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Why do cats have whiskers

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do?

We researched and explained one of the cat lovers’ or cat owners’ most wondered issue. Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? You will be surprised how important they are.

Cats might be the most beautiful and the noblest creatures of all.  They are so cute that they might steal one’s heart with just their looks. Their huge or mid-sized eyes, tiny noses, scary looking but pretty and small teeth and long whiskers are enough to raise our mood. Especially cat whiskers are so long that they make you want to touch and feel them all the time.  In addition to looking very cute, the whiskers are one of the most important parts of their bodies. Some people wonder: Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do? It is not an exaggeration to say they are as important as our eyes or ears.

Urban Legend About Whiskers Busted

Although there is a common belief that “if you cut a cat’s whiskers, it can not walk, lose its balance after a short while and finally die”. Although the whiskers are extremely important for cats, the belief that cats can not walk without their whiskers or lose their balance is not true at all. It has been scientifically proven that cats without whiskers can continue their lives just as any other cat does.

Years ago, when this claim first appeared, cat lovers got scared and worried a lot. This got people start thinking “what are cat whiskers are?”, “what is the purpose of cat whiskers?” and some even cut their cat’s whiskers to learn more about this issue.  Although that was mean and cruel, after cutting their whiskers people saw that the cats did not lose their balance and die.  For more information on this issue “Can you cut a cat’s whiskers? What happens if you cut it?” Let’s find the truth behind this controversial topic with lots of claims.

Why Do Cats Need Whiskers?

Cat whiskers look cute and sweet but they have very important functions. Cats use their whiskers to measure their distances to objects. They measure the distance using the vibrations their whiskers provide especially when they enter a tight space or jump to a higher place. Cats want to explore everything due to their extremely curious nature.

They may surprise you when they enter between walls or squeeze in very tight spots. Those who do not know the function of cat whiskers even say that “cats are liquid” since cats can enter everywhere with ease. Now we know that this has nothing to do with their bodies but due to the fact that they can measure the distances using only their whiskers.

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do?

Cats use their whiskers not only to enter tight spots but also to measure the distances in the dark. If you have a cat in your home, you may see it enter through a doorway or to a tight spot even when the lights are out thanks to its whiskers. They can use their whiskers like a third eye even when there is not even soft light around. There are a lot of people thinking “My cat sleeps in a dark room, can it have any issues due to the darkness when it wakes up?” Cats can enter anywhere they want and pass time when they wake up even when they sleep in the dark thanks to their whiskers.

Hunting is in cats’ nature and they can easily hunt in the dark. You surely have seen that cats can feed in dark environments. When they smell the scent of a food in the dark or in a tight spot, they can easly measure the distance and enter anywhere thanks to their whiskers. Since the cat whiskers are like navigation devices, they can use them to spot the sensitive points of their foes and it knows where to bite them thanks to their whiskers. We are lucky to be living together with such intelligent creatures under the same roof.

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do?

Cats’ Whiskers are not Located Only on Their Faces

Different cat breeds have different whiskers but in general they have 24 whiskers. Although each whisker is longer or shorter than the other, some cats have completely symmetrical whiskers. Cat whiskers are not located only on their faces but also on their bodies. They have proprioceptive hairs above their eyes, on their chins, ears and back of their front paws. These hairs help supporting their skills such as hunting, jumping and climbing. The hair colors on cats’ faces change as they age just like human hair graying. Whiskers on their bodies do not gray unlike their faces.

Cats Sense with Their Whiskers

Cats use their whiskers while getting familiar with their surroundings or communicating with people. They approach the objects they are going to interact with and touch them with their whiskers. Thanks to the vibrations, they can even sense inanimate objects. They approach the human they want to identify and can easily sense the human by rubbing their whiskers to the person in question. They have nerves on the inner and external parts of their whiskers. These whiskers start functioning as soon as the whisker touches something therefore they have very high senses. This is the answer to the question “why do cats need whiskers?” They sense with them.

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do?
Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? What Do They Do? 4

Cats Use Their Whiskers to Climb and Jump to High Places

Cats generally love climbing and jumping to high places. But before the action, they analyze the situation using their whiskers. Cats can understand if they can manage to jump to a high place using their sensory whiskers placed between and on the back side of their front paws.  If a cat can not jump or climb to a high place, the issue might be with its whiskers provided it does not have a physical issue. Since cats analyze the environment with their whiskers prior to their action, their legs are always of secondary importance.

Cats can fit even to the smallest box as the famous saying goes “If it fits, I sits”. First they sense the measurement with their whiskers and then can fit in it easily. You can even see blind cats moving around the house comfortably as they please. They can continue their lives with the help of their whiskers as their functions are higher and more important than their eyes.

Cats Use Their Whiskers Like a Navigation Device

We can also answer the question “what are cats whiskers for” as to find their ways. Cats use their whiskers to walk around comfortably and find their ways where they live. The whiskers are the answer to how they keep their legs and paws balanced as they walk. It can even be said that the whiskers are their antennas.

If your cat shows imbalance and starts confusing directions, you may fix it by rotating its antenna. Jokes aside, cats use their whiskers to easily find their ways, their beds, bowls and litter boxes. You can notice their whiskers vibrating as they sense an object. The nerve cells in their whiskers can easily sense and explore everything on their own.

Whiskers Reflect Cat’s Mood

Did you know that the cats are the best at reflecting their moods in all the pet realm? You can easily tell the mood of your cat by looking at the vibration speed of their whiskers when they move them. Cats bend their whiskers forward and they stay at an angle when they hunt or when they are angry. When they are peaceful and happy, they let their whiskers loose and the whiskers stay straight on the sides. When they are anxious or scared they move the whiskers backwards. It is easy to understand your cat’s mood when you have this knowledge. And this makes you an expert on the question “what do cat whiskers do?”

Can You Touch a Cat’s Whiskers?

There are different opinions on touching cat whiskers. Cats react immediately by vibrating their whiskers when you touch them. When you touch their whiskers with your finger in either direction, it may act as if it is tickled and may not allow you to touch them. Their whiskers do not sleep even when your cat is sleeping and it reacts immediately.  Cat whisker sizes may vary a lot. While some cats have short whiskers, others have long ones. This depends entirely on the cat’s genetics but their functions are exactly the same.


In this post we mentioned some of the claims about cats’ whiskers and revealed the truth behind them. Now you know the answer to the question “what do cat whiskers do?” completely.

Please leave a comment below so that we can also learn about your thoughts and opinions on the subject.

Have a purrderful day!

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Yusuf Can Ekinci

Father of two cats named Tzatiki & Ouzo. Our small family tries to live without harming any living being. I am a small time farmer who tries to apply natural farming methods. Favorite activities: watching wild life at nature, passing time at home with my cats...

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