My cat has long whiskers. And she constantly rubs those whiskers on things, like they itch. I read up a bit, and it says that's just their way of declaring ownership with scent glands and such.

Okay, case closed. Except it really seems like she's frustrated with the sides of her face. And if you physically grab her whiskers and just kind of pull on them, she seems more satisfied than annoyed. Like she's happy you're pulling on them, and if you rub the base of the whiskers she seems even happier.

As a human who finds beards being itchy and wanting to shave, I am wondering about her point of view. I've read about trimming whiskers being cruel because cats want to use them for knowing how wide their bodies are etc. But she is clearly having issues with it and I can literally tug on the whiskers and she seems more relieved than annoyed.

Is there any record of overlong whiskers actually annoying a cat? Has a cat ever seemed happier after a whisker trimming? The cat hates nail clippings too, but foregoing that meant she cut up her ear scratching it. Is there something foundational about whiskers where it is not something you should ever worry about because "they are supposed to be as long as they are due to cat science" ?


5 Answers 5


What do her teeth look like? It seems to me like it's a matter of her gums being irritated. One of my cats had a bad case of gingivitis when I got him, and would aggressively rub his cheeks/teeth on everything he could.

If you cat has gingivitis it could be something as simple as brushing her teeth to get rid of the gum inflammation/irritation. You should be able to lift up your cat's lip to see if there's plaque on the teeth and if the gums look reddish/irritated. Otherwise it might be a good idea to make a quick stop by the vet in case it's something less visible/more serious.

  • 3
    Not all cases of gingivitis can be easily solved by brushing. Stomatitis can be bad enough to indicate removal of all of the cat's teeth to give the cat relief. I discussed it a bit here: pets.stackexchange.com/a/2004/224
    – Zaralynda
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:11
  • I don't know much about cat dentistry, looks okay to me. More generally, is it normal for a cat who is very picky about being touched to seem nonchalant and even pleased when you tug on their whiskers? She is picky but you can really literally pull them to the point where it tugs the skin on her face and she does not run away but goes with it and brushes against your hand harder. Apr 10, 2014 at 20:26
  • 1
    Well, looking under the light to the extent she allows, I guess the gums do look a bit red. I'll mention it to the vet. Apr 10, 2014 at 21:02

You should never cut a cat's whiskers. Doing some quick research found these pieces of information:




So whether or not the cat's whiskers are annoying the cat, it's far better than if you cut them. A potential issue like Gingivitis, as Matt said, is far more likely. If this has been going on for a little while, I would definitely recommend taking her into a veterinarian to get her teeth checked.

  • That is the kind of thing that is typically checked in a normal checkup with the veterinarian, so I hope you've been taking your cat to normal checkups. Unfortunately, all too often, people neglect to do regular checkups with cats.
    – Waterseas
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:44
  • I've of course read what's online, just pointing out that I find it weird that the cat seems to be not only fine with her whiskers being pulled on--but happy if you do it. It is counterintuitive, especially with a cat who is otherwise rather picky about almost everything. Apr 10, 2014 at 20:30
  • I assumed from your "Has a cat ever seemed happier after a whisker trimming?" that you hadn't read about whisker trimming. And I dunno, it's basically a form of grooming, unless of course you're tugging really hard, though I doubt you're doing such.
    – Waterseas
    Apr 10, 2014 at 20:49
  • 1
    I said "a cat" not "your cat" because I know what the Internet says, I'm just wondering how much science has really been done on this. I'm reminded of the Onion article "eggs good for you this week". The report urged Americans to increase egg consumption immediately, as eggs may be unhealthy again as soon as next Monday. Apr 10, 2014 at 20:57
  • @HostileFork Not sure what you mean by 'science done on this'. It's known to cause cats distress most of the time by cutting their whiskers. Not sure what kind of study you want honestly. XD It's a known fact.
    – Waterseas
    Apr 10, 2014 at 21:28

Your cat is scenting things, marking her territory.

Cats have scent glands on the sides of their face, lips, head, and chin (other locations as well). Normal cat behavior is to rub the sides of their face on objects, wall and furniture corners, and people to mark them as their territory or as something friendly or familiar.

Some cats mark more than others. You can experiment with this by plopping something new down in front of your cat, like a coffee mug or something larger. Your cat may sniff it then start rubbing his face on it. Your cat may also want to scent you when you change clothes or after bathing to re-scent you.

I wasn't sure about your cat liking his whiskers manipulated so I just went and gently stroked one of mine's and he began purring, so I guess they like it and see it as grooming.


I don't think your cat is "annoyed" with its whiskers.

It could have mouth problems (tooth issues, jawbone issues) as Matt suggested.

It could have a skin allergy and want to scratch its face.

It could be normal and getting a misinterpretation on its behavior from you.


Whiskers are important for ballance they give feedback on velocity, and position. I would not shave them or do anything to them.


She almost certainly has problems with her teeth and needs a vet.

It may not be serious, but immediate action needs to be taken. Action now can save further problems (and costs) later on.

This shows some other symptoms of dental problems in cats: http://www.catchannel.com/magazines/catfancy/february-2012/signs-of-oral-pain.aspx

Most cats will need some dental work in their life, so if she's above 5 years old then this adds even more weight to the argument.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.