As cat owners, we’re very familiar with finding cat hair around the house. As cats shed their fur, it’s left on furniture, bedding and flooring. However, something that we’re less accustomed to finding is cat whiskers, and it can be a worry if you find one.
It’s perfectly normal for cats to shed their whiskers, just like other hair. However, if you’re finding lots of whiskers, or your cat’s face is looking a little bare, this may indicate a problem. In this article, we discuss the reasons for whisker shedding, and what cat owners need to watch for.
What Are Cat Whiskers?
Whiskers (also known as vibrissae) are thicker, longer hairs that have deeper roots than normal hairs. They’re extremely sensitive with plenty of nerve and blood supply. Cats have whiskers on their muzzle, above their eyes and around their ears, symmetrically arranged on either side of the face.
Whiskers aren’t just pretty facial features. They’re important sensory tools that cats use on a day to day basis to tell them more about their surroundings. They help cats with balance, sensing objects around them and judging distances. You may notice a cat’s whiskers leaning forward if they’re trying to learn more about another animal/object. Cats may also flare out their whiskers if they’re trying to judge if they can fit through a narrow or small space.
Knowing all of this, I’m sure you’ll agree that whiskers play an important role for our cats and are more than just hairs. It can be worrying if we spot whiskers around the house – is this normal?
Do Cats Shed Their Whiskers?
The simple answer is yes, it’s normal for cats to shed their whiskers. Whiskers go through a similar shedding and regrowth cycle as normal hair does. It’s normal to spot the occasional whisker around the house. Your cat should still have plenty of whiskers on their face.
It’s normal for cats to shed one or two whiskers at a time, but not multiple whiskers. If you’re noticing a lot of whisker loss around the house this wouldn’t indicate normal shedding. Cats that are shedding a lot of whiskers or have less whiskers on their face, may have an issue with their whisker shedding.
Causes of Cats Shedding Whiskers
As we’ve discussed, it’s normal for cats to shed an occasional whisker or two. This is part of the normal growth and shedding cycle that occurs with hair and whiskers. However obvious missing whiskers on your cat’s face or multiple whiskers found around the house isn’t normal. There are a few medical reasons that cause abnormal whisker shedding in cats.
Whisker Injury or Trauma
Whiskers are at risk of trauma just like the rest of your cat’s body. As they stand out from the body, they may even be at more risk as they are more vulnerable. They can be damaged during any sort of physical trauma e.g. cat fights, road traffic accidents, or getting caught in something. If the trauma was mild all you might notice is a few missing whiskers. However it’s important to check for other injuries that you cat may have gotten and bring them to your veterinarian if you’re concerned.
Cats with allergies (environmental, food allergy or parasitic) often suffer with skin issues as a result. You may notice skin lesions, itchiness and hair loss on your cat’s coat. Allergies can also affect cat whiskers and may cause lesions around the site of whiskers and may even cause them to fall out. Cats may also lose whiskers if they’re scratching or rubbing their face a lot due to itchy skin conditions.
Bacterial or Fungal Infections
In a similar way to allergies, bacterial or fungal infections of the skin may cause whiskers to fall out. This may occur as a result of damaged skin, hair loss, or self-trauma due to itching. Fungal infections such as ringworm commonly affect the skin around whiskers and may cause them to fall out.
Cat acne appears like ‘blackheads’ or ‘pimples’ on your cat’s chin. It’s caused by a build-up of keratin causing blockage of hair follicles. It usually occurs on the chin but it can spread around the mouth and face when it flares up badly. This may result in loss of whiskers.
Do Owners Need to do Anything?
For mild whisker shedding, with the occasional whisker found around the house, there is nothing that you need to do. This is a normal part of whisker growth and regrowth. To be mindful of whiskers, avoid small litter boxes, food bowls or water bowls that will rub on your cat’s whiskers when they use them. This may cause whisker fatigue.
However, for cats that are shedding a lot of whiskers and have noticeably missing whiskers, there could be a medical problem. You should always contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your cat’s whiskers, hair or skin. Problems with the whiskers or hair may indicate an allergy, skin infection or feline acne which may require treatment such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
Cats that have lost whiskers as a result of trauma may have other injuries. These may require medication or in severe cases, further testing may be warranted. This may include blood and urine testing, x-rays and ultrasound. If your cat has been in a fight or accident, check them over carefully for injuries, keep a close eye on them and always speak to a vet if concerned.
Also Read: Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal for cats to shed whiskers?
Yes it’s normal for cats to shed a whisker or two every now and then. This is part of the normal growth of whiskers. However, losing multiple whiskers at the same time may indicate a health problem.
Do cat whiskers fall out and grow back?
Yes just like normal hair, whiskers fall out and grow back. However if you’re noticing a lot of whiskers falling out this wouldn’t be normal and you should contact your veterinarian.
What happens if I accidentally cut my cat's whiskers?
You should never cut your cat’s whiskers as they’re very sensitive. If you’ve cut them by accident monitor your cat closely for signs of discomfort. The whiskers will grow back over time but if you think your cat is in pain, contact your vet.
Do indoor cats need whiskers?
Yes all cats, whether indoor or outdoor, need their whiskers. Whiskers are important for balance, spatial awareness and sensory input.