Can I touch my cat’s whiskers?

The question is for non-expert cat owners. Yes, you can touch your cat’s whiskers as much as you like. In fact you can stroke the side of your cat’s face which means that you will brush against her whiskers. Cats will normally like this provided you are gentle. They like the side of their face being stroked.

Cats whiskers
Cats whiskers. Photo in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The point worth making, though, is that whiskers are very sensitive because the roots of a cat’s whiskers are three times deeper than other hairs which makes them an important sensor. They are around 0.3 mm in diameter which is three times thicker than other hairs.

Heart Shaped Cat Whisker
Heart Shaped Cat Whisker

They are so sensitive that they can detect air currents which have been created as air gently wafts past objects in the cat’s path such as trees and walls. This allows domestic cats to be more precise in their movements at night. Their whiskers enhance their excellent night vision.

You can touch a cat’s whiskers and it won’t hurt them but pulling them does. You should not pull a cat’s whiskers. Sometimes whiskers become very long and you should not trim whiskers under any circumstances. Absolutely never trim your cat’s whiskers as they are perfect as they are. Nature gave cats wonderful whiskers. They should be admired but not interfered with.

Cat's whiskers were cut
Cat’s whiskers were cut. Image: PoC.

Whiskers are mood indicators in the way your cat moves them. They are moved forward when she’s inquisitive as if to touch or feel what’s in front of her. If your cat is afraid she might pull them together and draw them back against her face. It is said there cats use their whiskers to decide whether they can get through narrow spaces or not.

Cat Reflexes
Photo: Pinterest

The technical term for whiskers is vibrassae. Whiskers fall out naturally i.e. they shed just like the fur on their back. They regrow naturally. You will see whiskers lying around the home if you are observant. Don’t be worried about this as it’s completely normal.

An interesting aspect of looking at a cat whisker lying on the floor of your home is that you can see more clearly the pigmentation in the hair strand which dictates the type of coat your cat has. In a tabby cat you will see striations, a sort of sandwich effect, along the hair strand.

Do cat's whiskers fall out?
Do cat’s whiskers fall out? Yes and they grow back.

When a cat has caught his mouse in the dusky dark of the early morning he may uses his whiskers to feel his prey and the precise position of the mouse’s vertebra to allow him to bite accurately to kill the prey. That is if the mouse has not died of fear or exhaustion beforehand! RIP poor mouse. I feel for the brave mice who defend themselves when confronted by the giant domestic cat.

Sphynx cat - no whiskers
Sphynx cat – no whiskers. Photo: Wikipedia. Words added.

Hairless cats such as the Sphynx have no whiskers or very curly, short and brittle wiskers. Does this affect them? We don’t know and rarely consider it.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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