"Why might your cat’s whiskers fall out?

"Why might your cat’s whiskers fall out?

The whiskers around your cat’s eyes and of course, their nose are one of the most distinctive parts of your feline friend-so much so that the whiskers are used in a number of common figures of speech, such as describing something really good as being “the cat’s whiskers.” The whiskers of the cat are of course not simply there for decoration, and they fulfil a number of important roles for your cat, to the point that without whiskers, your cat would be at a distinct disadvantage.

The chances are that you have never seen a cat without whiskers, unless of course you own or know someone with a Sphynx cat, a hairless breed that generally does not have whiskers as well as lacking fur in general! However, if your regular furry cat appears to be losing their whiskers to the point that few, if any are left, this is not normal and indicates a problem that should be rectified, both because of the importance of the whiskers themselves, and also because conditions that can cause loss of whiskers have other implications for your cat too.

In this article, we will examine the various reasons behind why your cat might lose their whiskers, and what can be done about it. Read on to learn more.

The importance of whiskers

Whiskers are a type of hairthat grow from follicles in the same way that the rest of your cat’s hair does, but aside from this, they are very different to fur. Whiskers are referred to in scientific terms as vibrissae, and the follicles that they grow from are located in some of the most nerve-rich areas of the cat’s body, which means that when something touches a whisker even lightly, your cat will feel it.

The whiskers around the muzzle help your cat to judge distances and spaces-the span of the whiskers on any given cat of a healthy weight are approximately the same width as the widest part of your cat’s body-and if your cat’s whiskers cannot pass through a space comfortably, this tells the cat that the rest of them won’t be able to either!

Also, the whiskers provide sensory input and feedback from things close to your cat’s face, helping them to navigate in poor lighting conditions and adverse environments.

The whiskers around your cat’s eyebrows too also help to provide sensory feedback and protect the eyes, by means of catching fine particles of debris before they reach the eyes, and warning your cat of obstacles around their head.

Without whiskers, your cat’s ability to navigate the world and sense the things around them is severely hampered, and this specific form of sensitive touch feedback is something that cats rely heavily upon.

Shedding and whisker loss

The chances are that you have found a whisker from your cat around your home on occasions, and because this is not really an everyday occurrence, you likely paid it some mind at the time. Cats’ whiskers go through growth, dormancy and shedding phases just like the rest of their fur, and so this shedding of the odd whisker on occasion is totally normal and not a problem-but if your cat seems to be losing a lot of whiskers within a short space of time and their faces don’t look like they are replacing them, something may be amiss.

Next, we will look at some of the things that can lead to problem whisker loss in cats.

What problems can cause whisker loss in cats?

While full or serious whisker loss in cats is not common, there are a range of different conditions that can lead to it, which you should be aware of.

  • Regular fighting with another cat that causes scratching and damage to the cat’s face can of course lead to whisker loss too, but if your cat is scrapping so much that they are losing a significant amount of whiskers, the problem is acute enough that you should work hard to take steps to solve the problem, including cat-proofing your home and garden from strange cats, neutering (if your cat is intact) and other measures that your vet can advise on.
  • Alopecia, a condition that affects multiple species of animals including humans, can cause a large-scale and systemic loss of hair across the whole body, including the whiskers. If your cat is losing their fur as well as well as their whiskers, speak to your vet.
  • Dermatitis and other skin conditions, particularly those that are allergenic in nature that again, lead to loss of fur can also cause your cat to lose their whiskers too.
  • Fungal infections such as ringworm can also affect the cat’s face, leading to round patches of hair loss, affecting both the fur and the vibrissae too.
  • Bacterial infections and skin conditions may lead to whisker loss as well if the infection is systemic or affects the face.
  • Feline acne can in some cases lead to loss of whiskers, particularly given that feline acne commonly presents around the cat’s nose and chin.
  • Mite infestations are another potential cause of loss of fur and whiskers, which may be accompanied by sore, irritated skin as well.
  • A range of immune-mediated and hormonal disorders including hypothyroidism can cause hair loss and changes in texture of the hair that re-grows, which will affect the whiskers as well as the fur.

If your cat is losing their whiskers and/or their fur, it is important to have them checked out by your vet in order to get to the bottom of the issue and begin the appropriate treatment.

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