- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Whiskers, whiskers everywhere! In addition to whiskers on her muzzle, above her eyes, and on the tip of her little chin, you’ll also find whiskers on the back of your cat’s front legs! So, what do they all do—and why oh why are some cats’ whiskers super long?
Turns out, the length of her whiskers do more than trend on #WhiskerWednesday, and all of these whiskers have a very important job to do. Here’s why your cat’s whiskers are so adorably long. Plus, caring for your cat’s whiskers, why you shouldn’t cut your cat’s whiskers, and the longest whiskers in the world!
Why Are My Cat’s Whiskers So Long?
Simply put, genetically larger cats will have longer whiskers. One way they use their whiskers is to help determine whether they can fit through a small space. So, the whiskers on her face need to be as wide as her head. But that’s not the only reason your cat needs long whiskers—here’s a quick overview of why.
They Help Your Cat “See”
You could think of your cat’s whiskers as little kitty antennas, vibrating and shooting signals to her brain about her surroundings. Her long whiskers help her see close-up objects or in low light, gauge if she can make the leap to her favorite perch, and decipher if she can squeeze through that tiny space. Her whiskers are so sensitive that if you try to sneak up on your unsuspecting feline, they will feel the change in the air current.
They Keep Your Cat Balanced
Ever wonder why cats seem to always land on their feet? According to VCA Hospitals, your cat has her long whiskers to thank for this superhero-like act. “Cats have special sensory organs called proprioceptors located at the ends of their whiskers. The proprioceptors send messages to the brain regarding the position of the body and limbs to keep the cat aware of what every part of his body is doing,” writes VCA Hospitals. Without them, your cat would be as clumsy as, well, you or me.
They Help Your Cat to Hunt
If you’re wondering about those odd little whiskers you’ve never noticed on the back of your cat’s legs—those are called carpal whiskers and they’re for hunting. Cats can’t see very well at close distances, so the whiskers on her forelegs help her sense the critter under her paw.
They Express Emotions
Whiskers can also express emotions. Each whisker on your cat’s muzzle, also called the mystical whiskers, can be moved by muscles. Whiskers that are pointing forward say your cat is excited or hunting her favorite catnip-filled toy. Pinned back against her face, and she might be feeling nervous or scared. Typically, you’ll find your happy house cat with her whiskers pointing out from her face, in a relaxed state. You could say that the longer the whiskers, the more expressive your cat is!
They Protect Her Eyes
The whiskers above your cat’s eyes, called the superciliary whiskers, protect her eyes from foreign objects—like a speck of dust or a blade of grass. The high sensitivity of these whiskers allow her to shake away particles of dust before they get in her eyes, kind of like our eyelashes.
Can You Trim Cat Whiskers?
No, you should never cut your cat’s whiskers. It’s totally normal for a whisker to shed here and there. But when it comes to a whisker trim: put down the scissors and back away!
It doesn’t physically hurt them if you cut their whiskers (the whisker follicle has nerves but not the whisker), but Dr. Jane Brunt tells PetMD that cutting a cat’s whiskers is like blindfolding them. Cut her whiskers and you may notice that she becomes off-balance and a little frightened. Plus, what will you post for #WhiskerWednesday?
Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?
“Because they are hairs, whiskers shed like any others, and another will grow back in its place. Generally, whiskers will shed every few months and usually not more than one or two at a time so you’re more likely to notice them on your floor than you are missing from a spot on your cat’s face,” writes our own Zibby Wilder in her article about cat whisker loss. “It takes anywhere from six to 12 weeks for a whisker to grow back and become functional so your cat’s whiskers are basically doing an endless dance of regrowth.”
If My Cat Gains Weight Will Her Whiskers Grow Longer?
No matter the size of your pet, her whisker length won’t increase or decrease with body size, The Pet Hospitals writes. Instead, according to its blog, “cats and their ancestors developed genetic programs to ensure the length of the facial whiskers would grow to be proportionate to the size of the head.” This might explain why your chonky boi thinks he can fit through small spaces when in fact his body is much too large.
What Breed of Cat Has the Longest Whiskers?
Fullmoon’s Miss American Pie, or Missi for short, proudly holds the Guinness World Book of Records for the longest whiskers. Staying true to her long-whiskered Maine Coon breed, her whiskers measure in at an extraordinary 7.5 inches long! (For reference I just measured my cat’s whiskers and they are an adorable 2 to 3 inches long). Because whisker length is determined by the width of a cat’s head, it only makes sense that the largest of breeds also have the longest of whiskers.
When it comes to the shortest whiskers, the Sphynx usually has no whiskers at all or very short, brittle ones. This breed is not known to be the most tactile when it comes to fitting into small spaces, so it’s best to keep them safe inside (among other reasons).
Your cat’s whiskers aren’t too long or too short—they are exactly the length your cat’s genetic makeup says they should be. Whisker length and the number can vary from cat to cat and breed to breed, but they all help your cat get around every day. Whatever the number and whatever the length, they are purrfect just the way they are.