Second Chance: Wonderful World of Whiskers

Second Chance: Wonderful World of Whiskers

Dear Pet Column,

What are cats use whiskers for? I always imagined them to be like little antennae communicating with alien life forms?



Sincerely, Wondering about Whiskers

Dear Wondering, that is a very good question never before asked in over 9 years of Second Chance Pet Columns. And the question is made even more interesting in that the answer is robust.

I  will limit my response to the top 10 coolest whisker facts:

  • On average cats have 3 horizontal rows of 4 whiskers on each side of their face (total of 24 whiskers).
  • The root of each whisker connects to 200 or more nerve endings that transmit information directly to the feline brain.
  • The information transmitted helps cats navigate their environment – through whisker power cats avoid obstacles in their path and changes in air current (similar to if they were flying…which may be part of their evolutionary destiny…)
  • They help cats hunt – a blindfolded cat can still successfully capture prey with the help of whisker power.
  • Cats use whiskers to curl around prey to help determine if the subject is still alive and potentially dangerous.
  • Whisker length is typically proportional to the cat’s body to help determine what openings they can safely fit through. (Whiskers do not grow to keep pace with a cat’s appetite so fat cats tend to get stuck in things more often by misjudging its own body size.)
  • Whiskers can also grow on the backs of cat’s front paws to help them navigate across uneven ground and help determine the size of captured prey.
  • Whiskers also grow over cat’s eyes and on their chins – not as necessary for survival but, being responsive to touch, these add-ons improve the whole cuddly cat experience.
  • Do not trim a cat’s whiskers – this will disorient them – particularly in the dark.
  • Because whiskers are so cat-critical, they develop on the feline fetus before hair does (and despite being blind and deaf at birth a newborn’s whiskers are fully operational).

So sadly, there is no “evidence” that purr machines like me use our whiskers to communicate with alien life forms – however – we do use them for communication. For example when I have my whiskers out to the side, you can tell I am calm and friendly. Pointing my whiskers upward shows I am curious or excited; pointing them backward displays defensiveness or anger (which you will witness if you attempt to give me a bath for example…).



My name is Sequoia and I am only 9 weeks young. My whiskers and I were rescued from homelessness and arrived here at Second Chance with my littermates on our journey to find new families. I am well-socialized and sweet-natured.

I do happen to believe my whiskers occasionally register signals from other galaxies but I would prefer to find a home on this planet for now.

The Second Chance canine of the week is Pericles, a 2 year young Husky Catahoula mix (Huskahoula) who, despite being homeless, is very friendly, happy dude. I hope he finds a home for his whiskers too…

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

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