In the first place, it is important to understand why cats have whiskers and that their function is not only ornamental; for them they are a true sensory communication tool with the world.
Cat owners sometimes wonder if they should trim their whiskers or fix them. We briefly explain why not and what its functions are:
What are whiskers and what are they for?
Cat whiskers are exquisitely sensitive. They are modified hairs deeply rooted in the skin, in areas highly innervated and rich in nerve receptors, and highly irrigated by the bloodstream.
Among others, they serve cats to maintain their balance, calculate distances and help them in their daily reactions.
Why shouldn’t I cut them off?
- They are especially sensitive to vibration, movement, and pressure changes. They are so sensitive that they can detect even the slightest change in the direction of the breeze.
- If they are damaged it can be painful. Even eating from a dish that is too narrow that presses on the cat’s whiskers can be annoying.
- They provide information on proprioception and size. The whiskers of our cats are proportional to their size and help them, for example, to find out the width of an opening or space and if they fit through or inside it.
- They help to calculate the position of their prey. Whether it is a mouse or their favorite toy, in addition to their vision, they need, in some way, to feel that their prey is in the right position to capture it. The hairs on the back of the front legs, those on the chin and whiskers, are crucial for that purpose.
- They are an emotional thermometer. The position of our cat’s whiskers can be an indicator of its state of mind. If they are relaxed and on your side you are calm, if they are forward it means you are alert and if they are back or flat against your cheeks you are angry or scared. To these signs we must add their body language, such as the position of the ears and the tail, to find out what our friend wants to tell us.
They should never be cut! Although our cat will fall off a couple of whiskers from time to time, we should never cut them. This will disorient him as he can no longer receive those “navigation” signals that are so important to him.
Whiskers can change color. Let’s not be surprised if they change color or find a white mustache on our cat’s snout. Time passes for them too!