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All cats have whiskers, as you probably already know. Whiskers are usually called vibrissae.
Do cats shed whiskers?
Yes, all throughout their lives cats, even while they are still kittens, will lose some of their whiskers. They are similar in this way to any other hair on a creature’s body and basically go through the same stages: They will grow, stay dormant for a while, and then shed off.
You might get the urge to cut them when you start to notice that they become curly or unruly but you should never do this. Even though it might seem fun to give your cat a different look, you should refrain from even curling the whiskers or modifying them in any way. The cat’s body will naturally replace any unruly whiskers when they fall off by themselves.
A normal shedding can be noticed by an uneven vibrissae look on the face of the cat, but usually, if the animal is healthy, not all whiskers will fall at the same time. It is normal for just a couple of whiskers to be missing at a time, which most of the time will pass unnoticed.
If more than just a couple of whiskers are starting to fall at once, this is something that should be worrying because it might point to a medical issue in the kitty, which should be fixed as soon as possible.
Why shouldn’t you cut or trim a cat’s whiskers?
Whiskers are very sensitive parts of the cat’s anatomy. They are connected to the muscular system but also to the nervous system and are considered very useful. They are one of the main ways for a cat to sense and feel the surrounding environment. Cats will be able to get a lot from an object just by brushing by it with their whiskers. A simple touch will tell them if the object is close, its size, texture, and its size, even if they can’t see the object for one reason or another.
They can even sense slight changes in the speed of the wind and small movements around them. This will help them both in their pursuit of prey and to protect from incoming predators. These small hairs will also help cats detect the exact girth of any opening.
Below you will find some of the things the cat might experience if you cut its whiskers of they completely fall off on their own:
- Whiskers are also used by cats to express their mood, so one of the first things you will notice is that you won’t be able to know when your fluffy pet is angry, excited, startled, or scared since these emotions are also displayed through the movement of the whiskers.
- These hairs are an important device for them to detect everything around them, so without them, the pets will feel disoriented and insecure.
- If you cut the whiskers you also risk getting your cat injured, because of these hairs’ role in sensing and feeling surrounding objects. Your pet will have a harder time figuring out proximity to predators, prey, and any other creatures or objects, which also means that it might get stuck inside things because it won’t be able to tell opening sizes.
If you accidentally cut some of them once, this isn’t really a big deal. They will usually grow back after a while. Just don’t make a habit of cutting them.
Can cats lose balance without their whiskers?
The short answer is no. Tactile hairs like vibrissae aren’t responsible for keeping cats in balance. This is why the claim that cat owners hear pretty often, that trimming or clipping the whiskers will make the cat lose balance, is cap.
These animals, like humans and other creatures as well, use their inner ear for their balance, while whiskers only work as sensory organs.
Will cutting a cat’s whiskers hurt it?
These hairs, just like any other hairs on the cat’s body, aren’t connected to nerves, which means that it won’t hurt if you trim or cut them. On the other hand, their hair follicles are connected to a lot of nerves, which means that plucking whiskers will be insanely painful for the animal.
Do your best to protect them
You should do your best to protect the cat’s whiskers, especially considering that 40% of the brain’s sensory area perfectly aligns with the area of the whiskers., as stated by VCA Hospitals.
This is why you should never pull on or pluck the whiskers off your cat and you should even try to avoid brushing them too roughly in the whisker area.
Is there such a thing as whisker stress?
Yes, whisker stress is real and refers to when they constantly get in contact with a surface, including watering or feeding bowls. This might lead to them becoming sensitive enough to cause stress. What you can do in this situation is to simply change the bowls with wider ones, to reduce the stress felt on the vibrissae.
Always refrain from cutting plucking or trimming the cat’s whiskers while grooming it. Doing this might cause not only discomfort but also some medical issues for your cat. You shouldn’t even brush them with too much force or try to either curl or straighten them, because the cat will shed them naturally if needed.