There are many things that plague cat owners – is the cat sleeping too much? Is he getting enough exercise? Is he a healthy weight? But one of the lesser answered questions is, do cat’s whiskers fall out?
This is one of the most common things that cat owners see, and it can be pretty scary since these long, thick hairs look as though they are firmly fixed in the felines face. But there is no need to be too concerned, much like the other hairs on the cat’s body, whiskers are just as prone to shedding. In this article, we will take a closer look at what this means, why it happens, and when you can expect the whiskers to reappear.
The facts about Cat’s Whiskers
Before you start panicking and rushing your cat to the vet, it is essential to remember that whiskers are a type of hair. While they may not be the same as the soft fur that covers the rest of the animal, they are still classed as hair.
Compared to the rest of your cat’s hair, her whiskers are much longer, more firmly lodged into the skin, thicker, and a lot firmer and there is a good reason for this. Whiskers are mainly used as a way of helping your cat see, especially in the dark. The hair follicle of the whiskers is filled with nerve endings and blood vessels, unlike other hairs on the body, and this means that they are much more sensitive.
When your puss doesn’t have the best visibility, she will use her whiskers as a way of sensing things that are close to her face, allowing her to get a better understanding of her surroundings. Cats do have good night vision even without their whiskers, but these additional sensory aids make life a lot easier for your pet.
To answer the question of whether a cat’s whiskers should fall out – it is normal for them shed in a similar fashion to other hairs. Still, if they are falling out at an exceptionally fast rate, or are incredibly sparse, this could be cause for concern. In this instance, there may be an underlying health problem that should be addressed by your vet.
How Do Whiskers Work?
Whiskers, while they have nerve endings in the follicles don’t have any nerve endings in the lengths and as such, are unable to feel anything by themselves. However, if you kitty brushes against something, this causes a deep vibration to filter down to the nerve endings in the hair follicle – thus alerting your cat to a potential obstruction or hazard. Funnily enough, the scientific name for whiskers is vibrissae which comes from the Latin for vibrate.
One of the ways in which your cat will use her whiskers is to determine how wide an opening is and whether she can easily pass through it. In most cats of a healthy weight, the whiskers will be the same width as the largest point of the animal – this helps your cat work out whether they can fit thought space. If their whiskers won’t go through comfortably, neither will the rest of the cat. It is for this reason that you may see a cat sussing out a catflap, window, or another gap before she moves through it.
But did you know that cats also have whiskers on their legs? These ones, which tend to go more unnoticed than the prominent ones on her face, are used to help her hunt prey – although let’s face it, most domesticated cats don’t make anywhere near as much use of these are wild cats, since they know where their bread is buttered!
You will have noticed that your cat has whiskers around her eyes too and these are quite often used as a way of warning the animal that something is close to her delicate eye area. It’s no secret that a poke in the eye is quite unpleasant for humans, and perhaps even less so for a cat. However, since these creatures love to explore, they need a way of avoiding long grass and other irritants touching their eyes – whiskers help them to do this.
Furthermore, whiskers are used to help your cat communicate, for example, if your cat wants to warn you or another animal that he isn’t feeling in a friendly mood, he might bend his whiskers backward to demonstrate this.
Why Do Cat’s Whiskers Fall Out?
There are several reasons why you might notice whisker loss in your cat. Some are natural and should not be a cause for concern, whereas others might be something a little more worrying.
- Humans can suffer from a condition known as alopecia, but it is not commonly-known that other mammals struggle with this too. Alopecia is essential a loss of hair at an abnormal rate – many humans with this condition suffer complete hair loss. In cats, this can also mean the shedding of the whiskers. If you have noticed that your pet has been shedding more fur than usual along with their whiskers, this could be enough to suggest that they have developed this condition, and advice from your vet is essential.
- Ringworm is a common ailment that can affect your feline friend, and in some cases, this can cause small patches of hair loss. If the condition happens to be in the locality of the whiskers, this could cause them to shed.
- We are all aware that humans can get acne – a skin condition that causes redness, spots, and pustules but did you know that this is something that can also affect your puss? Feline acne is more common than you might think and usually occurs on the face, particularly around the nose and mouth – the same place that the whiskers are located. This can cause the whiskers to dislodge and come away but is something that can be easily treated by your vet.
