Why do Cat Whiskers Matter?

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

I can guarantee that almost every cat owner has thought - What is the point of whiskers? Truth be told, the whiskers around your cat's eyes, nose, and underneath their chin play an important role for your feline friend.

Whiskers are a type of hair that grow from follicles, just as cat fur does. The difference is that whiskers actually touch receptors. They are longer, stiffer hairs known as vibrissae (vi·bris·see). The whiskers are located in nerve rich areas allowing them to be extremely aware of anything that may come in contact with her whiskers. The whisker around the muzzle allows them to judge distances. The length of the whiskers around their muzzle are about the same width as their body - and if the whiskers cannot pass through a space comfortably, this communicates to your cat they can't. Whiskers provide sensory input and feedback so that cats can navigate within dark areas or tight spaces.

The Whiskers around the eyebrows are used to protect the eyes, it provides sensory feedback so that they are aware of what is too close to their face. Without whiskers, your cat's ability to navigate the world and sense the things around them is compromised.

There is a chance that you've found a shed whisker from your cat while cleaning house. Cats' whiskers go through growth, dormancy and shedding phases just like the rest of their fur, so the rare occasions you find a lone whisker, don't fret. If you begin to notice that your cat is consistently loosing whiskers, this however; may require a vet visit.

There are a number of conditions that can case your cat to have extreme whisker or fur loss:

  • It could be that your cat is constantly fight with another cat who has caused damage to your cat's whiskers. Neutering can calm cat aggression, if you have an indoor/outdoor cat (though cats are naturally territorial).

  • Alopecia - a condition that affects various species of animals. This can cause extreme amounts of hair loss across the body.

  • Dermatitis or other skin conditions due to allergies your cat might experience.

  • Fungal and bacterial infections, such as ringworm can case your cat's face to have hairless patches.

  • Feline acne commonly presented on your cat's chin or nose may cause your cat's whiskers to shed.

  • Mite infestations are another potential cause of hair loss, usually accompanied by a sore and irritated skin.

  • A range of immune-mediated and hormonal disorders including hypothyroidism can case your cat to have hair loss and even changes in the texture of their fur that re-grows.

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