What Happens If A Cat Burns His Eyebrow Whiskers On A Candle?

Cat whiskers (also known as vibrissae) play an important role in a cat’s sensory perception and spatial awareness. Made of thick, specialized hair, whiskers are highly sensitive tactile hairs that help cats detect and measure objects around them. Whiskers aid cats in hunting, navigation, and gauging whether they can fit through narrow spaces.

When a cat’s whiskers are damaged, such as from getting singed or burnt in a candle flame, it can temporarily impair their spatial judgment and sensory capabilities. Losing whiskers can be disorienting and distressing for cats until the whiskers regrow. This article will cover whisker anatomy and function, the impacts of whisker loss, and how to prevent injuries and care for a cat with burnt or broken whiskers.

Whisker Anatomy

Cat whiskers (vibrissae) have a unique anatomy compared to regular hairs. Each whisker grows out of its own specialized follicle that is deeply rooted into the cat’s dermis layer of skin, reaching all the way to the fat and muscle layers underneath (1). At the base of the follicle is a blood sinus surrounded by a dense network of nerves. This allows whiskers to have excellent sensory capabilities for detecting touch and vibration.

Whiskers are made of sturdy keratin similar to human hair and fingernails. However, they are generally thicker and longer than regular hairs. The average cat has 24 whiskers, arranged in four horizontal rows on each side of the muzzle. The upper two rows typically protrude upwards, while the lower two rows point down (2). Whiskers continue to grow throughout a cat’s life and will regrow if plucked or damaged.


(1) https://kritterkommunity.com/the-anatomy-of-a-cats-whiskers/

(2) https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-do-cats-have-whiskers

Whisker Sensory Function

A cat’s whiskers play an important role in sensing the environment around them. The whiskers contain highly sensitive nerve endings that send sensory information to the brain. This allows cats to build a 3D map of their surroundings even when it’s too dark to see.

Whiskers aid in spatial awareness and navigation. They sense information about openings and gaps so a cat can judge whether their body will fit through. The whiskers also detect air currents and vibrations which helps cats measure distances. This sensory input guides movements and allows cats to avoid obstacles as they jump or move in the dark.

In addition, whiskers aid predatory skills for hunting. They help detect movements of prey animals and provide cues for exactly when and how to strike. The sensitive whiskers even enable cats to track down prey in total darkness.

Overall, a cat’s whiskers are essential tools that provide spatial, navigational, and predatory sensory information. They serve as an extension of the sense of touch and allow cats to expertly interact with their environment even when vision is limited. Losing whiskers can significantly impact these natural abilities.


Consequences of Lost Whiskers

Whiskers play an important role in a cat’s balance, navigation, and hunting ability. According to The Village Vets, cats rely on their whiskers for spatial awareness and judging distances https://thevillagevets.com/blog/cat-whiskers/. When a cat loses a significant number of whiskers, it can cause disorientation and affect their proprioception, or body awareness.

Without full whiskers, cats may become unsteady on their feet, stumble more often, and have difficulty jumping accurately. Lincoln Way Vet states that whiskers help cats navigate tight spaces and avoid obstacles in low light. A lack of whiskers impairs this navigation ability and makes cats more prone to bumping into things https://lincolnwayvet.com/blog/whisker-loss-in-cats/.

Whiskers also play a key role in hunting skills. Catster explains that whiskers help cats detect prey movements and judge the precise moment to pounce and catch their target. Missing whiskers means cats will have more difficulty hunting effectively https://www.catster.com/guides/cat-losing-whiskers/.

Whisker Regrowth Process

A cat’s whiskers will grow back after being burned, but the regrowth process takes time. Cat whiskers typically go through growth cycles every 5-8 weeks, during which time they will grow to their full length before shedding. After a burn injury, the damaged follicles will need to heal before they can start producing a new whisker shaft.

It usually takes 2-3 months for whiskers to fully regrow after being burned off. The regrowth rate can vary based on factors like the cat’s breed, age, diet, and overall health. For example, malnutrition may stunt whisker regrowth. The severity of the original burn may also affect regrowth time.

As the new whiskers start growing in, they may initially be irregularly kinked or curled as the follicle heals. Over subsequent growth cycles, the whiskers should regain their normal straight shape. It’s important to allow the natural regrowth process and not trim or interfere with the emerging whiskers.

While whiskers are growing back, cats may be more cautious and hesitant jumping up or navigating tight spaces. But whiskers do gradually regenerate if the follicle was not permanently damaged. With time, the full sensory capabilities of the whiskers will be restored.

