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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do Cat Whiskers Regrow?

Mary asks a common question....

My friend has a couple of VERY active children and a longsuffering cat.  I was visiting this friend a few days ago when she pointed out where her son decided to give the cat a bit of a trim on her back, and drastically cut back her whiskers.  My friend told me that she's really worried about the cat now because whiskers don't grow back.  I had never heard of this before.  Is this true?  If so, what can she do to protect her cat now that she's somewhat handicapped?

Great question, Mary, and a common one.  Whiskers not regrowing is an old wives' tale that keeps being spread around.  The whiskers on any mammal are really nothing more than specially modified hair.  They tend to be thicker and stiffer than normal hairs, and at their base they are surrounded by nerve clusters.  Movement of the whiskers triggers nerve signals and are used for sensing air movement, objects close to the face, and so on.  Like any other hair whiskers grow from follicles, where they will grow to a certain length, "live" a certain length of time, and then fall out in order to be replaced by a new whisker.  They fall out and regrow in a staggered pattern, but they will indeed regrow, just like any other hair that is cut.  In fact, long-haired cats that receive close grooming routinely have their whiskers cut as part of trimming the face.  However, it can take 2-3 months for a full set of whiskers to grow out so it will not happen soon.

So reassure your friend that her cat will be fine and will have normal whiskers in a few months.  Until then the cat may feel a little strange and even be reluctant to go in certain areas as she is missing certain sensory input.  But in my experience, this is usually not noticable to the owner.

12 comments:

  1. My daughter did the same thing to my new kitten I was just as worried. I feel so much better now.Well at least one good thing might come out of it she will not hide in small places now were I can not find her.

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  2. Thanks for this post! I just realized that my 12 week old kittens whiskers are shorter & thicker. I live with by myself, and the only other one around him is Snowflake, my 4 year old cat. I totally freaked out cause when I found him he was about 3-4 weeks old with long thin white whiskers. The ones I'm currently seeing are black & white and rather thick compared to his previous ones.

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  3. My brother has just cut our 11 month old kitten's whiskers, I was so worried incase they wouldn't grow back! Thankyou for telling me the good news!!! :) X

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  4. My boyfriend told me i was a bad person because when i was younger i cut my cats whiskers, and they didnt grow back. So i looked it up and thank you for proving him wrong :)

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  5. I just had my persian kitty groomed and lo and behold her whiskers were cut off! She has curly whiskers. I didn't ask for that to be done. I thought I could trust the groomer at the animal hospital to not do that. I really thought it would hurt her. Thanks for your answer to my question. I'm so relieved now.

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  6. Okay, this sound horrible, but one of my other kittens was playing with one of her sisters and two of its wiskers got pulled out..so they will grow back?

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    1. Hi. This happens all the time. I find whiskers caught in cushions on sofa. Might take a while, but hey will grow back.

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  7. My best friend decided to burn my kitties whiskers off, and then a couple weeks after that my other friend decided she needed to give the kitty a trim, i was so worried and scared. thank you!!

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    1. What kind of person would BURN a cats whiskers off, your friend should be arrested for animal abuse.

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    2. You have some really good "friends". If I were you, I'd perform a little below-the-belt surgery on them and then I'd hand them over to the police for animal abuse.

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  8. Thank you for that. My 16-year old tabby had teeth problems and had rubbed the side of his face making the whiskers fall out. He has come through a very successful op to remove all his bad teeth but his whiskers seemed to have stopped growing. Thanks for reassurance that it will take a couple of months. We'll just have to be patient.

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  9. My 5 month old kitten just singed one side of his whiskers, when he got too curious around one of my candles. I am glad to know that, in time, they will grow back. And I've learned my lesson - no burning candles during the daytime or when I am not in the room.

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