If you’ve ever wondered why your cat’s whiskers are so long, you’re in the right place. Are you supposed to trim them? Let’s take a look at what whiskers are for, and what would happen if you were to cut them off. These common questions can have some surprising answers!
The answer is no, you must never trim whiskers, because your cat very much relies on them to be safe and confident while moving around. Since they can grow very long, you could be forgiven for thinking that they need to be trimmed like the claws do. However, whiskers should never be cut.
What do cat whiskers do?
Cats rely on their whiskers because they help them judge distance and space. Few people know that those long white hairs are in fact a sensory organ, just like the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are. The follicles from which the whiskers grow are surrounded by thousands of very sensitive nerve endings. In fact, they are so sensitive that they can pick up even the slightest vibration, and their job is to transmit that information to the brain.
Cats are able to get lots of information about their immediate surroundings through this mechanism. For instance, the whiskers help determine how far away an object is, as well as its texture and relative size. Cats also use their whiskers to quickly decide whether they will be able to fit through a small gap! And whiskers are even used as a means of expressing their emotions.
If your cat is feeling contented, their whiskers will be relaxed, whereas if they are feeling anxious or threatened their whiskers will become more rigid, standing on end.
Why do cats need long whiskers?
Since a cat’s short-distance vision is not that good, the whiskers help to protect your cat by alerting it to anything that comes close to the face, especially around the area of the eyes. For this perception to be correct, the whiskers need to remain at their natural length.
Long whiskers also help your cat with hunting, running, jumping, and moving quickly and safely at night when visibility is very limited. Since they allow cats to judge the distance and speed of moving objects, it is important that they remain intact.
Here’s why you should never trim them
We advise against trimming whiskers because you would effectively remove one of your cat’s most important senses, meaning it may very well become distressed and disorientated as a consequence of its sudden change in perception. They may become fearful, disorientated, or less confident moving around because they will be less aware of their surroundings. They may be a bit clumsier and may even get stuck when trying to get through tiny gaps that are too small for them.
Whiskers don’t grow continuously, so your cat will be stuck with short whiskers and the side effects.. At least until the old one falls out, and a new one grows back in.
Do they grow back?
Yes, whiskers do grow back! If you notice your cat has lost a whisker, or you find one on the floor that has fallen out, you might be concerned. Thankfully, it will be replaced in time, so you don’t need to worry too much if you notice one or two are missing!
Additional reading: This is why your cat is losing whiskers on one side
Why are my cat’s whiskers so long?
Whiskers grow to a length similar to and in proportion to the width of their body. The longer the whiskers are, the easier they will be able to tell your cat whether their body fits through small or narrow gaps so that they don’t get stuck! Their whiskers also have to be long to be able to feed back sensory information about their surroundings and act as a second pair of eyes when visibility is poor.
Conclusion: cutting cat whiskers is a big no-no
Cats’ whiskers aren’t just for looking pretty! They’re actually a very clever method of keeping your cat safe during their active lifestyle of running, jumping, hunting, and playing! Never cut your cat’s whiskers – they need them as nature intended!
Thanks for the article. I just watched a news piece about a cat show in Brazil. They were trimming a cat’s whiskers. The cat looked quite PO’d. I was thinking hey those are sensitive so I came here.