Have you ever taken the time to look closely at the cat’s face? Surely you have seen the impressive arrangement of the whiskers. A cat’s whiskers are arranged in perfect columns and rows. Whiskers are highly tactile sense organs that have an important purpose in a cat’s existence. Whiskers are bigger than the normal hair but they are made from the same stuff normal hairs are made of. Just as with normal hair, whiskers would fall out to give way for new whiskers to come out. For cat owners that wonder if the pets lose whiskers, the answer is yes. But there is no cause for concern, the whiskers will grow again… and will be shed again.
What are whiskers and why are these special hairs important to cats? On each side of a cat’s face are the 24 whiskers arranged in four horizontal rows. Shorter whiskers are found on the chin, above the eyes and at the back of the cat’s forelegs. Whiskers or vibrissae are thicker and stiffer hairs. These deeply rooted hairs are highly tactile. Whiskers are used as communication tools that convey the cat’s emotions. Cats also use the whiskers as navigational equipment. Being highly sensitive, the whiskers alert that cat to the changes of the air current in a room. Cats use the whiskers to gauge the size of a hole. When following a prey or when escaping from predators, a cat would fan out the whiskers. If the whiskers do not touch the sides of the hole, it means that the body of the cat can easily fit into the tight space. Being important survival tools, cat owners are advised not to cut the pet’s whiskers.
Cat parents should not be concerned if some whiskers along with the normal hair are seen on the couch or on the spots where the pet usually lounges. Losing whiskers is a part and parcel of the shedding process thus shed whiskers would be seen from time to time. Whiskers are much bigger than the cat’s normal hair thus a shed whisker will be very noticeable. Cats do not shed all the whiskers at the same time. However, some cats would lose whiskers excessively and the reason for the whisker loss is other than normal shedding. Cats provided with inadequate diet are more likely to lose whiskers as compared to well-nourished pets. Aging humans are more susceptible to hair loss. The same thing is true with cats. The coats of elderly cats would not be as thick or a soft as the coats of young cats. This concern can be remedied by providing the senior cat with a nutrient-rich diet and with supplements. Whisker loss can be due to stress. Mental stress that occurs when a cat is transferred to a new home, a change of diet or the introduction of an aggressive pet that torments the cat are some of the reasons why a cat would lose some of its whiskers. A more serious cause of whisker loss is health concern. One common sign of feline health concern is weight loss. The size and length of the whiskers practically varies with the body size of the pet. Whisker loss can be a sign that the cat is sick. Fully fanned out, the length of the whiskers would be about the width of the body. Sick cats would lose weight thus to conform to the size of the body, the whiskers will be shed to give way for the growth of new whiskers that would be shorter. As mentioned, whiskers are not shed all at once. Droopy whiskers can be the cat’s signal for help. The cat would need immediate veterinary attention because the health concern is making the pet loss weight very fast.