Preventing Burn Injuries

There are several things cat owners can do to help prevent accidental whisker burns around candles or other hot objects:

  • Keep candles up high where cats can’t reach them. Cats are naturally curious and may try to investigate a flickering flame up close.
  • Consider using flameless candles instead of traditional candles with an open flame. These present no fire risk to pets.
  • When cooking on the stove, keep pot and pan handles turned inwards so they don’t stick out over the edge where a cat could brush up against them.
  • Use back burners when possible and keep cats out of the kitchen while cooking.
  • Keep hot appliances like curling irons and hair straighteners unplugged and safely stored away when not in use.
  • Don’t leave unattended cups of hot coffee or tea within a cat’s reach.

Following basic safety precautions like these can help protect cats from accidental whisker burns and other injuries around the home.

First Aid for Burns

For mild whisker burns, first assess the severity of the injury. Look for singed or blackened whiskers, reddened skin, blisters, or broken skin. If it is just a minor singe with no broken skin, you can provide first aid at home.

Start by trimming off any completely burned whiskers with clean, sharp scissors. This will help prevent the whiskers from becoming ingrown as they regrow. Be very gentle, as the area may be tender. You can clean the area gently with a soft damp cloth, but avoid using any cleansers, ointments or home remedies. Cat skin is easily irritated.

Provide supportive care by giving your cat canned food, which has extra fluids. This supports healing. Cats use their whiskers to judge whether they can fit through an opening and for tactile sensation. With missing whiskers, they may bump into things more. Provide a safe, low-stress environment while the whiskers regrow.

Monitor for signs of infection like discharge, swelling or bad odors. Seek veterinary care if the burns worsen or become infected. For immediate veterinary care, contact [insert vet phone number] or bring your cat to [vet name]. Otherwise, schedule a non-emergency visit to have your vet assess the healing.

While whisker burns can be alarming, mild singed whiskers often heal on their own within days or weeks as new whiskers emerge. Just provide supportive care and keep the area clean while they regrow.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

In most cases, minor whisker burns can be treated at home. However, you should seek veterinary care if the burn is severe, involves a large area, or shows concerning symptoms. According to this Quora post, contact your vet immediately if the skin is blistered or charred from the burn.

Signs that indicate the need for professional treatment include:

  • Burns covering more than a small patch of skin
  • Visible charring or loss of skin layers
  • Blistering of the skin
  • Burns on sensitive areas like the face, paws, or abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing or signs of respiratory irritation
  • Excessive redness, swelling, discharge, or pain around the burn
  • Signs of infection like pus, foul odor, fever, or lethargy
  • Trouble eating or drinking due to whisker loss
  • Behavioral changes like hiding or aggression due to pain

Veterinary care is crucial for severe burns to prevent complications like dehydration, infection, and permanent damage. Your vet can provide antibiotics, pain medication, fluid therapy, and advanced wound treatment to promote healing.

Caring for a Cat With Lost Whiskers

If your cat has lost one or more whiskers due to a burn or other injury, there are some things you can do to help them adapt during the regrowth process:

Provide extra reassurance and affection to help reduce stress. Loss of whiskers can be distressing for cats, so comfort and attention from you can help calm them.

Avoid rearranging furniture or other objects in your home until the whiskers regrow. Your cat may have some spatial challenges without their full set of whiskers to rely on.

Watch for signs of stress like hiding, decreased appetite, or avoidance of play. If you see these, try to minimize other stressors and stick to your cat’s normal routine.

Discourage rough play or interactions with other pets that could lead to confrontation without whiskers for protection.

Consider temporary confinement when you can directly supervise. This allows exploration while avoiding potential hazards.

Give your cat time to adjust to the loss of sensation. The whisker regrowth process takes weeks, but most cats adapt surprisingly well during this period.

Be patient and keep your veterinarian informed if you have ongoing concerns about your cat’s behavior or health after whisker loss.


Whiskers play an important role in a cat’s sensory perception and spatial awareness. Losing whiskers can temporarily impair a cat’s ability to judge distances, move around smoothly, and detect objects near their face. However, with proper care, time, and prevention of further injuries, cat whiskers can fully regrow and regain normal function.

It’s critical to watch out for potential burn hazards around candles, stoves, heaters and other sources of flame. Keeping cats away from hot surfaces, putting covers on pots/pans, and extinguishing candles when unattended can help avoid whisker burns. If an injury does occur, prompt first aid and veterinary care can minimize discomfort during the regrowth process.

While whisker loss impacts cats in the short term, their resilience and built-in sensory redundancy ensures they can adapt relatively well. With proper handling of burns and an environment set up to prevent repeat injuries, most cats make a full recovery and regain their unique whisker characteristics after regrowth occurs.

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