There’s one part of our cat that we tend to overlook and that would be the cat’s whiskers. We know they’re there, we might even play with them.
But not many actually know why the whiskers are there for.
If you have more than one cat at home, there might come a time when one cat is biting off the whiskers of another cat.
Should you be concerned when this happens?
Let’s find out.
What Are Your Cat’s Whiskers For?
Your cat’s whiskers are more than just hair that’s growing out from the side of your cat’s face. Each strand is a finely tuned sensory device that helps your cat gather feedback about its surroundings.
One obvious trait about your cat’s whiskers is that they are thicker than the normal fur. The whiskers are also longer and go in deeper into your cat’s skin.
Most cats have 24 whiskers in total with 12 per whisker pad that’s neatly arranged in rows of 4.
Your cat uses its whiskers for:
- Locating its prey
- Early warning system
- Moving in the dark
- Squeezing through tight spaces
Your cat’s whiskers are very sensitive because each whisker root is filled with nerves.
In addition to that, the tip of each whisker has a sensory organ called a proprioceptor which sends signals to the brain about the cat’s position relative to its surroundings.
Your cat also has whiskers above its eye and on its ankles. These whiskers are shorter and thinner so they don’t stand out that much.
But try spotting them on your cat.
Why Is My Cat Eating My Other Cat’s Whiskers?
I have to say that this whisker chewing or eating behavior by another cat isn’t something common.
There are a couple of possible reasons that could explain this behavior.
1. Excessive Grooming
Grooming is part and parcel of a cat’s life and it’s an action that it indulges in for many hours a day.
There’s a reason why many have the impression that cats are clean because cats are grooming themselves half the time that they are awake.
Grooming helps to keep the fur clean and get rid of dead fur.
If you have more than one cat, it is a common sight to see your cats engage in mutual grooming. They can lie together on the floor or the cat bed and just go to town with their tongues.
Mutual grooming also helps cats to exchange their own individual scents with each other which helps to strengthen the bond and say ” We are friends”.
You might have one cat that could be too excessive when it comes to grooming your other cat. The biting and whisker chewing whilst grooming is causing your cat to lose its whiskers.
2. Showing Dominance
To me, the word dominance has always been more of a dog thing due to its pack nature. There’s usually one alpha dog that likes exerting its dominance over others.
Even dog owners are often told to show dominance and act as the pack leader to control the dog.
But when it comes to cats, there is also a social hierarchy between them if you have two or three cats.
There will be one cat that rules the roost so to speak and the other cats will be its ‘subordinates’.
In a feral cat colony, it is said to be a matriarchal hierarchy and the female with the most number of litters will call the shots.
In a domestic setting where all the cats are usually spayed, the dominant cat will be the one who is most socially confident.
One way that a cat shows its dominance over another cat is by aggressive grooming.
The dominant cat will make it point to frequently groom cats down the totem pole to show them that he/she is still in charge and not to forget that.
Although mutual grooming is common between bonded cats, this is usually one-sided with the ‘victim’ not enjoying it that much. The cat might show fear and anxiousness in its body language while its groomed.
Why Is My Cat Trying to Bite My Other Cat?
Dominant cats are known to bite the other cat that it’s grooming. This is to prevent the cat from running away or to hold it down in place.
Excessive grooming can be rather uncomfortable and painful to the other cat especially when it starts losing its whiskers or the skin gets too sensitive.
These grooming sessions don’t usually end well.
At times it can end up in a fight or with the victim having some whiskers chewed off.
3. Mother Cat And Her Kittens
Being a mother cat is very tough work.
You have 4-6 naughty, hungry and curious kittens to take care of around the clock for the next 12-15 weeks.
To make her job easier, mother cats chew or bite off the whiskers when a kitten misbehaves. This is to prevent them from wandering away too far from the litter and getting into trouble.
It could also be due to littermates chewing each other whiskers off while playing or grooming. A kitten’s whiskers are rather brittle as it takes time for them to strengthen.
So if your cat has recently given birth to a litter, don’t be too alarmed to find a few ‘whiskerless’ kittens in the litter.
It ain’t a birth defect.
4. Your Cat Is Feeling Anxious
There might be times when your cat is solely responsible for the loss of its own whiskers. Cats that are feeling overly anxious and fearful can start grooming themselves too much.
When this happens, the cat can have bald patches over its body. The constant tugging and pulling at the whiskers can also cause a few to drop out.
Other symptoms to look out for are:
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive vocalization
- Hiding more than usual
- Eliminating outside of the litter box
Having a cat that is in a constant state of anxiety is healthy for the poor cat as it will engage in destructive behaviors.
How to Stop My Cat From Being A Whisker Muncher?
Having one cat chewing or eating another cat’s whiskers might not seem like a big deal to some cat owners but there are some repercussions for the other cat.
Without its whiskers, a cat can become very frightened and disoriented. Its mobility and balance will be greatly affected.
Imagine being blindfolded and having tennis balls stuck underneath your shoes.
That’s basically how a poor cat would feel like without its whiskers.
This behavior can be a difficult one to stop or minimize as you need to be watching your cats very often.
The most effective method is to stop and distract the cat when the grooming starts to get too aggressive. Some cat owners I spoke to will even physically remove the offending cat and give it a toy to play with.
If you have a cat that is doing it out of dominance, make sure to correct that behavior as soon as possible. Give all of your cats their own food fowls, water bowls, litter boxes and private spaces.
This reduces the need for any cat to try and vie for territory.
Give all your cat equal attention and affection so that there’s no reason for jealousy between them.
Resoclialize your cats as much as possible to get them on friendlier terms instead of a bossy one.
Do Cat Whiskers Grow Back?
The good thing is that your cat’s whiskers will grow back even after losing them. It is even normal for cats to shed their own whiskers. But not all at the same time.
It takes about 2-3 months for the whisker to be fully grown and functional. The majority of cats tend to have whiskers that are white. But you can find black whiskers on some cat breeds like the Bombay cat.