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    Can you trim cat whiskers?

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    Whether they are long, straight and black, short, white and curled or somewhere in between, your cat’s whiskers are an indelible part of their adorable appearance. 

    Cat whiskers 101

    Cats are born with 24 whiskers: The two sets of 12 whiskers are arranged in four lines on each side of their face; cats also have whiskers on their upper lips, chins and above their eyes. 

    Although breed contributes to whisker length with longhaired breeds growing longer whiskers than shorthaired or hairless breeds, all cat whiskers share a few common characteristics: Whiskers are tapered, and the width of the hair is narrower at the tip and it’s natural for cats to shed their whiskers and grow back new ones.

    But whiskers are more than just aesthetic; the thick, coarse hairs also serve an important function.

    Why do cats need whiskers?

    Cats use their whiskers to gather important information about their environments. 

    The base of their whiskers has a lot of blood vessels and nerve endings that send important sensory information to their brains. Whiskers allow cats to gather details about distance, spatial orientation and even texture. Using their whiskers to figure out the size, shape and speed of objects in their environment also helps with navigation.

    Cats also communicate with their whiskers. You can learn information about their mood by looking at the position cats hold their whiskers. 

    Cats move their whiskers forward to convey excitement or stimulation; pin them against their face (to make them appear smaller) when feeling nervous or threatened; and let them relax to the sides when they feel relaxed.

    Can you trim your cat's whiskers?

    Whiskers are made up of protein called keratin; it’s the same protein in human hair. Since cat whiskers have no nerve endings, trimming them isn’t painful—but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    Your cat depends on their whiskers to navigate their environment and trimming them, even a little, alters their ability to pick up sensory cues; it could even put them in danger.

    Cat can spread out their whiskers as wide as their bodies, which helps them determine whether they can fit in an enclosed space. If their whiskers are trimmed, they may misjudge the size of a space and end up getting stuck. 

    Whiskers also contribute to a sense of balance. The sensory organs, called proprioceptors, at the end of their whiskers, help cats understand the position of their bodies in space, which helps them land safely.

    The fact that your cat’s whiskers are so important for their health and wellbeing means you should skip the whisker trims. More importantly, never, ever pull out your cat’s whiskers.

    Not only is pulling whiskers extremely painful for your cat, whiskers are called “blood hairs” because pulling a cat whisker out at the base will cause it to bleed profusely and may lead to infection.

    Instead of trimming or pulling your cat’s whiskers, appreciate their beauty and function—and remember that cat whiskers are believed to be good luck! 

    Learn more about your cat

    Cats communicate with their tails. Read more to learn what your cat's tail is telling you and what you can do to respect their furry space.
    Does your cat sleep several hours a day? Find out if your kittens habits are normal.