What happens when you cut the whiskers of cats?
When a cat’s whiskers are cut off, it loses an important orientation aid. The effects of this can be noticeable even in indoor-only cats and are more than unpleasant for your pet.
This also applies to the cutting itself.
Because the vibrissae, as whiskers are called in technical language, are very deeply anchored in the skin and have a special form of follicles.
You should therefore never cut off or kink your cat’s whiskers. But what happens if it comes to shortening the vibrissae? We give you the answer.
In this article you will learn what changes you should expect after cutting whiskers on your cat, what functions they perform and what is special about them.
What happens when a cat has its whiskers cut off?
It loses an important means of orientation outdoors and indoors. As a result, the animal may be confused and appear “clumsy”.
Especially, but not only, for free-rangers, this is a significant limitation.
Before we show you what exactly shortened whiskers mean for your cat, we will first deal with the structure and functions of the vibrissae.
Whiskers of the cat: Structure
Whiskers are compared to normal fur hair:
significantly stronger and thicker
three times deeper embedded in the skin
equipped with a special follicle
The follicles each have a blood capsule. If the hair moves due to external influences, this capsule is compressed.
The pressure is transmitted to the numerous nerve endings located around the follicle. Stimuli are thus transmitted much more strongly to the brain.
This is one of the remarkable functions of vibrissae.
What functions do whiskers have?
Due to the sensitive transmission of stimuli, cats can perceive even the smallest drafts and changes in their environment with their whiskers.
Whether it’s a mouse moving in the dark in front of them, someone breathing around them, or an obstacle blocking their path, the vibrissae help cats perceive and sense everything in their environment better and faster.
Therefore, even if they can’t see anything, they can find their way around.
In addition to this function, the whiskers also fulfill another task. They serve to estimate distances.
Cats can recognize by the hairs in the area of the face better whether it is a narrow or a wider passage.
So much for the whiskers on the face. But cats do not only have these whiskers. Vibrissae are also found as tactile hairs on the front legs and paws.
These serve the same purpose: a better estimation of the environment and the underground. When hunting for prey and grasping prey, they represent a considerable advantage.
Since cats cannot see well at short distances, they must rely more heavily on their tactile hairs.
This benefits them when climbing or changing ground, among other things.
Cut whiskers in apartment cats – is it bad?
As you know by now at the latest, the vibrissae primarily have functions that give cats a survival advantage in the wild or when outdoors.
So apartment cats don’t rely on whiskers, right?
This may seem logical at first and seem like you could cut them off with no problem.
However, this assumption is wrong.
Regardless of where and how your cat lives, she is genetically designed to rely on the impulses she receives from those particular hairs.
If you cut them off, she may suddenly become confused or even anxious and nervous, despite familiar surroundings.
You are taking away some of her normal orientation ability with the clipping. Therefore: Hands off the scissors!
When are whiskers restricted?
Only completely intact whiskers and tactile hairs can fulfill their functions. They are restricted when they are:
are cut off. The thin tip must therefore be present so that even the smallest changes and slight drafts can be perceived.
Can whiskers in cats become too long?
No, whiskers reach a genetically predetermined length and do not grow any further after that.
Therefore, it is not true that whiskers are as long as the widest part of the cat’s body.
This would mean that the hairs would suddenly reach immense lengths in a pregnant velvet paw or in an overweight animal.
However, this condition does not occur.
What if whiskers of your cat fall out?
If only one or two whiskers fall out on your cat at a time, this is perfectly normal and no cause for concern.
Just like other fur hairs, vibrissae can fall out and grow back when they reach the end of their life.
However, this happens with a delay so that there are always enough tactile hairs and whiskers for orientation.
The situation is different if a conspicuously large number of the strong vibrissae run out.
Then a nutrient deficiency, a disease or an infestation with parasites could be present. In any case, a veterinary examination is urgently necessary to clarify the cause and to have it treated.
Caution: fallen whiskers
This warning is not for your cat, but for you.
The ends of the whiskers are rigid and pointed, like a needle. If you like to walk barefoot in your home and step on one of the hairs, it can bore through your skin.
This is painful and can cause inflammation.
So if your cat has just lost a few whiskers, caution is advised.
How long does it take for whiskers to grow back in cats?
Cut hairs do not grow back. You have to wait for them to fall out and a new hair to take their place.
Only then is the important tip present again, which plays a decisive role in the function of the hair.
How long the regrowth takes depends on the state of health and care of your pet.
On average, you should expect two to three weeks per centimeter of hair length. With very long whiskers, it can take several months until they have completely grown back.
However, even the shorter hairs already fulfill their function.
Whiskers in cats never cut off
Never cut off the whiskers of your cat. On the one hand, there is no reason for this. On the other hand it restricts your velvet paw considerably.
Instead of cutting the vibrissae, you should pay attention to their health. If the hairs keep breaking off or falling out in large numbers, these are clear warning signs and should lead you to the vet immediately.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
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