Q:

Why do a cat's whiskers fall off?

A:

Quick Answer

Cat whiskers, just like any hair, regularly fall off and are replaced by new ones. Unlike other hair, however, whiskers function as touch receptors that help cats get a better feel of their environment. Whiskers give cats better spatial sense, allowing them to navigate better even in the dark and detect objects, such as other animals.

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Full Answer

Also called vibrissae, whiskers are easily identifiable from other hair because they are longer, thicker and stiffer. These specialized sets of hairs are connected to muscular and nervous systems that are set deeper within the skin. Cats have 24 whiskers, with 12 on each side of the face. A set of a slightly thinner and shorter whiskers also grow on top of the eyes, on the jaw and on the back of the front legs.

Just like normal hair, however, whiskers also follow a normal course of shedding to make way for the growth of new ones. In most cases, owners should not be alarmed if the whiskers of their cat fall off. If a cat is losing weight, it will also shed its whiskers to be replaced by shorter ones.

If the falling whiskers are falling off all at once and are accompanied by other symptoms, such as watery eyes and bad breath, it may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. It is a good idea to take the cat to the veterinarian who can best diagnose its symptoms and prescribe the proper treatment for the pet.

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