When people take on the task of owning a cat, they take on the role of caretaker for another being and everything that comes with that. Most people understand the gravity of this kind of relationship well.
After all, your new cat is going to depend on you for a large majority of its care, creating a deep bond with you that will last for well over a decade.
Unless you have been caring for and owning cats for the majority of your life, there’s a good chance that there will come a time and situation where you are completely at a loss for what you should do.
A sudden change in behavior (like when a cat suddenly begins sleeping in a litter box) or physical health is something that can be startling and may leave you not knowing what you should do or how you should react.
There are going to be those times where you have no clue whether or not something is good or bad.
This may be the case when you notice that your cat seems to be shedding its whiskers.
It is common knowledge that most cats out there will shed their fur on occasion, but is it really something natural if your cat loses its whiskers?
The Importance of a Cat’s Whiskers
A cat’s whiskers play a large role in helping cats maintain their balance, understand where things are coming from, and navigating tight and narrow spaces. As such, surely a cat losing its whiskers is a sign of immediate trouble, right?
The truth is that a cat losing whiskers may be more common and far less of an issue than you may think, although if the change is rapid and drastic, it still may be time for a trip to the vet.
Do Cats Lose Their Whiskers?
Cats, much like people, also shed dead skin cells. You may even find what appears to be remnants of your cat’s claws, as the outer shell of a cat’s claw will eventually be shed too.
This is one reason why it is important to provide your cat with a proper scratching surface, so your cat can naturally shed the claw covering.
But what about whiskers? To an extent, a cat losing its whiskers is a completely natural part of the cat’s shedding process. It can be equated to an idea of shedding fur that grows back, or losing the covering of a claw that will grow back given time.
The standard number of whiskers that your cat will shed depends heavily on the type of cat you own, the situations your cat gets into, and the way your cat reacts to regular stressors.
Most cats will shed a few whiskers a year, between zero and three whiskers in a year. If you find a single cat whisker on the ground for the first time in a year, you can usually chalk it up to your cat simply shedding off something it no longer can make use of, such as an old whisker.
Over time, when owning a cat, you will get used to what your cat’s range of normal is. It will be important for you to gauge what “normal” is for your cat, so that you will be able to determine when something is amiss.
When Whisker Shedding Becomes Problematic
Once you learn what your cat’s normal range of whisker loss is you will be able to have a good sense of when to be alarmed.
Not shedding as many whiskers in a year is something that is not a cause for concern and can even mean that your cat is even healthier, as cats can easily go a few years without the need to shed whiskers.
On the other hand, if you notice that your cat is suddenly shedding whiskers more than you are used to seeing, or it has been happening gradually more often throughout the year, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
When to See a Veterinarian About Whisker Loss
One of the most common triggers for inappropriate whisker shedding is stress.
Just as people can lose their hair over stress, cats can also begin to shed even more when they feel stressed for long periods of time. The kind of stress that can cause a cat’s whiskers to fall out is generally not going to be quick and immediate situations, but rather situations where the exposure to the stress is both prolonged and unavoidable.
For instance, if you have just moved into a new home and your cat is trying to adjust to the area with its sounds, sights, and smells, you may find more shed whiskers than you normally would as your cat adjusts to this massive change in its life.
Another situation that may cause your cat to inappropriately shed whiskers could be if another animal or person was introduced to the house and your cat feels scared or threatened by that addition.
The way to treat the shedding whiskers is to do what you can to alleviate the underlying stressors, although this is often easier said than done when you are dealing with animals that are as stubborn as a cat.
Once you have determined what the source of stress in your cat is, you can begin to try and help your cat overcome that stress.
Help it become accustomed to a new area if you have moved, or do what you can to establish a “safe” and “familiar” area for your cat to relax in, filled with all of the scents that may remind the cat of home.
If there is another person or animal in the house causing the stress, you may want to try and socialize the cat with that creature so that it can learn from experience that there is nothing to stress over. Chances are that when the stress dies down, the cat’s whiskers will be there to stay.