A cat’s whiskers are a distinctive feature of the species, but your feline friend’s facial hair is more than just a stylish accessory. Whiskers ensure a cat’s sensory system functions properly. Since cats’ whiskers are designed to be straight, curling ones may worry you, but why does this happen?
Your cats’ whiskers might curl due to old age, excessive rubbing of the face against hard objects, or a sign that new whiskers are coming in to replace fallen ones. A little curling won’t hurt, so don’t panic. However, if there’s a change in your cat’s behavior, you should see your local vet.
Read ahead to learn more about the reasons behind curling whiskers, when curling can indicate a problem, and what you can do in such cases.
Reasons for Cat’s Whiskers Curling
A cat’s whiskers, also known as vibrissae, are essential as it gives it the ability to sense the environment around it using touch and vibrations in the air.
Whiskers allow a cat to have night vision, chase prey, escape predators, and run in the dark confidently. However, whiskers aren’t free from problems. You may notice your cat’s whiskers curling.
Here are some of the reasons for this:
- Whiskers can curl due to old age.
- Whiskers curl when excessively rubbed against hard objects.
- Whiskers will curl when new ones are growing.
This isn’t necessarily a problem. I’ll explain why.
1. Whiskers Can Curl Due to Old Age
It’s common for a cat’s whiskers to curl due to old age. Like all living things, a cat’s physical health deteriorates over time, which can manifest in many ways.
One of these ways is that its whiskers growing longer or becoming droopy and curly.
As whiskers grow longer, they don’t sense pain but can be very sensitive when pulled or touched at the root. Therefore, whiskers curling naturally from the end are likely not an issue for your kitty and are best left alone.
Note: Although it may be sad to see your furry friend showing aging signs, you should never try to straighten or trim its whiskers. This will leave your cat “blind” in the dark and very imbalanced.
2. Whiskers Curl When Excessively Rubbed Against Hard Objects
If your cat is young yet still facing this issue, it likely loves to rub its face against hard objects.
Cats generally rub against things to mark them with their scent. However, if done excessively, they can cause their whiskers to curl.
This will likely not be a problem unless the excessive rubbing causes something known as “whisker fatigue,” which is when a cat’s whiskers become ultra-sensitive and may hurt due to overstimulation.
Unless you see your cat acquiring problems along with their new luscious curls, it’s not a cause for worry but rather a cause to take more pictures with your feline best friend.
3. Whiskers Will Curl When New Ones Are Growing
As a cat grows and goes through its life cycle, some whisker hairs may naturally fall out. Don’t worry, as these hairs will grow back, but sometimes the new whiskers growing in place of the old ones may be curlier than their old whiskers.
New whiskers are often curly at the start and will straighten as they grow to their full natural length. Although whiskers can fall out naturally, if you notice a sudden increase in shedding whiskers, your cat may be facing other problems, such as allergies.
You must take it to the vet if you suspect allergies or other illnesses.
The natural falling out of whiskers isn’t painful for a cat. Still, you should never try to pluck out your cat’s curly whiskers, as they’re embedded much deeper in the skin than fur and have many nerve endings at the follicle.
It’ll be excruciating for your cat if you were to pluck its whiskers out. Also, when a cat loses whiskers without new ones coming back in, they are more prone to an imbalance.
Whiskers balance their equilibrium and help them walk straight.
When Curling May Indicate Certain Problems
Whiskers curling doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing, but you must monitor your cat’s behavior upon noticing its whiskers curling. Whiskers that curl may lead to concerning behaviors affecting your cat’s movements, for example.
Let’s talk more about these problems and when you should take your feline buddy to the vet.
Your Cat Is Less Aware or Confident in Its Movement
Although the curling of a cat’s whiskers usually doesn’t cause it any harm, excessive curling may cause your cat to lose some of its spatial awareness.
Whiskers help cats judge what’s around them and are crucial for balance.
If you notice your cat’s whiskers curling and your cat seems dizzy, fearful, or moving around unusually clumsily, it may be facing problems detecting its environment. This is when you should take a trip to the veterinarian.
Your Cat Experiences “Whisker Fatigue”
Sometimes, cats can unknowingly overstimulate their whiskers by rubbing them against things too much or because of a food or water bowl that is too small. This can lead to “whisker fatigue,” making them extremely sensitive and, in some cases, painful to touch.
According to Cathealth.com, these are some symptoms of whisker fatigue:
- Pawing at or pulling food out of the bowl to eat it on the ground.
- Making a big mess around the bowl while eating or drinking.
- Leaving food in the bowl but continuing to act hungry.
- Approaching the food bowl with caution, acting as though they want to eat but pacing around nervously first.
- Constantly demanding that the food bowl is kept full to the top while refusing to eat when the bowl isn’t full.
- Acting aggressively toward other pets or people in the home around mealtimes.
Cats may show these signs in other circumstances, but if you’re noticing them in your furry friend, you may want to investigate whisker fatigue as being a reason.
If you suspect this is the case, you may want to replace your cat’s food and water bowls with shallower, wider bowls, which would allow it to eat and drink without its whiskers brushing up against the sides and causing them discomfort.
You may also want to take your cat to the vet to see if they can help.
What You Can Do About Curling Whiskers
Although it can be scary when you see physical changes in your pets, curling whiskers are generally not a cause for concern unless you see accompanying problems which may cause discomfort or pain to your cat.
If you see your cat sporting a new style of facial hair, but they seem to be carrying about their business, as usual, it’s likely wise to leave the whiskers be.
You should never trim or straighten your cat’s whiskers, as that may impair their ability to function properly and cause them further discomfort or pain. You should also never pluck their whiskers out, as that can be extremely painful for them.
Unless you see a reason to take your kitty to the vet’s office, it’s best to just enjoy the cute new curly whiskers your cat has and leave the trimmed mustache for your uncle.
Whiskers function as sensors for your cat, allowing them to navigate and understand the world around them. Naturally, then, it may be concerning when your cat’s whiskers look unusual. Curling of the whiskers, however, is no reason to worry. Your cat is most likely still the healthy, sassy, and curious creature you know and love.
- Wikipedia: Whiskers
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?
- Treehugger: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Cat Whiskers
- Born for Pets: Why Are My Cat’s Whiskers Curling? (Solved)
- Cat Health: Does Your Cat Have Whisker Fatigue?
- I Heart Cats: The What, Why, and Wonder of Cat Whiskers
- Hill’s Pet: Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? (and How Many?)
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.