Whiskers are one of a cat’s most special features, not only in appearance but also in terms of how they function. Cat’s whiskers help them with their perception of space, their vision, even their communication. Cats are hunters, it is in their nature to seek out prey, and whiskers are crucial for successful hunting.
If you are reading this, you’ve probably asked yourself: Why are my cats whiskers so long? The answer is simple – your cat’s whiskers are long simply because they need to be as wide as your cat’s body.
It is normal then that the world record for the longest whiskers belongs to the largest domestic cat breed. This cat breed is the Maine Coon, of course. A Maine Coon cat named Missi holds the world record of 19.05 centimeters, and since 2005, no cat has broken that record.
This article explains what whiskers are, why our cats have them and most importantly it answers your question: why are my cats whiskers so long?
1. Cat Whiskers: What And Why?
Before we talk about the length of your cat’s whiskers, we must cover what whiskers are and why do cats have whiskers at all?
Well, your cat needs them for survival. Anything they do, they assess with their whiskers first. The air, their surroundings, food, water, etc. Whiskers act like sensory messengers for the brain.
Their whiskers consist of keratin and contain sensory organs i.e. proprioceptors which deliver messages from the outside world to the cat’s brain. Even though they don’t have sensitive nerves, they can still feel through them because they are attached to your cat’s face.
Their whiskers are connected to the nervous system: the whiskers do not have nerves going all the way through, but the whisker follicles do, and their nerve endings are extremely sensitive. This is why it is advised not to cut your cat’s whiskers.
The whiskers can recover but you should not cut them. Your cat needs them and there is no need for you to cut them.
2. Why Are My Cats Whiskers So Long?
Your cat’s whiskers may seem too long, but they’re not.
Whiskers are as long in width as your cat’s body. Your cat needs their whiskers to assess the places they move around or through. This is how cats can fit into very tight spaces; they can squeeze through tiny holes in fences and weave deftly past obstacles.
Also older cats are not prone to whisker loss, because whiskers do not age. Cats can shed them, just like they shed their fur, but this is not connected to the cat’s age.
In the text below you have more interesting facts about your cat’s whiskers that will help you understand your feline friend even better.
3. Cats Have 24 Whiskers In Total
Some cats might even have more!
Whiskers (Latin: vibrissae) are a cat’s most useful equipment. They have around 12 facial whiskers divided into 4 rows on both cheeks. They also have whiskers over their eyes (which people usually refer to as eyebrows) and whiskers on their front legs.
All cat whiskers are like receptors to help cats in their everyday life, and they can also help you understand your cat’s body language even better.
4. Spatial Recognition
The first and most important purpose of cat’s whiskers is spatial recognition. Cats judge their surroundings, environment, and the sizes of different spaces to assess if they can or cannot fit through. Fun fact: cats also use their tales for the same reason – to learn about their environment!
You know how almost all cats adore boxes. Cat owners sometimes wonder how their cat can even fit in a small box. Well, your cat’s whiskers helped to assess the space and decide that it was worth a try.
Cats explore and wander through new places relying on the receptors of their whiskers.
Whether it is some kind of new territory or a spot in the house they’re going to hide in, your cat will test it out with its whiskers.
If you pay attention to your cat when they’re doing this, you will notice that if your cat’s whiskers touch the edges of the space that is being examined and get too close to your cat’s face, your cat will not go in.
If your cat’s whiskers are standing still, wide and untouched, your cat will happily go in.
This proves the definition of what whiskers are for cats. Cat’s whiskers are as long in width as the cat’s body, so your cat will fit into any space their whiskers can.
5. Jumping Distance
Cat’s whiskers help your cat determine how far or high to jump. The cat decides if they should jump or not using their whiskers.
Cat’s whiskers use the air pressure to establish if it is safe for the cat to jump and how far the jump should be. The older they get, the more cats rely on this because their vision deteriorates.
Cat’s whiskers make up for your cat’s sight once they are older and begin to lose their sight.
6. Safety Radar
Cat’s whiskers are like their safety antennae. Cats feel any changes in air currents and this makes them highly aware of the ongoings around them.
This is how your cat knows when someone is coming, by their facial whiskers. Their paw whiskers can also feel sound vibrations through the ground beneath them.
Of all whiskers, however, the facial hairs on your cat’s cheeks are the most important ones because they give your cat a warning from all directions.
