Do cats shed whiskers?

Shedding is one of the downsides of keeping cats for pets. Cat lovers and cat owners must accept that keeping the home free of the hair shed by the cat is part and parcel of being a cat owner. Cats shed…it is a fact of life. Cats shed their hair and cats shed their whiskers too.

Cats have only very few whiskers. Although whiskers are shed, they are not shed all at the same time thus this is one type of shedding that will not bother the owners. Whiskers just like the hair and the nails are made from keratin. Because of the rather large size, whiskers are very noticeable. The owner will see one or two whiskers shed by the pet. Old whiskers will fall out to be replaced by new ones. Whiskers that drop off will grow back. Excessive shedding of whiskers is an indication of a health concern. A cat owner should seek medical attention for the pet especially if all the whiskers have dropped off. Whiskers should grow back in a few weeks but if the whiskers are not growing back, it is highly probable that the pet has an underlying health condition.

What are whiskers and why are these specialized hairs important to cats? Whiskers are also called vibrissae. These specialized hairs are stiffer and thicker than ordinary hair. Whiskers are deeply rooted on a sheath of nerve-rich tissue. Cats have a few whiskers above the eye line. Cats have twelve whiskers arranged in four rows on both sides of the face. Whiskers are as well found on the chin and on the legs. Whiskers are very important to cats as these specialized hairs gather data and provide cats with important feedback about their environment. Cats are nocturnal animals. It was once believed that cat can see in total darkness. Studies have proven that this theory is wrong. Cats really have excellent vision because they only need 1.6 of the illumination humans need to see but they would not be able to navigate in complete darkness. However, cats can run swiftly and unerringly capture the prey even in very low lights. This is all because of the amazing whiskers. Whiskers act as a radar-like device that immediately sense the change in air current if an object is on the cat’s path. Cats use whiskers as a measuring tool. When cats follow a prey into its burrow, the whiskers will give the cat information whether it will fit into the tight space or not. The length of whiskers is practically the same as the width of the cat’s body. Cats can enter the burrow if the whiskers do not touch the sides of the opening. Whiskers are as well used by cats to communicate with other animals and with humans.

Given the important functions of the whiskers to the survival of cats, a cat without whiskers would be disoriented, confused and even lost. It is rather a good thing that whiskers are not shed all at the same time and the one that was shed would regrow in a few weeks. Trimming or pulling off the whiskers must never be done as doing so would destroy the whiskers and put the cat at a great disadvantage. Shedding of whiskers is normal but if the cat is losing its whiskers excessively or when the cat has lost all its whiskers, it may be necessary to take the pet to a vet as it is possible that the cat has an underlying medical condition.