How Many Whiskers Do Cats Have

Orange and white cat with lots of whiskers

Whiskers are one of the most fascinating features of cats. These long, stiff hairs are found on a cat's face, above their eyes, on their cheeks, and below their chin. While it may seem like cats have an endless supply of whiskers, the number of whiskers a cat has is actually quite specific and plays an important role in their sensory perception and communication.

How Many Whiskers Do Cats Have

So how many whiskers do cats have? On average, adult cats have 12 whiskers on each side of their face, for a total of 24 whiskers. However, the number of whiskers can vary from cat to cat, with some cats having as few as eight whiskers and others having as many as 16 on each side.

In this blog, we'll examine the different types of whiskers cats have and what they are used for.


Why Do Cats Have Whiskers
Cute kitten with lots of cat whiskers

Whiskers, formally known as vibrissae, are not just decorative accessories for cats, but rather, they serve several important functions. First and foremost, whiskers are used for sensing the environment. Each whisker is filled with sensitive nerves that are connected to a cat's sensory organs. These nerves allow cats to detect even the slightest changes in their surroundings, such as changes in air currents or the movement of prey.

In fact, cats use their whiskers as an additional sense to navigate their surroundings, even in complete darkness.

In addition to sensing the environment, whiskers also play a role in communication between cats. Cats use their whiskers to express their mood and intentions to other cats. For example, when a cat is feeling threatened or aggressive, they may flatten their whiskers against their face to appear smaller and less intimidating. On the other hand, when a cat is feeling playful and curious, they may extend their whiskers forward to signal their interest in exploring their environment.

Whiskers are also important for a cat's overall physical health. They help cats maintain their balance and coordination and can even help prevent injury. For example, when a cat is jumping or climbing, their whiskers will signal to them whether they have enough room to clear the obstacle without bumping into it.

What Are Whiskers Made Of

So what are whiskers made of? Whiskers are actually made of the same material as a cat's fur and nails - keratin. Keratin is a protein that gives the whiskers their stiffness and durability.

Unlike fur, however, whiskers are deeply embedded in a cat's skin and are attached to specialized muscles that allow them to move and adjust as needed.


Types of Cat Whiskers

It's also worth noting that not all whiskers are created equal. Cats have different types of whiskers, each with its own specific function. Here's a closer look at the different types of whiskers and what they are used for.

Close-up of cats whiskers

Mystacial Whiskers: These are the long, thick whiskers that are located on a cat's upper lip and form a distinctive "moustache." Mystacial whiskers are the most well-known and easily recognizable type of whiskers on a cat's body. They are the most important type of whisker for a cat's sensory perception and are used for detecting objects and movement in their environment.

Mystacial whiskers are very sensitive and can detect changes in air pressure, which allows a cat to sense the location and movement of objects even in complete darkness. Additionally, mystacial whiskers are used to help a cat judge distances and navigate through tight spaces.

Superciliary Whiskers: These are the shorter, stiffer whiskers that are located above a cat's eyes. Superciliary whiskers are used for detecting objects that are directly in front of a cat. They are shorter and stiffer than mystacial whiskers and are less sensitive. However, they are still an important part of a cat's sensory system and help a cat navigate its environment more accurately.

Genal Whiskers: These are the whiskers that are located on a cat's cheeks, just below the eyes. Genal whiskers are longer and more flexible than superciliary whiskers and are used for detecting the width of openings and for detecting prey. They are particularly important for hunting, as they allow a cat to sense the size and shape of potential prey and judge whether it's worth pursuing.

Ventral Whiskers: These are the whiskers that are located on a cat's chin and throat. Ventral whiskers are shorter and less sensitive than other types of whiskers, but they still play an important role in a cat's sensory system. They are used for detecting vibrations, such as the purring of another cat or the movement of prey.



Cute green eyed cat with whiskers

While the number of whiskers a cat has may seem like a trivial detail, it actually plays a crucial role in a cat's sensory perception and communication.

By understanding the importance and function of whiskers, we can better appreciate these fascinating features of our feline companions. Whiskers are not just decorations, but rather, they are a key part of a cat's physical and emotional well-being.

As pet owners, it's important to appreciate and respect our cats' whiskers. It's also important to provide them with an environment that allows cats to use these important sensory tools to their full potential.