Is it normal for a cat’s whiskers to shed?

Yes, it is normal for a cat’s whiskers to shed. In fact, I see them occasionally around my home. We are told that they shed less frequently than the hair strands that make up a cat’s coat. A cat’s whiskers shed as part of the normal growth and recycling process.

Cat whiskers
Cat whiskers. Photo: in public domain.
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If a cat is shedding whiskers at an obviously high rate then there will be a health problem. Melissa Brandley DVM at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health tells us that “an individual whisker is shed every couple of months”. If multiple whiskers are being shed simultaneously then it may be accompanied by obvious problems with the skin such as scabs, skin lesions and flaky skin. Clearly this would be an opportunity to take your cat to a veterinarian.

Do cat's whiskers fall out?
Do cat’s whiskers fall out? Yes and they grow back.

A lot has been written about cats’ whiskers. They are an incredible aspect of feline anatomy. They are very mobile and can be fanned out forwards (to ‘feel’) and sweptback. The roots are deep set into the cat’s tissue. They are richly supplied by nerve endings which give them an extraordinary ability to collect information about what’s happening around them such as air currents, air pressure and anything with which they come into contact. They guide a cat to place her canine teeth between the vetebrae of mice to deliver the killing bite.

Cat's whiskers have been cut
Cat’s whiskers have been cut. Don’t cut whiskers!

Whiskers supplement cats’ keen senses of smell and hearing. The domestic cat’s eyesight is less good but perfectly adequate and far better than the human’s with respect to nightvision as you are probably are aware. Whiskers are particularly good for sensing and investigating objects close by. It is also said that they can help a cat gauge widths of spaces to see if she can fit through them. They may deceive an overweight cat!

Hair follicle showing melanocyte at base
Hair follicle showing melanocyte at base. Image in public domain.

My late sister when she was young cut the whiskers of my mother’s then cat. Why did she do it? We never found it. Perhaps there is an instinctive desire to trim them in some people. To tidy up the cat. Bizarre though. It caused some consternation in the family at the time.

Himalayan Cat "Larry" with the Dali Whiskers
Himalayan Cat “Larry” with the Dali Whiskers
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