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Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?

It may surprise you to hear that some cat owners will keep their cats whiskers. One of the reasons behind this is an old wives tale which mentions how cat whiskers can be used in magic spells.

Another reason is for safety. Some people keep cat whiskers in their cars to help them avoid accidents by a “cat’s whisker”.

Another old wives tale says that if you make a wish and then burn a cat’s whisker your wish will come true. Whether you believe these stories or not, whiskers serve an important purpose to cats.

Cat Whiskers

Cats have Whiskers (also called vibrissae) is many places on their face; on their top lip (both sides of their nose), above their eyes, on their ears, and on the back of their front legs.

A close up of a cats whiskers
A close up of a cats whiskers

Cats whiskers are embedded deeper and are thicker than normal hairs. They serve a sensory purpose which allows them to measure how far apart things are in relation to their face and body. This is extremely useful when trying to squeeze through tiny gaps in the fence.

The whiskers contain proprioceptors which send signals to the nervous system as the cat moves. They help the cat judge distances, detect changes in their environment and aid in night vision by detecting the cat’s surroundings.

A close up of a grey and white cats long whiskers
A close up of a grey and white cats long whiskers

Important note: Never cut your cat’s whiskers. This can be very confusing and stressful for the cat because they lose a part of their senses. Even if you own a cat with curly whiskers such as the Cornish Rex it is still important to leave their whiskers to grow and fall out naturally.

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