A cat’s whiskers not only make them appear super cute but also serve many different purposes. A cat’s whiskers help them with their navigation through their environment.
Whiskers are the most essential sensory organs for your feline friend. Just like human hair, a cat’s whiskers will grow back as long as the follicle is not injured. If a cat’s whiskers fall out, it takes them about two weeks to grow again.
It is perfectly natural for a cat’s whiskers to fall out if it is not too many of them. If you want to be aware of all there is to know about feline whiskers, peruse this article.
What are Cat Whiskers?
Like us, cats are covered with hair. However, hair is different for cats. Humans have hair on their heads, arms, and legs. Cats have hair all over their bodies. The area that they have that is unique to some animals is whiskers. Whiskers are described as tactile hairs. They are perfectly and adorably placed:
- Above the eyes
- Above the upper lip
- Either side of the nose
- Near the ears
- On the chin
- On the forelegs
Most cats have twelve whiskers on each cheek that are evenly placed in rows of four, three over each eye, and a few little whiskers on the chin. Believe it or not, your cat has whiskers on the back of their legs and the underside of their wrists.
These magical hairs serve many purposes for your furry feline. Their whiskers are made up of a protein called keratin and do not have nerves. The hair follicles at the bottom of the whisker contain nerve endings, blood vessels, and sensory neurons that deliver information to your cat’s brain.
What Do Whiskers Do?
The stiff, thick hairs on your cat’s face have an important job. Cats do not have the best vision, and that is where their whiskers come in handy. Whiskers help cats see things they would otherwise not be privy to. Their facial whiskers serve several important purposes:
- Assist with navigation through their environment
- Help with spaces that are too small
- Help them sense things spatially
- Help them navigate in the dark
Your cat’s whiskers help detect changes in the air current, as they can help your cat determine the size, speed, and shape of nearby objects. A sensory organ at the point of each whisker also collects information about the environment and what other animals may be around them. A cat’s whiskers also help them retain their balance after a jump, which is why they say that felines almost always land on their feet.
What About the Whiskers in Other Areas?
While most facial whiskers are embedded in the cheeks and upper lip, do not forget about the eyebrow area and the chin. If your cat ever goes outside, they use the whiskers in the eyebrow area to help them sense when there is an overgrown or thorny bush that could harm their eyes. Cat’s whiskers protect their eyes, just like our eyelashes protect our eyes.
The whiskers on the side of their nose help your cat determine if the space they are in is sufficient to move through, such as moving in between two pieces of furniture in your living room that are close together without getting trapped in between. As the tips of their whiskers come into contact with the edges of the space, it helps them establish how much space they have.
It is a little-known truth that cats have whiskers on the back of their legs to help them climb, and the whiskers on the other side of their wrists help them determine if the prey they caught is still moving and the position of their unfortunate victim. Your cat also communicates their feelings through their whiskers, as whiskers are an essential aspect of feline body language.
If their whiskers are still, your cat is relaxed and chillin’. A happy or curious feline moves their whiskers in the air. If your cat is on the hunt for prey, they will push their whiskers forward. Cats who are disturbed or apprehensive tend to pull their whiskers back. The bottom line is that cats require their whiskers to navigate their environment successfully.
What is the Process of Whisker Growth?
When cats are still inside their mothers before they are born, whiskers and pigment cells are formed in the same skin layer. Whiskers are white due to a lack of access to melanin pigment. Every cat has the same color whiskers. Cat whisker growth occurs when the follicles form a ring and when the following ring forms, it pushes the existing ring up to the outside.
Each time a ring grows, the whisker continues to form, and it pokes out of the skin as a whisker. Each whisker is attached to a follicle, just like human hair. Sometimes whiskers fall out, and as long as the follicle is healthy, the whisker will grow back. It takes just about two weeks for whiskers to rejuvenate and grow out.
What Triggers a Cat to Lose Their Whiskers?
Sometimes if two cats fight, one cat can hit, scratch, or push them, pulling out the whisker. Loss of whiskers can also be due to certain feline health conditions:
You should never trim or cut their whiskers when grooming, as they are vital to the cat’s survival. The whiskers are attached to nerve endings, and if their whiskers are cut, it can make them scared and disoriented. Whiskers shed naturally in their own time and develop regrowth on their own. If you are not seeing a ton of whiskers falling out, you most likely do not need to worry.
Can Whiskers Move?
The size of your cat’s whiskers depends on the size of your cat. The bigger the cat, the wider their whiskers. Whiskers can also move, as the connected muscles allow the cat to move. Each whisker is attached to a sling that permits the cat to move each whisker independently. Larger muscles also allow all the whiskers to move at once.
Whiskers are fantastic because they help your cat with their sensory perception, and they help them find their way throughout the world. You should not ever cut or trim your cat’s whiskers, as it can cause them to become frightened and unsettled. They make your cat even cuter, and they naturally grow back with time, so there shouldn’t be much worry about cat whiskers.
If your cat is losing whiskers in large amounts, or you have any questions regarding your Palos Heights, IL area cat, reach out to Palos Animal Hospital at (708) 448-6600 with any questions or concerns!