Do cats lose whiskers?

Cat owners know how important whiskers are to the pet. This is why owners would be concerned upon seeing the whiskers shed by the pet. Whiskers are much longer and bigger than the normal hair of the pet thus they would be easily noticed. Is it normal for cats to shed their whiskers? Cats lose whiskers. Although different in size and length, whiskers are hairs and therefore would go through the shedding process.

Whiskers are hairs made from the same substance normal hairs are made of. Whiskers though are much longer and bigger and rooted in hair follicles that are richly supplied with blood vessels and sensory nerves. This makes these special hairs extra sensitive to touch. Approximately 12 whiskers are arranged in four horizontal rows on each side of the cat’s muzzle. These tactile hairs are also found above the eyes, on the chin and at the back of the front paws. Being deeply rooted on a sheath of well-developed muscle tissue, cats can easily move their whiskers.

Whiskers are very important to cats as these special hairs perform various functions. Cats use their whiskers to communicate…with other cats, with other animals and with humans. Whiskers are mood indicators. Cat owners that have observed the behavior of the pet would learn that pulled back whiskers indicates anger or defensiveness. Whiskers held back against the cheeks denote fear; pushed forward means that the cat is curious. A contented cat holds the whiskers slightly to the side. The most important function of whiskers is to help the cat find its way around. Cats are nocturnal hunters and even if they are famed for having excellent night vision, their ability to navigate in the dark is partly due to the whiskers. Whiskers are very sensitive to air currents thus these hairs provide cats with valuable data about their environment. Cats can run in the dark without bumping into things. This is because the whiskers would alert the cat to the change in air currents made by objects on its path. Whiskers are good indicators of the width of the hole or space the cat would like to enter. Whiskers are practically the same as the width of the cat’s body thus if the whiskers would not touch the side of the space, it means that the cat can easily enter. The cat can therefore chase a prey or get away from a chasing predator. Without these radar-like hairs, cats would be lost and confused. Cats cannot see the outline of the prey and therefore would not be able to deliver the bite that would bring instantly kill the prey.

Just like ordinary hairs, whiskers would go through the shedding process. Cats do lose their whiskers but these animals would not altogether lose their all-important communication and navigational tool. It is quite fortunate that whiskers are not shed all at the same time. Some cats though would be noticed to shed the whiskers excessively. Cats that are under some degree of stress can lose whiskers abnormally. Aging cats are more likely to lose whiskers as compared to younger cats. Losing more whiskers though can be attributed to the kind of diet the cat has or to an underlying health concern. Whisker loss can be prevented by providing the pet with highly nutritious foods. Supplements can help prevent whisker loss. The length and the size of the whiskers follow the size of the cat’s body. Weight loss is a common sign of poor health. Whiskers are shed to be replaced with new ones that will fit the cat’s new body size. This kind of whisker loss should alert the cat parents to the pet’s need for medical attention.