Cats are such mystical creatures and have many unique features that are not found in other animal breeds. One of their key most noticeable features is their long whiskers that appear on each side of their muzzle.
We often associate cats with having this feature however don’t think about the reasons why the whiskers are there, what they are for, and how many cats actually have.
One of the questions we were asked the other day by a concerned cat owner was how many whiskers should cats have? This is a topic we decided to delve into a little further to give you a much better understanding of the number of whiskers a cat usually has and some common questions related to cat’s whiskers.
So, how many whiskers do cats have? Cats on average have 12 whiskers on each side of their muzzle. These whiskers are arranged over for 4 rows and are usually the longest of all the facial vibrissae. Cats can also have whiskers on other parts of the face such as above the eyes, ears, chin, and upper lip.
Keep reading to learn more about the unique quality of kitty whiskers and how to properly care for your cat’s whiskers at home.
Do some cats have more whiskers than others?
On average cats have around 12 whiskers on each side of their muzzle. This isn’t to say that some cats will have slightly more or less than this average. The quantity will vary from cat to cat however you should expect to see a fair amount around your cat’s muzzle.
This doesn’t just relate to adult cats. Kittens are born with the same set of 24 whiskers from birth. It takes a while for them to grow, but you should expect to see them at full length once your kitty reaches 3 months old.
The set of 24 whiskers are arranged over 4 rows and you will notice that some of the whiskers are far longer than others. The whiskers grow at different stages, but you should always notice there to be approximately the same amount despite the length.
If you notice that your cat has considerably fewer whiskers or notice lots of them falling out, this is a sign that there could be something wrong.
Stress is a major factor in this and can not only result in the loss of whiskers but a loss of fur too. New environments can often be the cause of whisker shedding such as moving house.
Cats love a routine and get very comfortable in their surroundings. A change in the environment can cause havoc with their bodies.
Trying to get your cat as comfortable and as relaxed as possible in their new environment is important for their overall health. You will notice that as your cat becomes more content and back in a routine their whiskers will start to grow back slowly.
What happens if you cut off a cat’s whiskers?
We strongly advise against cutting off your cat’s whiskers. Even if you feel like your cat’s whiskers are growing too long, cutting or trimming them can cause complications. It is completely unnecessary to cut or trim a cat’s whiskers.
Our feline friends have whiskers for a reason, and long, thick whiskers are commonplace for cats.
The cats’ whiskers are known as vibrissae and are essential for your kitty’s survival. They help your cat feel their way around in the dark at night and assist with them judging distance between themselves and objects. When we say that whiskers are vital for feline survival this couldn’t be more true to life.
Cats use their whiskers to sense the approach of predators which is what makes them such fantastic hunters. Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to sneak up on your kitty without them noticing? It’s their whiskers that can sense your approach.
Cat whiskers often just look like stiff hairs to us, but they are so much more. Unlike the regular fur over the bulk of your cat’s body, whiskers are connected to the muscular and nervous system which sends messages to the brain (sensory nerves).
Each whisker is finely tuned and extremely sensitive. The whiskers should not be viewed like the rest of the fur on a cat’s body. They provide your cat with a heightened sense of feeling which helps your kitty detect and respond to their surroundings.
Trimming or cutting your cat’s whiskers would be considered cruel since there is no real need to do so. It is essentially the same as chopping off one of your fingers which is not a favorable thought for anyone.
Removing a cat’s whiskers manually can cause them some distress. You will likely find that your feline friend will become very disorientated and may have some trouble moving around.
Do cat whiskers feel pain?
Since a cat’s whiskers are connected to their nervous and muscular system you would expect there to be some level of pain by removing them. Cats do not feel pain if their whiskers are cut or trimmed.
This does not mean that cutting and trimming whiskers is the right thing to do. There may be no pain, but whiskers are vital for your kitty’s survival and as responsible owners, we should leave them intact.
Plucking out your cat’s whiskers will most definitely cause pain! There is never a need to carry out this procedure. When using a plucking method the hair is uprooted directly from the hair follicle which is considerably painful and should be avoided at all costs.
Many of us know how painful going for a wax treatment can be to remove unwanted hair or even accidentally pulling out an eyelash. Imagine that times 50!
Will my cat’s whiskers grow back?
Yes, whiskers will most definitely grow back. You don’t have to worry if your cat has lost the odd whisker here and there. The whiskers go through a growth cycle similar to the fur on the rest of your cat’s body.
Typically only a few of the whiskers will fall out at a time and it may be hard to notice that they are even missing any without looking very closely.
In general, you should expect it to take up to about 3 months for a whisker to have grown back fully. This is why you will often notice some whiskers being much longer than others. Some may be ready to fall out when they have reached full length and others may be in the process of growing back.
Whiskers do shed naturally, and you shouldn’t worry if you find the odd whisker that has fallen out on your living room floor.
