While all cats are different from one another in terms of their facial features, they share a lot of common characteristics. Cats, for example, have whiskers on the sides of their mouths, which are used to sense things around them. There is one question that people often ask about cats, which is if they have eyebrows or not. It might come as a surprise to you, but the answer is no. Unlike humans, cats do not have eyebrows, but they do have whiskers on top of their eyes as an alternative to eyebrows.
Read on to find out all about these distinctive hairs, what they are used for, and how they differ from breed to breed.
Human Eyebrows vs. Cat Eye Whiskers
Cats are mammals with hair, just like us. We have different types of hair on our bodies, however! In humans, eyebrows are a type of facial hair that is found above the eyes. There are several reasons why they are important. First of all, they help to prevent dirt and sweat from getting into the eyes. A second benefit is that they can make the eyes look bigger or more expressive by enhancing their appearance. Third, they can help to frame the face and make it look more symmetrical. Finally, eyebrows can play an important role in nonverbal communication, conveying emotions such as anger, sadness, or surprise.
Cats, in contrast, are much hairier on their faces than humans are, so they don’t actually need bushy eyebrows like ours to shield their eyes. Their faces are covered in fur which helps keep their eyes protected. These whiskers can provide eye protection by collecting moisture and particles to prevent them from entering the eyes, that is not their primary function. Cats have eye whiskers above their eyes because they serve an important purpose in the cat’s sensory system.
How Are Whiskers Different from Regular Cat Hair?
The whiskers on a cat’s body stand out despite the fact that they emerge from hair follicles like other hairs. Whiskers have roots that extend three times deeper than regular hair, as well as being coarser and thicker than regular hair. In contrast to regular hairs, whiskers do not cover the entire body. There are several distinct areas where they are found on the face and the forelegs. The cat’s brain receives information from sensory cells located at the base of each whisker follicle.
Whiskers: Anatomy and Function
There are three sets of whiskers on most cats’ faces: over the eye or superciliary, on the chin or mandibular, and the longest set, the muzzle whiskers (mystacial). Whiskers are also called vibrissae and are sensory organs that help cats detect changes in air currents and pressure. Incredibly, whiskers are just as sensitive as human fingertips. In the same way a human perceives the world with their fingertips, a cat can sense their environment with their face. The whiskers are highly innervated and are used by the cat to detect changes in air pressure and movement around them.
The special hair follicles from which whiskers originate are packed with blood vessels and nerves, making them more sensitive than regular hairs. Proprioceptors are the sensory nerve cells located at the base of cats’ whiskers. To keep the cat aware of the movements of each part of his body, these cell clusters transmit information to the brain regarding the position of the body and limbs.
In addition to helping felines navigate in the dark, the unique biology of their whiskers allows them to gauge the size and shape of objects. By doing so, they are able to navigate their world and avoid predators as well as other dangers in their environment. Additionally, the cat’s whiskers help them to judge the size of openings and whether or not they are able to pass through them based on the size of the gap. It is clear that cats have very sensitive whiskers that aid them in finding their way and in hunting more effectively. Cats are well known to land on their feet almost every time, and this is partly because they have whisker-assisted senses which assist them in landing.
Do All Cat Breeds Have Whiskers Above Their Eyes?
Depending on the breed, cats have different numbers of whiskers on each cheek, but most cats have 12 whiskers in four rows around their mouths and 3 whiskers above each eye. Similarly, while most cat breeds have eye whiskers on their face, the number, length, color, and placement of these whiskers can vary by breed. Ragdolls, Persians, Norwegian forest cats, Maine coons, and Siberians have thicker bushier whiskers above their eyes, whereas some other breeds usually don’t have such luxurious follicles. For example, hairless breeds such as Sphynxes often display smaller, thinner whiskers if they have any at all.
Do Cats Lose Their Eye Whiskers as They Age?
Fur loss on the face is a natural consequence of feline aging. This condition usually shows up on the crown of the head and above the eyes, as well as between the eyes and the ears. Some cats may even have bald spots above their eyes. It is important to note that this type of hair loss can be symptomatic of disease or a medical condition, such as mange, so make sure you consult your vet to rule out any other health issues. Whiskers are a type of cat hair, and so cats do lose some of their eye whiskers as they age. When a cat is young, shed whiskers grow back relatively quickly, but can be a decline in their numbers as cats get older. If your cat is older, they may have fewer or thinner eye whiskers.
In conclusion, cats do not have eyebrows, but they do have whiskers over their eyes. Although this seems like a minor distinction, whiskers play a different role for cats, because they help them navigate their world, whereas, in humans, eyebrows primarily protect our eyes. So next time you see some of these wispy antennae, take a moment to appreciate all that these extra appendages do to keep your kitty safe and comfortable in their environment.
Featured Image Credit: Ferenc Horvath, Unsplash