grant them a degree of night vision by sensing the distance between objects. This is why your cat is able to leap fearlessly between sofas in the middle of the night while we can barely make it to the bathroom without stubbing our toes.
If the whiskers fit, the cat will sit
Have you ever wondered how your cat can be so sure they will fit into such small spaces? The answer: whiskers. Your cat’s whisker length is likely to match the width of their body, which means that if their whiskers fit into a space, the rest of them will fit as well.
Reading your cat’s body language is a great way to understand their mood, and their whiskers can provide you with an even deeper insight. When your cat’s whiskers are pointing away from their face, they are calm and content. When they are pressed tautly against the face, they are feeling scared or stressed. If they are pointing forward, it’s game time: your cat is excited and ready to pounce at your shoelaces!
DO NOT TRIM
Every now and then, a well-meaning Pet Owner will decide to groom their cat by giving their whiskers a trim. While this is usually done with the best of intentions, it will leave your cat feeling dizzy, disoriented and distressed. Cats rely on the natural length of their whiskers to navigate their environment, and a trimmed whisker will deprive them of one of their key senses.
To be safe, always give your cat’s whiskers a wide berth. This will allow them to function at the height of their powers, and ensure that you remain their #1 human (even if they don’t always want you to know it).