A cat has about twenty-four movable whiskers, twelve on each side of its nose (some cat's may have more). Whiskers are more than twice as thick as ordinary hairs, and their roots are set three times deeper than hairs in a cat's tissue. Richly supplied with nerve endings, whiskers give cats extraordinarily detailed information about air movements, air pressure and anything they touch.
The scientific word for whiskers is vibrissae, a name that suggests their exquisite sensitivity to vibrations in air currents. As air swirls and eddies around objects, whiskers vibrate too. Cats use messages in these vibrations to sense the presence, size, and shape of obstacles without seeing or touching them. Whiskers are also good hunting tools. A cat whose whiskers have been damaged may bite the wrong part of a mouse it's attacking, indicating that signals from these delicate structures provide cats with vital information about the shape and activity of its prey - interestingly, whiskers also help cats smell odours.
Whiskers can also be a bother to a cat, especially if he tries to eat food out of a bowl. The end of the whiskers touching the side of the bowl transfer irritating sensations to his brain, making it hard for him to continue eating.
Whiskers are extremely sensitive as they are closely connected to the nervous system. Any damage to his whiskers will cause your cat discomfort, and he may become confused or disoriented. DON'T ever trim his whiskers, and DON'T ever wash them, he will keep them clean himself.
When kittens are cleaned by their mother, she may chew off some or all of the whiskers - don't worry, this is normal and they will soon grow back.
Cats also have a number of reinforced hairs similar to whiskers on other parts of their bodies: over the eyes, on the chin and at the back of the legs.