If you own a cat, you will be familiar with the sight of random hairs appearing all over your carpet! It is common knowledge that cats shed their fur as a form of temperature control. However, a cat’s whiskers are made of the same substance as fur (keratin); does this mean cats shed their whiskers too? Here is all you are going to need to know.
So, do cats shed their whiskers? Cats shed 1-3 whiskers every year, especially during shedding season. This is a natural process. However, cats can begin to shed their whiskers more excessively due to other factors such as stress and certain health issues. If you are concerned, it is best to seek the advice of a vet.
Whiskers should never be pulled out or trimmed as this can affect your cats’ ability to sense its surroundings.
That’s right; whiskers serve an important purpose for cats – they are not ‘just there.’
In fact, these are highly specialized, purposeful sensory instruments that enable a cat to navigate the world.
But more on this shortly.
Firstly, let us look at why would they shed, to begin with. We will then be discussing if they will eventually, grow back.
Why Do Cats Shed Whiskers?
A cat’s whiskers will fall out occasionally in order for new whiskers to grow, this is a perfectly natural process and is not generally a cause for concern. However, there are several other causes for whisker loss that may exacerbate the amount of whisker shedding, which typically indicates something is up.
Some factors may require more attention, especially if you notice several whiskers falling out at a time.
The main causes are below:
Contrary to popular opinion, cats can be affected by stress, especially if their routines are disrupted.
They are also highly territorial animals so, any new animal or person in a cat’s environment is likely to cause some upset!
This may even lead to overgrooming in extreme cases.
The type of stress that causes a cat’s whiskers to fall out is usually prolonged.
So, if you think your cat’s whisker shedding is down to stress, you may want to assess his environment and make any necessary changes accordingly.
Numerous infections may cause your cat’s whiskers to fall out.
Furthermore, cats are pretty good at hiding any signs of illness, so it is best to seek the advice of a vet if you are concerned.
Perhaps the most common type of infection that causes hair loss in cats is a bacterial infection of the skin, which often causes red marks to appear where the whiskers have fallen out.
Fungal infections are another common culprit, especially ringworm.
Outdoor cats often come into contact with other cats in their territory, which can lead to fights.
If these fights get violent, cats can easily lose their whiskers, either through injury or stress.
Indoor cats are just as susceptible to fighting injuries if they have not been introduced properly.
If this is the case, fighting can escalate quickly due to the small territories cats have in restricted home environments.
Hormonal disorders can affect whisker loss and fur loss in cats.
They can even affect the texture of your cat’s fur.
Certain hormonal conditions will require medical attention to treat, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
Depending on the allergy, some cats may develop rashes and sore spots on their skin.
This can cause whiskers and fur to fall out excessively.
The most common allergy found in cats is Flea Allergic Dermatitis, followed by environmental allergies (such as pollen) and food intolerances.
Yes, cats can suffer from acne too! It can affect cats of any age and normally occurs on the chin.
If your cat’s acne progresses, it may spread up to the cheeks and cause whisker loss.
Feline acne is characterized by the presence of lesions and crusty sores on the affected area and can have a number of triggers, including a compromised immune system, poor grooming habits, and other skin conditions.
So, these are the most common issues that can affect whisker loss.
But perhaps the most important question we should be asking is, ‘are whiskers important to cats?’
If they lose them, will they suffer any detrimental effects?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Let’s get into it.
Why Do Cats Need Whiskers?
Cats need whiskers to navigate the world. They are multifunctional with several uses, however, they mostly help a cat understand what is going on around them and to analyze their environment.
A cat’s whiskers are made of keratin, and while they may not look like much, they are an essential part of a cat’s sensory system.
Whiskers are actually rooted much deeper than normal hairs.
The hair follicles at the base of whiskers are filled with blood vessels and nerve endings that contain neurons.
These neurons are responsible for sending sensory information to your cat’s brain.
The whiskers even contain muscles which means a cat can move them to communicate its emotions.
When a cat is in hunting mode (excited!), it will move its whiskers forward to sense prey moving.
When a cat’s whiskers are flat against the face, it usually means they are feeling threatened or scared.
Apart from the communication aspect, cats use their whiskers for a multitude of functions; they help your cat to ‘see’ in poor lighting, alert him to predators, and help him to judge distance.
