Maine Coon whiskers are a fascinating feature and play an essential role in their daily lives. They are much more than a decorative feature.
Maine Coons have long whiskers that reach up to 6 inches in length. Whiskers play a crucial role in assisting a Maine Coon’s vision, passing sensory input to its brain as it navigates its world. Though described as tactile, whiskers themselves are not sensitive. The mystacial pads they grow from do the work!
What Are Maine Coon Whiskers?
Whiskers are tactile hairs that are about 3 times thicker than the hair that makes up a cat’s coat. The correct name for whiskers is vibrissae which comes from the Latin word vibrio meaning vibrate.
Each time any Maine Coon whisker comes into contact with an object, a message is relayed to the cat’s brain to let it know the size and closeness of whatever its whiskers have touched.
Cats have several sets of vibrissae. The ones referred to as whiskers are those that sprout from each side of a cat’s muzzle.
These are also known as mystacial whiskers because they grow from muscular areas on each side of a cat’s muzzle know as mystacial pads.
Sensory hairs also grow above a cat’s eyes giving the impression of eyebrows, on their chins like a sparse beard, and from the back surface of their forelegs – these are difficult to spot on a long-haired cat like a Maine Coon.
Why Do Maine Coons Have Whiskers?
Whisker messages are invaluable in many ways. A Maine Coon uses them to establish if it can fit through a gap. They also help it navigate its way expertly in the dark.
Whiskers detect nearby dangers because they are atuned to minute air current changes which can signify an approaching danger.
This same air change detection alerts a Maine Coon to moving prey making whisker an invaluable aid for hunting.
Why Do Maine Coons Have Such Long Whiskers?
The length of a Maine Coon’s mystacial whiskers is relative to its natural body size. A small Maine Coon might have 4-inch whiskers whereas a heavier specimen can have whiskers that are about 6-inches long.
Mystacial whiskers are proportionate to a Maine Coons size so they can help it judge the size of any space it is considering entering.
If a cat is overweight, its whiskers won’t suddenly increase in length to match its girth! This is just one of many reasons to keep a Maine Coon at a healthy weight.
You will also notice that some Maine Coon whiskers are considerably longer than others. This is perfectly normal in all cats.
The number of Maine Coon Whiskers
On average, cats have 8 to 12 mystacial whiskers on each side of their muzzle. Maine Coons tend to have 16 each side – you just know these cats always have to outdo other cats in every aspect.
My red tabby Maine Coon has 4 rows of 4 whiskers on each side of his face. Can you count them?
The Color of Maine Coon Whiskers
Like most cats, Maine Coons generally have white whiskers no matter what color their fur is. Some with black or grey coats have darker whiskers.
Maine Coon whiskers can change color. Every whisker on my red tabby was white when he was younger, as you can see above.
Harry’s 15 now and some of his whiskers have turned black, as you can see below! Please excuse his appearance, he’s just recovering from a urine infection!
You don’t need to do anything to look after your Maine Coon’s whiskers. The less you touch them, the better. Whiskers never need trimming and you should not attempt to groom them in any way.
If you cut a cat’s whiskers you are effectively removing one of its important senses. It will feel completely disoriented, especially in the dark.
Being unable to feel its environment will leave it scared and confused. The message here is you should leave a cat’s whiskers well alone.
You only have to brush a Maine Coon’s whiskers accidentally and you’ll notice it will flinch and move its face away from your hand. Whiskers are sensitive and no cat will be happy if you fiddle with them.
You may notice cat whiskers lying around your house from time-to-time. Don’t worry – it’s perfectly natural for Maine Coons to shed whiskers and they do grow back. You can take advantage of this situation to measure one to see how long it is.
If your Maine Coon loses too many whiskers at once and it’s really noticeable, this will impede its ability to sense its surroundings adequately.
This is not normal in a healthy cat and you should immediately seek your vet’s advice.
The Appearance of Maine Coon Whiskers
Some whiskers are straight:
Some whiskers are quite curly:
Whiskers can also tell you something about your Maine Coon’s mood.
Whiskers sticking out sideways signify a relaxed, calm cat.
If they seem to be pointing forwards, this is a sign of an alert cat that may be excited about something.
Watch out for whiskers positioned flat against a cat’s cheeks as it could be angry – this can also be a sign of fear.
Maine Coon Whisker Fatigue
You may have heard mention of whisker fatigue and thought that can’t be a real thing – well it actually is. It’s a condition that occurs when a cat’s sensitive whiskers are knocked on a regular basis.
The most common cause of whisker fatigue is the wrong shaped food and water bowls. Cats that suffer from this may avoid eating and drinking because of the discomfort it causes them.
It’s easy to relieve the stress of whisker fatigue by choosing dishes that won’t make them knock your cat’s whiskers. Wide, shallow, plates are best for food and large water bowls or water fountains are recommended.
The CatGuru Whisker Stress-Free cat food bowl is the ideal food dish to relieve whisker stress as it’s shallow and wide.
Other features are a non-slip base and the fact that the size makes it harder to overfeed your cat. It comes in a pack of two so you can use one for wet and one for dry food.
I also recommend the PetSafe Drinkwell Fountain as it’s wide enough to prevent a cat knocking its whiskers, has a flow of water to drink from like a tap and it filters the water constantly.
One other feature makes it better than many others – the water is still accessible if there’s a power cut.
Maine Coon Whiskers – Conclusion
They are quite a feature, but Maine Coon whiskers also serve an important purpose int its life.
Make sure you don’t interfere with your cat’s whiskers, prevent whisker fatigue, and have its health checked if too many fall out.
And don’t forget how to tell its mood by taking one quick glance at those gorgeous, long, vibrissae!
Whiskers are one of many stunning Maine Coon facial features. Find out everything you need to know about those beautiful Maine Coon ear tufts.