You may have a cat and notice that cats generally shed quite some hair. However, you may also see thicker, coarse hairs on the floor, which may be their whiskers. Is it normal for a cat to shed whiskers? If they do, do cat whiskers grow back?
Yes, cat whiskers grow back, provided the follicles are not damaged. Cat whiskers may take around 6 weeks to 3 months to regrow themselves back. The key with cats’ whiskers is never to trim or cut them but to let them fall off and regrow naturally.
This article explores if cat whiskers grow back and some relevant questions about car whiskers that you may be keen to know more about.
What Are Cat Whiskers For?
Cats use whiskers as additional sensory support. The hairs help them to navigate, feel and understand the environment around them. Cat whiskers are connected to sensitive nerves at the base of the hair, with the whiskers themselves consisting of keratin, similar to human hair.
Cat whiskers are used by cats in many ways:
Cats used their whiskers as if they were extra hands to touch and feel the environments around them. When the whiskers get into contact with something, it moves and triggers the sensitive sensory cells at the follicles of the whiskers.
This allows cats to quickly assess their immediate surroundings and avoid objects that may harm their eyes and face. The whiskers can also tell the cat if they can easily squeeze through tight and narrow spaces.
When hunting, their whiskers also allow them to quickly sense small animals’ movements, which means they can grab and catch them easier. Sensitive whiskers also make nighttime hunting possible as cats do not need to rely on their eyes heavily.
The follicles at the base of cat whiskers also include proprioceptive abilities, which allow cats to quickly determine their orientation to the ground. They sense this by feeling how strong the gravity is pulling on their whiskers. The higher they are from the ground, the stronger the gravity.
This helps cats to time their fall or jumps and is one of the reasons why cats always land on their feet.
Similar to dogs and their tails, cats may be able to tell how they are feeling based on how their whiskers are. For example, a relaxed whisker signals contentment, while a stressed and threatened cat may harden its whiskers and push it towards the danger to appear more threatening. A sick or unwell cat may pull its whiskers backward against their face.
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How Many Whiskers Do Cats Have?
Cat whiskers are surprisingly well spaced and grow only in specific places. Generally, you may see around 12 whiskers on each side of their upper lip, three over each eye, and several short whiskers on the chin. Some even have whiskers on the back of their wrists.
Cat whiskers are surprisingly well spaced and grow in only specific places on their body. This points back to the primary purpose of whiskers, to help cats touch, feel and sense the world around them.
Most whiskers grow on their faces, with the highest concentration on the upper lips. They are usually arranged in rows of four, with the shorter whiskers in the front and the longer whiskers at the back. You may also see some whiskers on each side of the eye and chin.
Some cats even have whiskers growing out of their wrists, although they may not apply to all cats.
Why Do Cats Lose Their Whiskers?
Cats may lose their whiskers from natural or artificial factors. Cats do shed their whiskers naturally, like all parts of their hair. However, cats may also lose whiskers from fights or getting too close to a fire and burning their whiskers. Some cat owners also cut their cat’s whiskers.
Cats, at times, may lose their whiskers in many ways. First is natural shedding. Cat whiskers go through growth, maintenance, and shedding processes similar to other body hairs. However, natural shedding does not happen in one go, meaning cats will never shed all their whiskers at one point.
Cats may also lose whiskers from accidents or sickness, for example, if they got too close to the fire and parts of their whiskers were burned off. Some cats may also lose their whiskers if they injure their hair follicles, for example, in a fight with another cat.
Some illnesses such as hyperthyroidism may cause cats to shed their hair, and this may also happen to their whiskers.
Most of the time, the cat can still manage itself well, even if it lost a few whiskers. The cat may still retain some of their whiskers’ ability, but at a lesser level. The worry is if they lose many of their whiskers, or worse, all.
What Happens If Cats Lose Their Whiskers?
Cats without whiskers may face problems such as navigation and sensing the world and may have issues orienting themselves. This is because they no longer have hair to help them feel their environment and navigate. They may also fail to land properly after jumping.
When cats lose their whiskers, they naturally lose the ability that their whiskers afford them. They may have issues navigating themselves. For example, these cats may not be able to tell if they can squeeze into a tight, narrow space. This may cause them to get trapped in tight spots.
Cats also will not be able to hunt well without whiskers. Losing their whiskers means they cannot easily predict and sense the movement of small animals as they close in on their prey.
This means the cat may still be able to jump into a mouse, but you may see the prey escaping. The cat, without the whiskers, cannot tell where the mouse is moving and hence is not able to lock it down with its paws.
Without whiskers, cats may also have issues reorienting themselves to the ground. This means you may see cats unable to land on their feet when jumping, as they cannot sense where the ground is, so they cannot time their fall properly to land on their feet. As a result, you may see your cat falling awkwardly.
Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?
Fortunately, cat whiskers do grow back. The growth period depends on factors such as if the follicles were damaged and the cat’s nutrition. It may take from six weeks up to three months to see whiskers grow back to their previous length.
Regardless of how the cat loses its whiskers, the good news is that they may grow back. The issue remains on issues such as the condition of the hair follicles and the general nutrition the cat receives from its diet.
If the follicle is not damaged, whiskers may start to grow back immediately after cutting. However, reaching a complete, regular length may take from six weeks to three months. This is because not all whiskers are of the same length, and really long whiskers, for example, those on the upper lip, may take the longest to regrow back.
However, if the hair follicle is damaged, the follicle needs to heal first before hair growth can resume. This may add in additional time. Even when cured, damaged follicles may not grow whiskers as well as they used to, which may mean more wait time.
Your cats’ nutrition may also influence the growth rate of their hairs and whiskers. In general, cats need nutrients such as EPA, DHA, and Omega 3 to improve their skin, which would, in turn, help with the production and growth of healthy, shiny coats and whiskers. By providing your cat with good nutrition and diet, you may improve the growth time of its whiskers.
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Why Should You Not Cut A Cat’s Whiskers?
Cutting a cat’s whiskers is akin to removing the spectacles of someone who needs it. Your cat may lose many of its navigational, sensing, and orienteering capabilities and suffer for at least the next few months. Cutting whiskers may also be painful for cats, as the whiskers are close to sensitive sensors and nerves.
Some cat owners may think that cats’ whiskers are messy and make their cats less beautiful. This led them to pick up a scissor or a razor and get rid of the whiskers.
Removing a cat’s whiskers is not a very good idea. Removing whiskers should only be performed in exceptional situations, such as if the cat’s whiskers are stuck and cutting it frees the cat.
However, when the whiskers are removed, often the cat will suffer for the next few months at least. At first, removing the whiskers may be painful for the cat. This is because the follicles of the whiskers are full of sensors and nerves. Cutting the whiskers may overstimulate the nerves.
Secondly, without whiskers, cats will suffer from many navigational, sensing, and orienteering capabilities. Cats without whiskers may not be able to tell if they can get past a narrow passageway, meaning they may get stuck in odd places and may need your help to free them.
Cats without sensing capabilities may also not be able to hunt well, as they cannot use their whiskers to feel the movements of small animals. This means it cannot use its paw to lock down its prey. The cat is also more likely unable to evade things such as branches or objects close to their face, which may hurt their face and eyes.
Finally, cats without orienteering capabilities may suffer from awkward falls, as they cannot sense the ground well. When the cat jumps or falls, it may not be the time when it should brace for impact. This means instead of landing on their feet as all cats should, they may land on their back or side, injuring them.