Interesting read: Can Cats Tell When You’re Sick? Here’s What You Need To Know
7. Hunting Assistance
Cats have poor vision when it comes to objects that are up close to them. Usually their vision is perfect, but if something is right in front of their face they do not see it, but rather feel it.
Cat’s whiskers sense the object that is in front of them, so your cat can react. You’ve probably noticed that when your cat comes close to their cat food, they start sniffing and moving their whiskers while approaching.
This is because they cannot see the food bowl because it is too close, they feel it with their whiskers.
The same goes for the whiskers on your cat’s forelegs; once they catch a toy, a bug, mouse, or even a small snake, they feel through the whiskers on their paws whether or not their prey is still alive.
This feature is another inheritance from their ancestors. This is a wild cat’s survival instinct.
Our domesticated friends hunt for toys or bugs in the yard, just as wild cats hunt for prey. Their whiskers feel the air and send the message when it’s time to hunt.
8. Communication & Emotions
Your cat will often meow at you. Fun fact: cats only meow to people, not to other cats.
Cats communicate with each other through scents more than meows.
Their whiskers can also reveal their emotions and help you understand what is going on with your beloved cat.
If your cat’s whiskers are relaxed and slightly down, your cat is happy. When your cat is content and relaxed, you will see their whiskers are relaxed as well.
A stressed cat will have its whiskers close to its face, pointing backwards slightly. This happens when your cat hears or sees something that scares them.
An angry cat’s whiskers will be glued to its face. Their ears will also be pulled back, this means that your cat is ready to attack or defend itself.
If your cat is curious or focused on something, their whiskers will be spread and point forwards. This also happens when your cat is hunting, or if something has got their attention.
Cat’s whiskers also help you discover if your cat feels pain. They will be flat and tremble repeatedly. This will be the first sign for you to examine your cat for any injury or source of pain.
9. Size Matters
The size of a cat’s whiskers matters, of course. As we have discussed, the length of your cat’s whiskers corresponds to their size.
Cat’s whiskers are as long in width as the cat’s body.
Their length matches your cat’s body, however if a cat gets overweight, their whiskers will not correspond to their body.
Cat’s whiskers correspond to their normal, average body size.
It doesn’t matter which breed or type, the whiskers are a natural part of a cat and they grow as they are supposed to.
A cat getting fatter than it should, is something nature cannot adapt to.
10. Whisker Fatigue
What is whisker Fatigue? Whisker fatigue is a condition which happens when cats use their whiskers more than usual.
This condition is only temporary, but your cat will probably refrain from using the whiskers while experiencing whisker fatigue.
Cats that are too frightened or anxious will get whisker fatigue more, because they are constantly stressing their whiskers.
Cats with longer whiskers, too, are more prone to whisker fatigue, since their whiskers touch almost everything they pass by, which is too much sensory input.
Common causes of whisker fatigue include narrow food or water bowls, small litter boxes, or constantly going in and out of small spaces.
These are everyday actions your cat does, but they may cause too much stimulation of your cat’s tactile hairs.
Do cats whiskers get longer as they get fatter?
No. The length of the whiskers is connected to the cat’s size, but if a cat is getting fatter than they should be, then that has nothing to do with whiskers.
Do cats have long whiskers for warmth?
No. Cat’s whiskers help a cat with its spatial recognition and vision, but they have no purpose when it comes to warmth.
Is it common for a cat to have long whiskers?
Yes. As stated above, there are many purposes that cat’s whiskers serve. Vision, walking, hunting, exploring, jumping… whiskers are important for all these actions.
Why does my cat’s whiskers change length?
As the cat grows, the whiskers grow too, and at some point they shed. Whiskers shed just like the cat’s fur. This is normal, but if your cat sheds their whiskers (or fur) too often you should consult your vet.
Cat owners always want the best for their cat’s health, and whiskers are something that can help you understand your cat’s behavior, wants, and needs. There are a couple of interesting facts that explain and answer a question: why are my cats whiskers so long?
The basic explanation is this: they are as long in width as is your cat’s body, and that is how it should be.
Cat’s whiskers are helpful to you too. You can use the position of your cat’s whiskers to see if they are in pain and stressed, or content and relaxed.
Here you have the most important (and interesting) facts about your cat’s whiskers. This will surely help you to better understand your cat, and will definitely strengthen your bond.