The 33-year-old summer capture from Middlesbrough takes the armband because Mark Hudson is ruled out.
Manager Chris Powell revealed centre-back Hudson will be out for at least three to four weeks with the injury which forced him off against QPR.
Whitehead has taken the armband before and Powell feels he is the natural replacement as leader.
Hudson’s replacement at the back, however, will be loan arrival from Bournemouth, Elliott Ward, a former West Ham teammate of Powell and who will be tasked with marking Cardiff frontman Kenwyne Jones.
“Elliott was the No1 centre-back at Bournemouth until early last season, when he got an injury, and with them going up it’s become even harder for him to get back in,” said Powell.
“He has done all the pre-season, though, I spoke to Eddie Howe about him and I’m delighted to have got him in.
“Elliott is very big, he is experienced at this level and, having played alongside him at West Ham and in a play-off final, I know how remarkably calm he is and what a good user of the ball he is.
“Not only that, but he is good in both boxes, and we just hope he comes in and adds to what we’ve got and helps us get that first win.”
On marking Jones, Powell added: “Wardy is big enough, but it will be a challenge for him and Joel Lynch and Martin Cranie and anyone else who might be in our defence.
“Wardy has played against him, though, and will have marked him in training when Kenwyne went to Bournemouth, so he will know what he is about.
“We know Cardiff like to play, but we also know they can knock it directly up front as well, so we have to be ready for that.”