Ask the Vet: What are Whiskers and Why Cats Have Them

Ask the Vet: What are Whiskers and Why Cats Have Them

Ever wondered what your cat’s whiskers are for?

As it turns out, they’re not just for cuteness. Those stiff hairs are hard at work 24/7 to enable your cat to take inventory of their world and explore their surroundings.

What’s in a Whisker?

Most of your cat’s whiskers are located on the upper lip in thick pads of skin. But look closely and you’ll find that smaller sets of whiskers can also be found on the chin, around the feet, and on the eyebrows.

Every whisker on your cat’s body is a specialized type of hair connected to a follicle full of super-sensitive nerves. The follicles are deep sacs that collect information and send messages to the brain about things like distance, depth, size, and even texture.

The messages that are sent to the brain generally have to do with space and distance. That’s because whiskers assist your cat in judging their immediate surroundings. For example, your cat uses its whiskers to evaluate whether or not it can fit itself into that empty box lying on the floor. The whiskers that particularly help in this situation are those on the sides of your cat’s nose as they are the exact same width as the cat’s body. Neat, huh?

Cat Whiskers

Testing the Mood

Another use for whiskers has to do with mood and feeling. Watch your cat’s whiskers closely and you’ll notice that they match their mood.

Sticking straight out and still? Your cat is probably just fine — relaxed and content. Pinned back toward the face? Your cat may be upset or nervous. These signs help other animals (and humans) get the message about a cat’s mood — just like humans change expressions on our faces.

Never Trim Your Cat’s Whiskers

Remember that you should never trim your cat’s whiskers. For our feline friends, whiskers are a key sense. Cutting them would be like taking away a human’s sense of sight or smell.

Has your cat recently had a vet checkup? If not, schedule a visit to Sunset Veterinary Clinic today by giving us a call at (405) 844-2888. Our veterinarians and staff would love to meet you and your feline friend!

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2017 N Kelly Avenue Edmond, OK 73003
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