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Are cat whiskers only black and white?

Cat whiskers come in a variety of colors, not just black and white. The color of a cat’s whiskers is determined by the color of the cat’s coat. Just like cat fur, whiskers can be black, white, red, cream, brown, gray, or even a mixture of colors.

What are cat whiskers?

Whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are thick, long hairs that grow in patterns on a cat’s muzzle, above its eyes, and on its forelegs. The whiskers on a cat’s muzzle are the longest and most prominent. Whiskers are actually touch receptors that help cats sense their surroundings and navigate spaces.

Here’s an overview of cat whiskers:

  • Whiskers are thicker and more deeply rooted than other hair.
  • They have touch-sensitive nerve endings at their base.
  • They aid cats in spatial awareness and hunting at night.
  • Whiskers indicate the width of spaces a cat can fit through.
  • Whiskers help cats avoid eye injuries.
  • Whiskers grow back if they break off.

In addition to whiskers around its face, a cat will also have shorter whiskers growing on its wrists, legs, ears, and eyebrows. These other whiskers provide additional sensory information.

Whisker Color Depends on Fur Color

A cat’s whiskers will always match the color of its coat, even if the fur color varies in different parts of the body. For example:

  • A tuxedo cat will have black whiskers on the black parts of its body and white whiskers on the white areas.
  • A tortoiseshell cat will have black, orange, and mixed whiskers matching its patchwork coat.
  • A cat with brown tabby striped fur will have banded brown tabby stripes on its whiskers as well.

This synchronization happens because whiskers and regular hair have the same melanin pigments. As the cat’s follicles produce fur, they also produce matching whiskers.

Common Cat Whisker Colors

While cat whiskers come in many colors, these are some of the most common whisker shades:


Solid black whiskers are found on black cats. Black whiskers are also very common as part of a bicolor tuxedo pattern.


Bright white whiskers occur on white cats. White whiskers also appear as part of tuxedo, “mittens,” and “boots” markings.


Red whiskers can range from pale orange to deep reddish-brown. They appear on red, red tabby, cinnamon, and cream-colored cats.


Gray whiskers in various shades of charcoal occur on blue, lilac, and silver cats. Gray whiskers are also found on gray tabby cats.


Rich brown whiskers can be seen on chocolate and cinnamon-colored cats. Brown whiskers also accompany the darker brown stripes on brown tabby cats.

Multiple Colors

Cats with multicolored coats like calicos, tortoiseshells, and torbies will have whiskers with a mix of black, red, cream, and gray colors.

Do Breeds Have Distinctive Whiskers?

While whisker color corresponds with coat color, most cat breeds do not have distinctive whisker features. However, there are a few exceptions:

Turkish Angora

This ancient breed is known for its long, silky coat and furry tufts on the ears. Angoras also tend to have exceptionally long, thick whiskers.


The nearly hairless Sphynx cat actually does grow whiskers. Without fur, the Sphynx’s long, prominent whiskers are very visible.

Cornish Rex

The Cornish Rex has a short, fine coat. It usually sports curly whiskers that match the waves of its fur.

American Wirehair

This breed’s springy, wiry fur gives it a whiskered look. Its whiskers are thicker than other breeds’.

Do Kittens Have Whiskers?

Kittens are born with some whiskers already emerged. These early whiskers help guide nursing newborn kittens to their mother’s milk. More whiskers grow in quickly during the first few weeks of a kitten’s life.

Here’s a timeline of kitten whisker development:

  • At birth: Short whiskers around mouth and over eyes.
  • 1 week: Whiskers 1-2cm long. More emerging around face.
  • 2-3 weeks: Whiskers 2-3cm long. Also growing on legs.
  • 4 weeks: Whiskers full length. Kitten relies on whiskers to navigate.

Kittens’ whiskers are very fragile at first. Care should be taken not to damage them.

What Happens If Whiskers Are Cut?

Whiskers almost never need to be trimmed. But what happens if a cat’s whiskers are cut unexpectedly?

Whiskers are numbed during cutting so they do not hurt. However, losing whiskers can temporarily affect a cat’s spatial perception and balance. Snagged or cut whiskers usually grow back within 6 weeks.

To avoid cutting whiskers accidentally:

  • Use whisker-friendly food and water bowls.
  • Be careful when trimming fur around whiskers.
  • Never cut whiskers intentionally.

Whisker Color Changes

Kittens may be born with lighter whiskers that darken as they mature. Otherwise, it is extremely rare for whisker color to change significantly during a cat’s life.

Some minor whisker color shifts can occur due to:

  • Coat color changes with seasons
  • Variation in follicle pigment over time
  • Skin discoloration from trauma or infection
  • Natural color fading in old age

Dramatic or inconsistent whisker color changes could signal a health problem. Schedule a vet visit if your cat’s whisker colors seem off.

Whisker Facts

Here are some additional fascinating facts about cat whiskers:

  • The whiskers above a cat’s eyes are arranged in neat horizontal rows.
  • Whiskers always grow back the same length after being cut.
  • Whiskers help cats judge if they can fit through an opening.
  • Never pull on a cat’s whiskers, as they are very sensitive.
  • Whiskers aid cats in detecting changes in air currents.
  • A cat will often position its whiskers forward when hunting.
  • There are about 12 whiskers in each row on a cat’s muzzle.


While cat whiskers are often black and white, they actually come in many colors and patterns. A cat’s whisker color always matches the color of its coat. So don’t be surprised to see red, gray, brown, or multi-colored whiskers! Whiskers provide cats with essential sensory information about their surroundings.

Cat Whisker Color Frequency

Here is a table summarizing the most common whisker colors and their frequency in cat coats:

Whisker Color Frequency
Black Very common
White Very common
Red Common
Gray Common
Brown Less common
Mixed Common in multicolored cats

As shown, while black and white whiskers are prevalent, whiskers in shades of red, gray, and brown also occur regularly in cat populations.