Whiskers - Page 1: Description | 2: Uses

The purpose of whiskers:

Cats, both wild and domestic, use whiskers for the same reasons:

    • Navigation (judging the width of openings and the location of objects in the dark).
    • To indicate mood.
      • For the catching of prey.

      As the tiger walks whiskers are bought forward to increase their sensing ability. The extreme sensitivity of the whiskers can register very small changes in air pressure that occur as the tiger nears an object. Along with excellent night vision, this enables the cat to avoid objects.


      Whiskers are a strong indication of a tiger's mood, with those of a calm cat turning down and at right angles to the face, while an angry animal has whiskers which are erect and widespread. This is obvious from the two tiger images displayed above.

Whiskers in catching prey:

When stalking prey a tiger must approach from downwind so as not to be detectable. Whiskers can detect even slight changes in the direction of a breeze so the tiger can compensate and increase its chances of success.

Whiskers also come forward when prey is seized in the jaws. At this stage the whiskers will make contact with the target and give the cat information regarding dinner. Though little is known about what information is passed on, studies have shown domestic cats are quite capable of seizing and killing prey, even whilst blindfolded, as long as their whiskers make contact with the prey. 

It is possible the whiskers help establish the position of prey and the correct area to apply the lethal bite. Tigers cannot focus their eyes on objects as close as prey held in the jaws and the whiskers may signal when the catch is dead.


The cheetah is a diurnal cat and hunts by day. Its whiskers are significantly less developed than night hunting cats; this is because the cheetah can depend more upon sight, so requiring less in the way of tactile signals.

Whiskers - Page 1: Description | 2: Uses

Taxonomy | Whiskers | Hearing & Ear Spots | Eyesight | Smell | Teeth | Communication | Flehman | Genetics |
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Photography With Thanks To Lisa Purcell
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.