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May. 31, 2023

What are whiskers?

Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are specialized hairs that are thicker and more deeply embedded in a cat’s skin than regular fur. You can of course find them on your feline’s face – above the eyes, around the muzzle, on the chin – but did you know that cats even have whiskers at the back of the front legs?  

Hairy sensors

The most important function of a cat’s whiskers is to help the animal navigate their surroundings. Whiskers are incredibly sensitive as they grow from special hair follicles that are packed with blood vessels. In fact, these thick hairs can pick up tiny changes in the air currents around them, allowing your cat to judge the size of, and distance to, an object.

Help when hunting

Besides helping to determine the dimensions of an object, a cat’s whiskers also provide the animal with information on how fast any nearby animal is moving. This incredible feature is of course vital when hunting. While stalking prey, a cat’s eyes will be focused on the target, while their whiskers are pointed forwards to pick up any information their eyes are unable to perceive. As the cat gets closer to the prey, their whiskers will move back, allowing the feline to judge the precise distance and position of the prey.

Mood meter

Whiskers also help cats to communicate. When a cat is feeling threatened or aggressive, they will pull their whiskers back. On the other hand, when a cat is feeling curious, their whiskers will pull forward, helping them to investigate.

What would happen if you were to trim your cat’s whiskers?

NEVER, EVER trim back your feline’s whiskers! As we discussed in this article, whiskers serve many purposes, and your feline would be completely lost without them. Trimming away even a few inches would decrease your feline’s spatial awareness, including their sense of balance! Obviously, this would be extremely unpleasant for your cat and could put them in grave danger, especially if your cat’s allowed outside.