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Why Do Cats Have Whiskers on Their Eyebrows?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Cute cat with one blue and one green eye

When a little kid draws a picture of a cat, they usually put a handful of whiskers sprouting from each cheek. But if you look more closely, you’ll see that those whiskers are just the beginning of the story. Cats have cheek whiskers, but they also have lots of whiskers in other places, including on their eyebrows. These beautiful whiskers frame your cat’s face, but they also serve an important purpose. Eyebrow whiskers help protect your cat’s eyes from injury and play a big role in communication.

How Whiskers Work

Whiskers, also called vibrissae, are specialized hairs found in cats and many other mammals. Whiskers are longer and thicker than standard fur, but the thing that really makes them different is the whisker pad—that’s the area around each hair root. Each whisker is connected to a tiny capsule of blood that will get disturbed when the whisker moves. That blood then triggers a bunch of nerves that send a trigger to your cat’s brain. This means that your cat can feel a tiny brush on the tip of the whisker and use that brush to tell that something is nearby.

Why Eyebrow Whiskers?

Blue eyed snowshoe cat
Image Credit: Carole, Pixabay

Cats have whiskers on their cheeks, chin, paws, and eyebrows to help them learn about the world around them. The whiskers above their eyes are called superciliary whiskers and they have a special purpose. These whiskers help protect your cat’s eyes by signaling if anything gets too close to your cat’s eyes. If something bumps a cat’s superciliary whiskers, it will automatically blink. This might be a sudden change in air pressure, or it might be an object moving towards your cat’s face. If your cat is moving around in the dark, it helps your cat avoid running head first into a wall.

This is especially important when a cat is hunting. When cats are stalking their prey, their eyes are totally focused on the hunt. They are paying close attention to what’s going on in the middle of their vision, but their peripheral eyesight isn’t registering. Something like a dusty draft of air might take your cat completely by surprise, blowing sand into your cat’s delicate eyes. But thanks to the whisker reflex, your cat will naturally blink right in time.

Whisker Communications

Along with sensory information, cats can also use whiskers to communicate. Whiskers are an essential part of reading your cat’s mood. If whiskers are angled forward, your cat is probably feeling happy, curious, and engaged. But when cats get irritated, they might twitch their whiskers. And when your cat is scared or stressed, it will probably pull back its whiskers against its face to protect them.

Avoiding Whisker Stress

tabby cat lying on the floor with half close eyes
Image By: Annette Meyer, Pixabay

Because there are so many nerves right around a cat’s whiskers, too much touching can be painful or stressful for your cat. You should never pull on your cat’s whiskers—that’s even more painful than pulling on their other hair! You might also notice that some cats avoid deep food and water dishes. If the dishes are deep enough that your cat has to stick its whole face in the bowl and trigger the whiskers, it might decide that stealing water from the toilet is a better option. Switching your cat’s dish for a shallower bowl will solve that problem.

Finally, you might wonder what happens if something cuts off or tears out your cat’s whiskers. The good news is that since the whiskers themselves are just made of hair, they’ll grow back. Within a couple of months, your cat will be back to normal. But you shouldn’t ever cut off whiskers on purpose. That’s because your cat relies on them so much—almost like a sixth sense. Losing them can be disorienting for your cat, and until they grow back your cat will be missing that extra warning system to keep them safe.

Last Thoughts

Eyebrow whiskers are beautiful, but they’re not just there for looks! These whiskers are a very important part of your cat’s sense of touch. They help your cat get around in the dark and keep their eyes safe from danger. They also offer a great window into your cat’s mood. With all these incredible purposes, we are sure glad that our cats have them!


Featured Image Credit: 12222786, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

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