- There’s no denying that cats can suffer from mites and fleas from time to time, even with the best of care, but this can be something that could trigger the loss of their whiskers. You will notice that the skin in the affected area is usually irritated, but once again, this is something that can be quickly resolved.
- Cats can be quite territorial, and as a result, they can end up getting into regular fights – males especially. If this happens frequently enough, it can result in them losing their whiskers owing to the scratches and wounds they are likely to receive in this area. If you have noticed that your cat is scrapping more than usual, it may be a good idea to take action – your vet can advise you on the best things do to, however, keeping the cat indoors, cat-proofing and neutering are all ways that this can be dealt with.
- Much like their human counterparts, cats can develop allergies and skin conditions related to these allergies. One of the most common is dermatitis which can cause severe irritation and, as a result, cause the whiskers to shed. Once again, this is a mild health concern and something that can be very easily treated.
- Slightly more seriously are auto-immune conditions and hyperthyroidism, which can affect felines. These conditions can cause a variety of issues for your pet, whisker loss being one of them. It is imperative that you discuss this matter with your vet, who can help to diagnose and treat these kinds of conditions.
Of course, many of the above illnesses and issues sound a little frightening; after all, no pet parent wants their cat to suffer or be uncomfortable. However, as we mentioned earlier, whiskers do naturally shed and just like the other hairs on your cat’s body, will grow back at some point. If the animal is merely losing one whisker at a time and has no other symptoms, it is likely that this is just a natural process.
For most kitties, it is normal to lose around two or three whiskers – you might think about it like human teeth. As your adult teeth begin to push through, the baby teeth are pushed out of the way and eventually come out altogether. This is a similar process to the cat’s whiskers. As new ones develop, the old ones fall out.
How Do I Know When It Is Time To See The Vet?
If you have noticed significant whisker loss coupled with other symptoms such as the ones we have discussed above, then this could be an indication that your cat is suffering from an underlying health condition. The best thing you can do at this point is to book an appointment to see the vet who can talk through your concerns and diagnose any potential problems.
However, even if it seems that your cat is losing whiskers naturally, you may still be concerned, and there is no harm in having him checked over. If there isn’t an issue, at least you will feel reassured.
Will Losing His Whiskers Hurt My Cat?
One of the major concerns for proud puss parents is that their cat may be in pain when losing his whiskers, but this shouldn’t be a huge concern.
While losing whiskers may cause the cat to feel something, unlike when regular hair falls out, the pain, or sensation that they feel is minute. It is also important to remember that when whiskers dislodge naturally, your cat is unlikely to feel anything at all, it is when the whiskers are pulled out, that they may notice. You might compare it to a human having a single eyelash pulled out. This does cause an unpleasant sensation, but it isn’t hugely painful.
How Do I Keep My Cat’s Whiskers Healthy?
There is nothing that cat owners can do to improve the health of their cat’s whiskers – aside from ensuring that their kitty is well looked after in general. If your cat is well fed, well exercised, and up to date with her immunizations, she should be pretty healthy. However, as cats get older, you may notice that she develops health conditions, and this is quite normal.
In terms of whisker health, your cat will clean them and keep them maintained, so it is vital that you never attempt to trim them. There has been some suggestion in the past that owners should trim their cat’s whiskers, but this could not be further from the truth. The best thing that you can do for their whiskers is to simply let them be.
You may have heard an old wives tale that talks about a cat losing its balance if his whiskers are cut – it is important to remember that whiskers play no role whatsoever in the animal’s balance, but they do serve many other functions and should never be messed with. Under no circumstances should they ever be pulled out.
Of course, if you notice that your cat is losing whiskers at an unnatural rate, then it is time to call the vet and let them determine if there is an issue.
Cats have whiskers mainly for helping them navigate the world, but these long appendages are also used in communication. It is perfectly normal for your cat to shed her whiskers from time to time, although she will never lose them all at once. In the main, two or three whiskers will be naturally replaced at any one time.
There are some health conditions that could cause the cat to lose whiskers, including feline acne, immune disorders, and alopecia, but they can also fall out after a lot of fighting. If you notice that your cat has shed more than the average amount of whiskers and is experiencing other symptoms, it is crucial to get them checked over by your vet.