Q: Our 5-year-old daughter cut off our cat’s whiskers. Will this cause any problems? Will his whiskers grow back?
A: Your cat should do fine, particularly if he lives indoors. Cats shed their whiskers periodically, and his will grow in again during the next shed/regrowth cycle.
Whiskers, or vibrissae, are specialized tactile hairs that help cats feel their way and navigate in dim light. They also detect air movement close to the face, which may warn of a nearby animal.
Unlike men’s bristly facial hair, cat whiskers are sensitive antennas that carry nerve impulses to the brain. Their whiskers are so sensitive that they prefer to eat and drink from large-diameter bowls that are filled to the brim, so their whiskers don’t rub against the side of the bowl.
Whiskers are present on most mammals and all carnivores. They are especially well developed in nocturnal species like cats.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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