Do Cats Have Eyelashes?

Do cats have eyelashes? We get into the details. Learn more about what cat eyelashes are and the functions they serve.

MJ Shaffer writer with Dog

Last Updated: July 20, 2023 | 3 min read

Close up of a cat looking up and gazing into sky

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Eyelashes for humans are quite like the whiskers of a cat or dog. The question often comes up, do cats have eyelashes? The answer is yes, they do. Just like in humans, these structures help keep the eyes healthy and safe.

Do feline eyelashes work the same way as ours? Are eyelashes the same as whiskers? Feline owners have many questions. Let’s get into the details about cats and eyelashes.

Do Cats Have Eyelashes?

Yes, cats have eyelashes. Most breeds, other than hairless ones like the Sphynx or Peterbald, have eyelashes, though they may be hard for the human eye to see. While their lashes aren’t long, fluttering appendages like people have, the majority of felines have eyelashes.

The scientific name for eyelashes is cilia. Most mammals have cilia which serve protective functions in various places in the body like the brain, heart, respiratory tract, and middle ear. One type of cilia in the ear helps with hearing and detecting sound. They capture sound signals and send them to the brain. Cilia inside the eye help convert light into electrical signals used to communicate with the brain and help develop the images animals, including us, see.

Just like our eyelashes, feline lashes are very sensitive to touch. Some animals have easy-to-see lashes, but felines’ lashes are much smaller and blend into the fur and hair around the eyes very easily, leading many to think they are not there.

What Are Eyelashes?

The scientific way of describing eyelashes is that they are a type of cilia, tiny stiff hairs surrounding most mammals’ eyes. These cilia are highly sensitive to objects and wind. They trigger the blink reflex to protect the eye and keep minor irritants like dust, debris, sand, and dirt out of the eye. Lashes also help to keep the eye moisturized as they reduce tear and moisture evaporation.

Cats have more than one protective measure for their eyes. Felines also have a third eyelid that works to protect the eyeball from dirt, debris, and damage. This third eyelid is not often seen and can sometimes freak owners out. It is commonly seen in waking hours and looks like a white layer in the corner of the eye. Along with that, most cats have fur on their faces, which offers another layer of protection against the elements, insects, and damage to the eye.

What Do I Need To Know About My Cat’s Eyelashes?

As predators, cats rely heavily on their keen sense of sight. They have excellent night vision, too. Their large pupils and corneas, about fifty percent larger than human pupils and corneas, allow more light into their eyes to help them see in low light. Their pupils dilate to full circles when it’s dark to let in the maximum amount of light. Cats are crepuscular because they are active and hunt during the twilight hours.

Because cats rely on their vision to hunt, their eyes must be well protected. The short, stiff cilia around his eyes that we call eyelashes are necessary to protect this vital sense. Never try to trim your cat’s lashes, even if you think one is turning towards his eye. If you try to move anything sharp toward his eye, his reflexes will cause him to jerk and likely get hurt. Consult your veterinarian for the next steps in treatment.

What Are Some Disorders Of The Eyelashes?

Although disorders of the eyelashes are rare in felines, they may occur and cause your feline companion intense pain. They could have extra lashes or misdirected lashes. These eyelashes can cause pain, watering eyes, blood vessels in the cornea, and slow-healing corneal sores and scars. Eyelashes that point back into the eye cause severe pain. Cutting out or freezing the eyelash follicles may be necessary to eliminate pain and potential damage to the cornea.

In some cases, cats can grow eyelashes in places they should not or develop an extra row of lashes. This is called Distichiasis. Sometimes the lashes can grow inside the eye. This is called ectopic cilia and requires surgery to fix. Cats that are experiencing an eyelash issue may have swollen eyes, discharge, red or pink eyes, and may start to paw at the eyes. They may also begin to blink at a rapid rate.

Never try to treat a feline’s eye or lash condition at home. This will likely only make things worse. Call your veterinarian for advice and the next steps. Proper treatment is vital to recovery. Your kitty will likely be on alert and may lash out with scratching or biting if you get too close. It’s best to leave this up to the professionals.

Are Eyelashes The Same As Whiskers?

Whiskers and eyelashes are not the same thing, though whiskers also help to protect the eye. Eyelashes are a type of cilia. Whiskers are a type of thick hair called vibrissae. These thick hairs are set deeper than regular hairs into a kitty’s skin. they help detect vibrations and movement. Whiskers help cats “see” in the dark and trigger blinking of the third eyelid to protect the eyeball from a perceived threat. Felines typically have around 24 or so whiskers on their faces, though they also grow on the chin, top of the head, and even on the legs near the paws.

Final Thoughts

Yes, cats have eyelashes, although they are much shorter than human lashes. These short, stiff hairs, known as cilia, are vital to protect the eye because felines rely heavily on their night vision to hunt. If you notice your pet exhibiting eye pain and his lashes appear to point back towards his eyeball, consult your veterinarian to check him out. Your veterinarian will guide you through available treatment options to mitigate damage from malformed lashes and protect those beautiful eyes.

Domestic Cat's Portrait. Fragment. Whiskers And Nose

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