What is the Purpose of Cats’ Whiskers?

What is the Purpose of Cats’ Whiskers?

Whiskers are one of the more unusual features cats have. They aren’t as noticeable as most other cat traits, so it may take some time to recognize them. Whiskers are a type of sensory organ or receptor called an olfactory receptor. Olfactory receptors are located in almost every cell and work together to detect odors. Cats have about 50 million olfactory receptors in their nostrils, which is five times the number that humans have and 10 times the amount of any other mammal species on Earth. Whiskers help cats find mice and other small animals for food and shelter, navigate and hunt in tight spaces, recognize potential threats (like another cat), locate prey scent again if they get away, and mark their territory with urine or pheromones to communicate with other cats later.

What Does Whisker Behavior Mean?

Whiskers are also called facial vibrissae, as they are the sensory hair-fibers that are on the sides of the face. Cats have about 34 whiskers on each side of the face and 10 whiskers extending back under the chin. Whiskers can grow back if they are trimmed regularly, so it’s important to check them regularly. Whiskers are a very important feature of a cat’s face, as they are used in hunting both on land and in the water. Whiskers can also help cats identify their owners and other cats by smelling the pheromones in their fur.

Important Whisker Numbers to Know

– Whisker length: There’s only a very short difference in length between one whisker and another, so you can’t use length to tell what kind of behavior is occurring with a cat’s whiskers. But you can definitely see a difference between short whiskers and long whiskers. Short whiskers are often used for hunting, while long whiskers are often used for communicating and sensing the environment.

– Whisker-to-nose length: This is the distance from the tip of the whisker to the tip of the nose. It’s helpful to know this measurement to better understand whisker behavior.

– Whisker-to-eyelid length: This is the distance from the tip of the whisker to the edge of the eye. This is usually the same length as whisker-to-nose length, but it can vary. There’s not a lot of whisker-to-eyelid length, but it can be used to tell if your cat is irritated or not interested in something.

Why is Whisker Behavior Important?

Whiskers are used for hunting, communication, and sensory purposes. Cats with short whiskers hunt for mice or other animals, while those with long whiskers communicate with other cats, and use the whiskers to feel their environment. Cats with long whiskers are also able to sense the most odors with this part of the face. Finding an understanding of whisker behavior in cats can help you better understand your cat’s personality and how it may act. It can also help you better understand your cat’s health, including any medical issues that may be affecting it.

Finding an Understanding of Whisker Behavior

Whisker length, whisker-to-nose length, and whisker-to-eyelid length are all sensitive indicators of whisker behavior that can help you understand your cat better. Another way to learn more about whisker behavior is to look at your cat’s whisker trim. Cats will often trim their whiskers only on one side of their face, so if you look closely, you might see that one side has less or no whisker trim. Some cats only trim their whiskers on the side of their face that comes into contact with another cat’s whiskers. Others trim their whiskers on both faces. Knowing why your cat’s whiskers are the way they are can help you better understand your cat and its health.

How to Train Whisker Behavior in Cats

Whisker behavior can be hard to train in cats, especially if they are sensitive to trimming their whiskers. Cats may not like the sensation of having their whiskers trimmed, or they may associate the trimming with the sound of the trimmers or the person doing the trimming. If you are trying to train your cat to like having its whiskers trimmed, you’ll want to trim only one whisker at a time. You can also try trimming the whisker behind the ear, and if that doesn’t work, try trimming the whisker next to the nose. Trimming whiskers in your cat can cause some discomfort, so make sure the area is clean, dry, and free of infection. You may want to use an anti-inflammatory cream or bite block to help with the pain and make trimming easier for your cat.

Tips for Handling Sensitive Whiskers in Cats

When trimming your cat’s whiskers, you may want to try trimming only one whisker at a time. This will allow your cat to feel better while it learns to accept the trim. If your cat has sensitive whiskers, you may also want to trim only at night while they are sleeping. Some cats learn to accept trimming their whiskers more quickly if you put on rubber gloves while trimming. Gloves help to make the trimming less painful and to protect your hands from any nicks or cuts. It can also help if you trim your cat’s whiskers in the same place every time.


Whiskers are one of the more unusual features cats have. They are vital to their survival and they are part of what makes a cat. They need whiskers for hunting, eating, and sensing the world around them. But they always need to be maintained. This is something cat owners can do on their own but if needed, it’s best to consult a groomer to take of the whiskers.