A cat's whiskers are an important part of its sensory system. They help a cat navigate and detect danger, identify objects and obstacles, and assist in depth perception. To humans, whiskers often look like clear, sturdy strands of hair, but does this mean they are subject to common hair issues such as split ends?
It is very common for cat whiskers to have split ends. A cat employs whiskers to navigate its environment, thereby weakening them and causing the tips to split over time. However, trimming your cat's whiskers should be avoided as this can damage the nerves in the vibrissal follicles of the hair.
In this article, we’ll detail the common causes of split ends in cat whiskers and what you can do to help prevent this issue. We’ll also discuss the dangers of trimming the split ends of your cat's whiskers and the best way to ensure your pet is healthy and split end free.
Why Do Cat Whiskers Get Split Ends? (Causes)
While dietary deficiencies or a cat's genetics can result in whiskers with split ends, the most likely cause is daily contact with surrounding surfaces. Although whisker split ends are in cats, split ends in conjunction with excessive hair loss indicate a more serious health condition.
Your cat's whiskers will frequently brush against everything in their enclosure, which will slowly wear down and weaken whiskers to the point they split or even fall off.
The closest comparison for whiskers in terms of human features is our hair. Like human hair, it is not uncommon for a cat's whiskers to have split ends.
These long, coarse hairs are made of a strong, fibrous protein known as keratin and are predominantly used for balance and to sense vibrations.
Cats as a species tend to be farsighted, meaning they can see things more clearly from a distance than objects that are close by. As a result of their poor depth perception and near-sighted vision, they rely heavily on their whiskers to help them sense nearby objects when they move.
How to Prevent a Cat’s Whiskers from Getting Split Ends
As pet owners, we want to do what’s best for our animal’s health and quality of life, which is why most cat owners will search for solutions and ways to prevent split ends in their cat's whiskers to ensure it isn’t a reoccurring issue.
To prevent split ends in a cat's whiskers, remove unnecessary obstructions or provide a larger enclosure. This will ensure the whiskers are brushing against fewer objects. However, owners should avoid inhibiting their cat's enrichment for the sake of preventing split ends in their whiskers.
However, the reality of the situation is that split ends in your cat's whiskers aren’t a significant issue that requires a high level of prevention.
Although whisker split ends might be concerning to an owner and leaves your cat looking a little scruffier than usual, this doesn’t usually affect your cat in any negative way. Most people won’t even notice them.
While cats rely heavily on their whiskers for balance and mobility, having split ends doesn’t inhibit either of these. Even better, the issue will usually solve itself naturally. It’s simply a sign of daily use, and any form of prevention has the potential to decrease your cat's overall happiness.
As long as your cat seems perfectly healthy otherwise, I recommend you don’t stress yourself over this common occurrence. Your cat will most likely have numerous split ends in their whiskers throughout their life, and these whiskers will fall out naturally, so new, healthy whiskers can replace them.
Can You Trim the Split Ends on Your Cat's Whiskers?
Owners should not trim the split ends on a cat's whiskers. Trimming a cat's whiskers could leave him unbalanced and less able to navigate his environment effectively until they adjust to the change. Cat whiskers are filled with blood vessels and nerves, potentially making them painful when cut.
Although the closest comparisons humans have for whiskers, especially in terms of split ends, is their hair, the function of your cat's whiskers is entirely different than the hair that grows on top of your head.
Your cat's whiskers are essential to their balance and their ability to detect vibrations in their surroundings. These vibrations allow them to identify nearby objects and movement in the air for spatial awareness. Without them, your cat will have an exceptionally hard time navigating its surroundings and moving.
Now, you might be thinking, “trimming split ends only removes a tiny amount of the whisker,” and while you are correct in this, every little bit of your cat's whiskers matters.
That’s because you have unnaturally removed something from their body, and now, they need to learn to readjust to the change.
The other reason you don’t want to cut whiskers is that this can physically harm your cat. Despite being made from the same protein as hair, whiskers are also filled with blood vessels and nerves that make them extremely sensitive. This sensitivity is vital to help your cat navigate its surroundings.
So, by cutting your cat's whiskers, you may be damaging the nerves in the vibrissal follicles and consequentially harming your pet. Therefore, for the health and safety of your cat, it’s best to leave their whiskers alone.
How to Know Your Cat's Split Ends Are Part of a Bigger Issue
Split ends in your cat's whiskers will be common throughout his life and rarely require any intervention from you as an owner. However, there are some instances where split ends might be a sign of something more serious health-wise in your cat when paired with other symptoms.
The most noticeable sign that your cat might need professional help is if you notice nearly all of its whiskers have split ends and are falling out.
Typically, your cat should have split ends on a few whiskers that will eventually fall out from time to time. So, if you notice that almost all of your cat's whiskers have split ends and/or their whiskers are falling out in large quantities, then they may be experiencing a more serious health condition.
Common medical conditions that cause whiskers to fall out in cats include:
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- Dermatitis and other skin conditions
- Mite infestations
- Hormonal disorders, such as hypothyroidism
- Fighting with other cats
If you notice your cat has an exceptional number of split ends in the whiskers and uncommon whisker loss, you should contact a professional veterinarian for help.
Cat owners can breathe a sigh of relief when they learn that not only do split ends occur in cat whiskers, but they are also vastly common and harmless to your pet.
If you notice them, the best thing to do is maybe make a note of how many split ends you see and keep an eye on your cat to ensure they eventually fall off naturally rather than an increase in quantity.
While split ends aren’t always the most visually appealing, remember that they are truly harmless to your cat, and you will do your pet more harm than good by trying to prevent or remove them. Split ends show that your cat uses their whiskers for what they’re meant for, and there’s no need for concern here.