It can be deeply worrying if your cat’s whiskers start to fall out. While this phenomenon could be cause for concern, cats also naturally shed whiskers and regrow them. Unlike humans, though, they do not naturally lose whiskers as they age, although you may see some greying or other discoloring of whisker hair in your older cat.
Naturally, you want the best for your cat, and you want to ensure that they are healthy and free from stress and distress, which is why you’re concerned about the loss of their whiskers. Read on to see whether there is cause for concern, what you can do about a sudden loss of whiskers, and what possible causes there are for it.
Why Do Cats Need Whiskers?
Whiskers are extremely important to cats. They are highly developed sensors and are used throughout the day by your cat. They enable navigation through a cat’s environment, working similarly to the antennae of an insect. If a cat can fit its whiskers through a gap, it should be able to fit the rest of its body through. They even help the cat land on their feet because they work as proprioceptors that send messages to the brain to inform it of a change in position of the cat’s limbs.
Without its whiskers, a cat can lose balance, get stuck in small spaces, and will certainly lose confidence in its own ability to traverse its local surroundings.
Natural Whisker Loss
A cat’s whiskers naturally grow, shed, and regrow. They are continually being replaced, but your cat will only usually shed one or two at a time. As such, it is unlikely that you will ever even notice your cat shedding a whisker. If you see one on a couch or the floor, you may not register that it is a whisker.
While you won’t notice your cat losing one or two whiskers, you will notice if they start to fall out in clumps or in larger volumes. If this does happen, it is unlikely that this is down to natural shedding, and one of the following reasons may be the culprit.
1. Allergic Reaction
Cats suffer from allergies just like we do. While we tend to lean towards runny noses and puffy eyes, cats will usually show an allergic reaction through skin inflammation and other dermatological problems. As such, if your cat is losing its whiskers, this could be a sign of an allergy.
In particular, it is likely to be a food allergy or an allergic reaction to something in the cat’s local environment. It is more common for a flare-up to occur in the area that comes into contact with an allergen, but considering a cat’s whiskers are often the first thing through a gap and into a new area, it could well lead to a loss of whiskers.
2. Local Infection
Bacterial and fungal infections can affect your cat in the same way as an allergic reaction. This means that they will experience a flare-up on their skin or hair. It can also cause their whiskers to fall out. Even ringworm, which is a fungal infection, could be the cause of your cat losing his whiskers. You will need to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, and your vet will likely treat the problem with medication.
3. Physical Trauma
If your cat suffers a physical wound, this could manifest in different ways. Specifically, if your feline friend has suffered a wound around the base of its whiskers, this could cause a loss of the whiskers. Injuries may be caused by other animals, including cats and dogs but also wildlife. It could be caused by your cat rubbing against trees, buildings, and other objects that might have a sharp edge. The only real way to completely prevent such accidents is to stop your cat from going outdoors unaccompanied. Even, then, however, there are ways that your cat could suffer injury to the whisker location indoors.
4. Feline Acne
Surprisingly, cats suffer acne in much the same way as their owners can. This usually starts at the chin, but if an outbreak is bad enough, it will make its way across the cheeks and may take in the whiskers. Acne can be prevented by using metal or ceramic bowls and ensuring that they are washed frequently. One of the main causes of feline acne is a build-up of bacteria making its way from the bowl onto your cat’s face.
Will They Regrow?
In most cases, a cat’s whiskers will regrow. You will need to ensure that the cause of the whisker loss has been combated or removed. Take your cat to the vet and consider an elimination diet to help determine if your cat has any allergies. Look for signs of physical injury and treat any fleas, ringworm, or other infestations that crop up. If your cat suffers from acne, try changing to metal or ceramic bowls and wash them every day in case it is an acne flareup that has gotten progressively worse.
A cat relies heavily on its whiskers, for everything from navigating its local surroundings to ensuring that it can balance effectively and efficiently. Although a cat does naturally shed and regrow whiskers, if he is losing too many, too quickly, it could be a sign of illness, infection, or another problem. If you can identify the cause, such as acne or an allergic reaction, take steps to remedy the problem yourself or consult with a veterinarian who will be able to help combat the problem.
Featured Image: Melani Marfeld, Pixabay