The shedding process, however, is a completely different cycle to your cat’s regular fur. When a cat sheds its fur this is usually a seasonal affair. Whiskers shed naturally on their own cycle where they grow to maturity and then fall out to be replaced with new ones.
How often do cats naturally lose their whiskers?
Since the shedding of cat’s whiskers does not fall into a cycle like the fur on the rest of their body there is no set time as to when a cat’s whiskers may shed. They do not tend to shed at regular intervals throughout the year and some cats will shed their whiskers much more frequently than others.
The shedding usually occurs when the whisker has reached maturity and is not at its best. It may have been accidentally damaged at some point meaning it is less useful than the other healthier whiskers. It is usually the case that several whiskers will shed at the same time which is nothing to worry about.
The process of naturally shedding whiskers is important for your cat’s wellbeing and does not cause them any pain or discomfort usually. Occasionally you may notice a spot of blood if your cat has accidentally ripped out a whisker. This will have likely caused them a small amount of pain, however, this is not common.
You should never worry about your cat losing their whiskers naturally, but if this seems to be in excessive amounts where you can notice a visible loss you may want to visit your vets for a check-up.
Excess whisker loss can often be a sign of stress, but can also be due to illness or allergies. Either way, it is always best to get some professional advice for peace of mind.
Reasons why you should not cut off your cat’s whiskers
There are so many reasons why cutting or trimming your cat’s whiskers are a bad idea. Cats rely on their whiskers for survival, just in the same way we humans rely on our fingers frequently.
Here are some of the key reasons why removing your cat’s whiskers voluntarily could cause your cat harm and distress:
- They help your cat move in the dark
- They help locate prey (vibration sensors)
- They help cats move around more gracefully (more aware of where their bodies are)
- They help your cat judge distances to objects more accurately
- They help tell you how your cat is feeling
Let’s take a look at these in some more details:
They help your cat move in the dark
Cats are renowned for having particularly good vision at night however this unique ability is mostly due to them having whiskers.
If you ever wondered how cats navigate their way around in the dark without bumping into things then you may be surprised to learn their intelligent whiskers pick up on air currents that help them detect their surroundings.
The whiskers let the brain know about everything around them which prevents them from walking directly into furniture and other objects they may come across.
They help locate prey (vibration sensors)
Cat whiskers act as a radar to let them know of potential danger or threats. This is a great tool for them to be able to detect prey nearby if they are on the hunt and helps them measure distances.
Our feline friends can detect vibrations in the air which can lead them directly to that unsuspecting mouse or bird they have been chasing. The whiskers can also inform your cat about changes in air currents which can warn them of danger.
They help with close up vision
You will be surprised to hear that cats don’t have a very good close up vision. Anything closer than about 30cm to their face is not seen very well by our feline friends.
Whiskers help your kitty navigate the world straight ahead and use their whiskers regularly to feel out objects right in front of them where vision is commonly impaired.
They help cats move around more gracefully
Cats move around us with such grace and poise it can be intriguing to know how they manage to coordinate 4 legs and achieve this.
Their whiskers help out massively with how cats present themselves, giving them a heightened awareness of everything around them including where certain parts of their bodies are positioned and when.
They help your cat judge distances to objects more accurately
It can often be difficult for our feline friends to judge how far an object is away from them especially since their close-up vision is not so good.
Those curious-looking whiskers act as a built-in tape measure to assist out kitties in determining exact distances which can be vital for their survival. This is also a particularly helpful addition when on the hunt.
They help tell you how your cat is feeling
Your cat’s whiskers can tell you an awful lot about how they are feeling in general. If you are looking to get some insight into their behaviors and emotions then their whiskers can often give you some of the story.
Whiskers that have been pulled around their face and appear ridged are often a sign that your cat feels threatened and uncomfortable.
Whiskers that appear relaxed usually means your cat is happy and content. When your kitty is feeling in a curious mood you will notice their whiskers are pushed forward. Who knew that this cute feature could tell us so much?!
As you can see, the cat’s whiskers are not just a superficial feature. They are a valuable tool that allows your kitty to get about safely by heightening their senses. It is never a good idea to interfere with your cat’s whiskers and attempting to cut or trim them off for no real good reason leaves them with a temporary impairment.
Cat’s whiskers help them judge distances, catch prey, move in the dark, and assist them visually with close up objects or activity. They can also be a great way to determine how your cat is feeling.
Cats naturally lose whiskers throughout their life and is not something you should worry about.
The whiskers will grow back over time and your cat will only experience a slight loss since they have many more left to do the job they need to do. If your cat is shedding whiskers excessively it is always best to visit your vet for a professional opinion on the matter.
In conclusion, the cat’s whiskers are the ultimate sensory tool that should be left well alone. It is always best to let nature take its course. Your kitty can safely and successfully deal with their whisker shedding themselves without us humans interfering.
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