Cats can shed fur like crazy at certain times of the year, and some may even shed all year long. Did you know that cats can also shed or lose whiskers? The reasons behind whisker loss can range from “it’s nothing to worry about” to “we better check this out with our veterinarian.” But how do you decide which it is? Hopefully, this article will demystify the reasons behind whisker loss and help you understand when it’s important to get seek medical attention for your cat.
What are Whiskers?
Even though it may not seem like it, a cat’s whiskers are actually just hair, like the rest of their fur. And as I mentioned above, they can shed whiskers the same way they shed their coat. It makes sense because, like human hair, whiskers continue to grow and can fall out for a variety of reasons. One interesting thing about it is that as your cat ages he won’t have fewer whiskers, but you might notice the whiskers greying or getting lighter.
Whiskers have other functions besides looking stylish. Cats use their whiskers to judge the size of a space like the inside of a box. Whiskers help them to balance, and they can even help a cat “see” up close. An important difference between human hair, fur, and whiskers is that it is uncomfortable for a cat to have their whiskers clipped, so that is something you should never do. On the other hand, it is completely painless if a cat loses whiskers naturally.
Normal Whisker Loss
If you find a few whiskers lying around the house, don’t fret; this is normal and healthy. Your cat will lose a few now and again to allow for new healthy and strong whiskers to grow in. Just like human hairs, cat whiskers can get a bit scraggly, or even break at times, so a cat may lose them in order to grow fresh, undamaged whiskers. If you’ve never found a whisker before, it may seem a little odd, but don’t worry – according to some lore, finding cat whiskers may even bring good luck!
Abnormal Whisker Loss
There are a handful of reasons your cat may unnaturally lose whiskers. For instance, if your cat has allergy problems or other skin ailments such as dermatitis, you may notice a severe loss in whiskers as well as their regular fur. Another issue could be infections. Both bacterial and fungal infections, especially those that affect a cat’s face, can lead to whisker loss. Another one you may not have heard about is feline acne, which is seen most commonly around a cat’s mouth and chin, and may affect his whiskers. Cats can also have Alopecia, a condition that causes severe hair loss. Alopecia can lead to loss of fur and whiskers as well. With this condition, the cat’s fur may not grow back at all and if it does, it may grow back in odd patches.
Fighting with other cats can also be a cause for whisker loss, especially if the damage is to the face, which is often the case with cat fights. Last year, one side of our cat’s face swelled up and he lost a lot of whiskers. I took him straight to the vet and it turns out he had been in a cat fight, got a puncture wound on the side of his face, and the wound abscessed. He had to have a small in-office procedure immediately.
To err on the side of caution, if you notice that your cat is experiencing more than a little whisker loss, it would be prudent to get them checked out by your vet.
Overall, the best thing you can do is to provide your cat a clean, safe home environment. If fighting with neighboring cats is an ongoing issue, consider an indoor-only lifestyle. Feed a high quality cat food such as CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Elements, and always have fresh water on hand. These things will go a long way toward helping your cat stay healthy and happy.
And remember, a cat’s whiskers are like hair in the way that they break, get damaged, and sometimes shed to make way for new, shiny ones. Not all whisker loss is created equal, so if you notice a few, stray whiskers lying around, don’t fret. Just keep an eye on things to make sure it’s nothing serious.