Do cats have eyelashes?

She kittens are often drawn with cutesy large eyes. The laughing eyes with its long eyelashes give the feline a flirty look. In cartoons, eyelashes differentiate a female cat from a male cat. But do cats really have eyelashes? Due to the fur that covers the face it would be quite hard to see if the cat has eyelashes. However, a curious cat owner that intently looks at the pet’s eyes would discover that cats do not have eyelashes.

Mammals have hairs. Hairs are exclusive to the mammalian group of animals. Mammal hair is basically a long chain of protein molecules called keratins. Hair grows from various parts of a mammal’s body. These filamentous outgrowths differ in color and texture. Cats are mammals and therefore expected to have hairs. Aside from the fur covering, cats also have whiskers. These specialized hairs are highly tactile. Whiskers are found on the whisker pads on the outer edges of the cat’s nose, on the chin and on the area above the eyes where eyebrows should be. These tactile hairs also grow at the back of the cat’s front legs. Cats indeed are hairy animals…but one type of hair that they do not have are eyelashes.

Cats have the largest eyes among mammals. The structure of cat eyes though is very similar in structure to human eyes. One noticeable difference is the absence of eyelashes in cats. Humans have eyelashes. Some animals like horses, giraffes, pigs and camels have these hairs too. This is one kind of hair that kitty does not have. In humans, eyelashes or lashes are the hairs that grow on the edge of the upper and the lower eyelids. Like humans, some animals would have lashes on both the upper and lower eyelids. Other animals would grow eyelashes only on the upper eyelids.

Just like an eyebrow, the primary function of eyelashes in lower forms of animals is to protect the eyes. In humans, eyelashes have the same function too but this hair type is as well important for its aesthetic value. Eyelashes, especially long ones enhance feminine allure. This is why women in many cultures have taken to enhancing the appearance of the eyelashes by using cosmetics and augmenting the length artificially. In animals, eyelashes are more important for the eye protection they offer. Just like whiskers, eyelashes are highly tactile hairs. Once touched, the eyelids would close reflexively thereby protecting the eyes from the “invasion” of dust, debris and insects.

Cats do not have eyebrows…these animals do not have eyelashes either. So how would these creatures protect their eyes from foreign debris? Considering the size of the cat’s eyes, it is expected that they will be more prone to irritations. It would not be uncommon for the cat’s eyes to have foreign matters like seeds, dust and small particles of dirt. Even their own fur can get into the eyes. Unlike humans that can flush the foreign objects from the eyes, cats do not have a way of removing these irritants. These animals would normally rub the eyes with the paws or rub the eyes against objects. This can ultimately lead to infections. In spite of the fact that cat’s eyes are not protected by eyelashes (and eyebrows) eye irritations that are caused by foreign objects are not very common. This is because a cat’s head and face are already covered by fur. This fur covering acts as a very large “eyebrow” and very long “eyelashes” that prevent foreign matters from getting into the eyes. Eyelashes would give a giraffe’s face a peaceful look…an elephant a sleepy and calm appearance. Cats don’t need eyelashes to enhance their appearance as in their own right, they are already beautiful animals.