Cats in Culture
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The Myths and Folklore Behind Cat Whiskers

Are cat whiskers good luck? And why do some cat owners keep their cat’s whiskers? We answer that and more.

Cait Rohan Kelly  |  Jul 17th 2017


Many cat parents already know the cool scientific facts behind cat whiskers — they do tons of strange-but-true things like gauging spatial relations (for example: “Can I really fit into that little hole?”) and helping to capture prey. But few know the folklore and stories ­— real and imagined — behind your cat’s cool sensory accessory. See some of our favorite cat myths involving whiskers below, and what we deem as true and false.

A gray cat asleep with his whiskers out.

A gray cat asleep with his whiskers out. Photography by 3sbworld/Thinkstock.

Myth: Keep cat whiskers for good luck

Keeping your cat’s whiskers or using them as good-luck talismans? You’re not taking the crazy cat lady/cat man thing to the next level. Just as human parents do with baby teeth, tons of cat moms and dads treasure cat whiskers as keepsakes from their fur babies. Since cats don’t shed whiskers very often (if your cat is losing whiskers frequently, contact your vet), finding one is thought to be good luck. Cat owners put Fluffy’s fallen whiskers in jars, inside their purses or tape them to computer monitors as symbols of good fortune — and subtle reminders of their feline family members, no matter where their days take them.

True. Anything that calls to mind our beloved pets is a positive thing in our book. We say yes!

Myth: Use cat whiskers to escape a car accident “by a whisker”

Take the cat whisker keepsake thing to the next level — some spells say putting a cat whisker in a white bag inside of your car will guard against accidents, thieves, mechanical problems and tickets.

True. Since cars haven’t been around a long time, we surmise that this modern-day spell has recently tested as true.

Myth: Cat whiskers are powerful in other spells, too

Cats have often been associated with witches and witchcraft, so it makes sense that cat whiskers are prevalent in a few spells used for guidance, balance, travel, eye health and getting out of tight situations.

Hmm. We’ll have to get back to you on this one.   

Myth: The phrase “to be the cat’s whiskers”

You’ve probably heard the phrases “the cat’s meow” and “the cat’s pajamas” … but what about “the cat’s whiskers”? To “be the cat’s whiskers” is an idiom hailing from the 1920s that means to be excellent, superior or better than everyone else.

True. Cat whiskers go above and beyond a fancy face decoration, so we say this phrase rings in as just right!

Myth: Cat whiskers control balance

A cat with cut or damaged whiskers acts strange and disoriented — so those ever-powerful whiskers must control their balance too, right?

False. This one is false, and you should never cut or trim a kitty’s whiskers — they’re packed with sensory nerves and even a small whisker styling could seriously hurt your feline.

Thumbnail: Photography by darkbird77/Thinkstock.

Read more on cats and whiskers on Catster.com: