Have you ever looked closely
Emmy Lou at a cat's whiskers? I had an excellent opportunity to do so early in the morning as my cat woke me up by rubbing my nose with her face. I was fascinated to notice that the whiskers emerged from her cheeks in a square, checkerboard arrangement. They grew out in prefectly straight rows and columns. Of course this started me wondering why.

What reason could there be for this marvelous pattern? Could this be some evolutionary result? Well, evolution postulates adaptation by natural selection. At some point in the dim depths of prehistory, some cat must have been born with whiskers in this pattern and it provided an important enough advantage to allow it to pass on this genetic trait to more offspring than those without it.

Yeah, right.

Anything else? Chance mutation just isn't a conceivable possibility. This sort of thing can only happen puposefully. There, staring me in the face (wanting her breakfast) was not only a darling cat, but also a sure sign from God.

Look at Me!

God cries out to us even in the simple creation of this pattern of a cat's whiskers.
I am The Creator!

He alone and no one else can perform these acts. With infinite care and patience He tends to even the tiniest details. With awesome power God sculpts out mountains and oceans. With the same love he places a dimple on a baby's cheek. Look around you; the entire world screams out
God made this!

With purpose, plan, care, and love. God made this world. And He placed the whiskers on my cat. And He made you. He gave you life. What an awesome gift. Have you thanked Him for it lately?

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Many of you who have found this page have been searching for information about cat whiskers. Listed here are some of the topics you've been interested in. Please click on any of them for more information.

Why do cats have whiskers?

What purpose do cat whiskers serve?

How many rows of whiskers do cats have?

How long are a cat's whiskers?

My cat's whiskers are shriveling or getting shorter. What's wrong?

What are cats' whiskers made of?

If you have any other questions, please write to chien@chienworks.com and i'll try to find the answers for you.

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Why do cats have whiskers?
  • Why? Hmmmmm. Good question. I haven't the foggiest clue. I'm a scientist, not a philosopher. But maybe the answer to the next question will be helpful for you anyway.
What purpose do cat whiskers serve?
  • The whiskers are a very delicate sense organ. The slightest contact, even a soft breeze will cause them to move. The base of each whisker is connected to very sensitive clump of nerves that detects these minute movements. In this way cats can often sense objects (mice, rats, clumsy people) moving around them. They also help them move around in the dark without bumping into things.
  • Whiskers also serve another important purpose. They tend to stick out as far as the widest part of the cat's body. When a cat is trying to escape from a predator and looking for an appropriate hole to dive into, it can sense whether the hole is large enough simply by sticking it's nose into the opening. If it can get it's whiskers into the hole without them touching on both sides then it knows the hole is wide enough for it's body to fit in as well.
How many rows of whiskers do cats have?
  • Well, lets see. I examined my three cats this morning and counted carefully (which is something that i suppose you could have done with your own cat just easily as i did with mine). I found four clearly defined rows of whiskers on each side of their faces. I also noticed a few smaller and very fine whiskers emerging somewhat randomly below the bottom row. So i guess i'll say the answer to this question is four and a half. Keep in mind though that all my cats are basic domestic short-hair mixed breed (mutts) and may not be representative of all the different breeds in existance. Find a friendly neighborhood cat and check for yourself.
How long are a cat's whiskers?
  • As noted in the answer about the purpose of whiskers, the whiskers tend to be just long enough to reach out as far as the cat's body is wide. Larger and fatter cats will usually have longer whiskers than smaller skinnier cats.
  • This isn't always true though. Old whiskers will fall out to make room for new replacements. The replacements must grow to full size so they will be shorter until they are full grown. There is also variation from one cat to the next (as with most any characteristic of any living thing). My smallest cat has very long and thick whiskers that protrude at least 2 inches (5cm) past her body width. I have no idea why. Maybe she's just extra healthy. See the next response ...
My cat's whiskers are shrivelling or getting shorter. What's wrong?
  • This is probably a sign that your cat is sick. Keep in mind that the whiskers tend to stick out as far as the cat is wide. If your cat loses weight, the longest whiskers will fall out to make room for newer shorter ones that will be the right length. But if you see the ends shrivelling or drooping, that usually means that your cat is losing weight too fast. Get him or her in to a veterinarian's office as soon as possible.
What are cats' whiskers made out of?
  • Cat's whiskers are made out of the same stuff as the rest of their hair is, in fact the same stuff that makes up the hairs of all mammals, even us humans. The main substance in hair is keratin. Keratin is a colorless protein that is mostly a stiffening and strengthening agent (sort of like starch or glue except that starch is a carbohydrate).
  • The hair that you see is dead, but inside the skin it is alive and growing. Each hair (or whisker) is a long line of cells very similar to skin cells, formed inside a pocket called a follicle. As the hair grows the cells get stacked up and pushed out through the skin. These cells pick up a supply of keratin which eventually dries and hardens as the cells die. Whiskers are simply thicker stronger hairs.