They also aid in balance and provide sensory input about the immediate surroundings.
For these reasons, it is essential that you do not trim or cut your cat’s whiskers and seek medical advice as soon as possible if you notice your cat shedding its whiskers excessively.
How Often Do Cats Shed Whiskers?
Cats will naturally shed their whiskers throughout their lives. They should only be losing 1-3 hairs annually, but this does depend on the breed and age of your cat.
Cats may shed more than one whisker at a time during the shedding seasons of Spring and Autumn, but they only have 6-12 whiskers on each cheek in the first place.
So, if you notice more than a couple of whiskers on your carpet and your cat is beginning to look a little bald in the face, this may indicate a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
If you are worried about the number of whiskers your cat has been shedding recently, you can also try assessing the facial area.
Do you see any red marks or sore spots?
This could indicate an allergy of some sort if you notice a change in your cat’s behavior.
Such as being more or less active and having frequent diarrhea, then it may be caused by a deeper medical issue.
If you think your cat’s sudden whisker loss is caused by stress, you will need to assess his environment and note any changes that may be causing the issue.
If you have recently added a new member to the family, such as a baby or a new pet, you may want to spend some time setting up short ‘meetings’ over the course of a couple of weeks.
Ensure you offer treats to your cat during every session to help him build up a positive association with the new arrival rather than a negative one.
If you have just moved house, ensure you only allow your cat access to one room at a time so as not to overwhelm him.
Also, make sure you offer plenty of reassurance (and tasty treats!) during the transition.
Do Shed Whiskers Grow Back?
If a cat sheds a whisker, it will grow back in time. However, you should never pull out a cat’s whiskers as you may damage the nerves, which can lead to painful infections. Even trimming a cat’s whiskers can be detrimental as your cat may become disorientated and scared. It is important to allow the natural shedding process to take place and not intervene.
So, what if one whisker is unintentionally pulled out?
Luckily, one accident shouldn’t cause a huge issue for your cat.
However, it is best to keep a close eye on your feline companion for a few days to see if there are any changes in behavior.
Remember that cats use their whiskers for balance and sensory input, so he may be a little confused and nervous at first.
Looking closely at your cat, you may be surprised at just how long his whiskers are, but this is perfectly normal (and necessary!).
Larger cats will often have longer whiskers as they should generally be at least as wide as the cat itself.
A cat’s whiskers should NEVER need trimming!
It is important to also bear in mind that whiskers are incredibly sensitive.
Some cats like their whiskers touched; others don’t.
Interestingly, some veterinarians have claimed that cats can suffer from ‘whisker fatigue,’ where their whiskers become overstimulated.
This is often thought to occur in cats that are fed out of tall-sided food bowls, as this causes your cat’s whiskers to constantly brush against the bowl every time he eats.
How Long Does It Take For Whiskers To Grow Back?
Cat’s whiskers do grow back if they have been naturally shed. However, the process can take up to three months (up to 6 months for elderly cats or those suffering from health issues).
If you do not see any whisker growth after six months, it is best to seek the advice of a vet.
Whiskers should also grow back if they have been accidentally pulled out, as long as there is no nerve damage present.
Remember that cats’ whiskers should never be pulled out or trimmed intentionally!
Just trust that your cats’ whiskers will shed naturally and grow back in time.
If you own a Devon or Cornish Rex cat, bear in mind that whiskers may break off more often than in other cat breeds due to their fragile and uniquely curly structure.
This is not known to have any extreme detrimental effects.
Cats do shed their whiskers; the amount and frequency vary by cat, breed, and age.
While a certain amount of whisker shedding is expected and entirely normal; excessive amounts can indicate a problem. As can whiskers that are not growing back after an extended period of time since they have fallen out.
If you do have any concerns, then do contact a vet.
They will be able to examine your cat and more accurately advise on what is going on, and if anything actually needs to be done.
Are you also wondering which cat breeds shed? Then my following guides will be of interest:
- Do Munchkin Cats Shed?
- Do Calico Cats Shed?
- Do Savannah Cats Shed?
- Do Tabby Cats Shed?
- Do Norwegian Forest Cats Shed?
- Do Bengal Cats Shed?
- Do Ragdoll Cats Shed?
- Do Russian Blue Cats Shed?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.