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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.

27 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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    3. Its one thing to accidentally clip whiskers off but to purposely burn them off thats cruel.

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    4. If you couldn't figure that out yourself that it's not ok nor normal you should not be able to own a lighter /matches let alone a living animal. #getaclue

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    5. You need to dump your"friend" because cruelty to animals can lead to abusive relationships and your kitty could end up dead.

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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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  10. Hi. I just trimmed (little bit) whiskers of our 5 months old kitten because they are too way long. My husband told not to do it but I did it anyway. I've done it in the past and they grow back.

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    1. Please don't do that again. Cutting the whiskers is extremely painful for the cat, as they're connected to a lot of sensitive nerves. It also inhibits the cat's ability to walk in the dark or in the light without bumping into things.

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    2. Actually, anonymous, that's not entirely true. While the base of the whisker has a lot of nerves, the whisker itself is a form of hair and has no nerve endings. Cutting the whiskers is no more painful than cutting hair. Pulling a whisker out by the root is certainly more painful than pulling a regular hair. Cats also do fine in the dark and can certainly walk around without bumping into things, even without whiskers. They serve a purpose, but they are not so important that they are a completely essential structure.

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    3. Don't worry, I'm not sure about the effects, but being hair, as above said, they just transmit the vibrations to the very sensitive follicle nerves which are the only alive part. At most they might tickle a bit when cut :).
      Rather, I wonder if they can be trimmed without significant or any impact at all as long as you keep enough length. Otherwise it's better not to.

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  11. Poor kitty's that have to go through that

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  12. Recently when I was clipping my friends cat to get the knots out of his long fur I accidentally got a few of his whiskers when he decided to nuzzle the scissors right when i was clipping so its good to know how long it will take for them to grow back thanks.

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  13. We, too, accidentally snipped our cats' whiskers when we were cutting knots out of his fur, and it's been over a year. They've not grown back. He turned 16 in May, so I don't know if it's an age thing, or what have you. We felt horrible about it, and it serves as a bad reminder when we see it. Poor guy :/

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    1. My 3 year old cut one side of my 13 year old cats whiskers in November and now it's February and they haven't replaced themselves yet. So sad, I'm still hoping they will. He's lop-sided.

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  14. My cat just had a cancerous growth removed from his face, right in the middle of his whiskers. They had to shave off all the hair there, including every whisker on one side. I'm glad to know they'll come back, I guess it will just be part of his recovery.

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  15. "in fact, long-haired cats that receive close grooming routinely have their whiskers cut as part of trimming the face."
    So whisker get sometimes cut normally as a usual grooming routine?
    Given you confirmed that a drastical cut results in sensory lot, how much, if any, can they get cut back without giving the cats problems? As I hope such groomers know what they are doing. Is it only done to very long whiskers? Thanks :). I knew of course, they were pretty much like normal hair, for all other respects.

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  16. My long haired cat was just given a lion cut because he was so matted (he won't let me near him with a brush). For some reason they cut one side of his whiskers down to about 1/4" while the other side is long. I've put in a call to find out why. He's six, so I'm hoping they will grow back. Meanwhile, he is acting totally humiliated, and the other two cats are being really mean to him.

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