Eyelashes are not something we pay much attention to except when we are angry or not at all. Like humans, most animals have eyelashes to protect their eyes from damage. Whether or not cats have eyelashes is a widely debated topic among the cat-loving community.
Most cats have eyelashes, although some breeds, such as the Sphynx, have no eyelashes at all. Come along as I answer some of my most frequently asked questions about cats, eyelashes, and whether our feline friends have them.
Why do we have eyebrows?
Eyelashes are mostly used these days to accentuate the eyes. We lengthen them with mascara or wear false eyelashes to make our eyes stand out. But eyelashes aren’t just for making us look pretty for a night out. Eyelids are designed to protect our eyes from damage.
As the sensory hairs that line our upper and lower eye lines, their purpose is to detect very close objects. This can be anything from tiny particles of dirt or dust to creatures like bugs that can fly very close. Eyelids are very sensitive to touch and upon detecting something close to the eye, it will send a signal to the brain to close the eye to protect it.
Do cats have eyelashes?
At first glance, cats don’t have eyelashes. Generally, eyelashes are long, dark, and curved away from the eye. In short, the eyebrows are obvious and often emphasized to draw attention, especially for people. Most animals with eyelashes have eyelashes that look similar to ours.
Cats, on the other hand, have smaller eyelashes. This makes them difficult to spot, especially when the eyelashes blend well with the rest of their facial fur. However, having trouble identifying their eyelashes doesn’t mean they don’t have them, which is a trap many people fall into.
That said, some cat breeds don’t have eyelashes. Hairless species such as the Sphynx and Peterbald often lack eyebrows or whiskers. Cornish Rex and Devon Rex breeds are unlikely to have eyelashes, despite their thick, wavy coats.
Why is it difficult to see eyelashes on cats?
Eyelashes do the same thing whether they belong to us or to our cat. Although they are very small and hard to see in cats, they are still designed to protect their eyes from dirt, debris, or anything else that gets too close to their eyes.
Considering the importance of eyelashes, it is surprising to find that they are very small on cats. They seem pretty useless when it comes to protecting your cat’s eyes. Unlike us, cats don’t rely solely on their eyelids to protect their eyes. They have a few more built-in, safety measures that work the same way eyelashes do for us.
Perhaps the most obvious reason cats don’t need eyelashes as much as we do is their fur. Incidentally, their fur blends well with the hair around our cat’s eyelashes, making it difficult for us to see at all.
In addition to keeping them warm, a cat’s fur coat also serves to protect them when they are out in the wild. The fur catches debris that would otherwise scratch their skin or get into their eyes.
While eyelashes on cats can be widely debated, the presence of whiskers is not. These long, stiff hairs resemble eyelashes and are also sensitive to touch. They help your cat “see” items close to them, such as the distance between their face and the crack in the door they’re trying to squeeze through.
Because of whiskers, many cats do not like to eat from bowls and prefer flat plates. If their mustache is constantly brushing the sides of the bowl while they eat, it can lead to beard fatigue.
This sensitivity can cause stress for your cat when it comes to their food and water bowls, but it also serves as a way to protect their eyes.
Cats also have a third eyelid that helps keep their eyes clean and protected. If you’re familiar with cats, you’ve probably noticed a thin white layer on the inner corner of your cat’s eyes when they’re awake or resting.
It sounds a little strange, especially if you’re not expecting it, but the third eyelid is a natural layer of protection. Similar to eyelashes, the third eyebrow helps prevent dirt and debris from getting into your cat’s eyes especially when they’re outdoors in the bushes or through the dust under your bed. The third eyebrow also removes dirt and helps keep the eye moist and healthy.
Eyelid disorders in cats
One fact that proves that many cats have eyelashes—even if you can’t see them—is that they may be suffering from eye problems. These disorders are not very common, but they are possible. Symptoms of eyelid disorders often include:
- Excessive blinking
- Mortgage of the area
- Pink or red eyes
- puffy eyes
Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the eyelid disorder affecting your cat and tell you how to treat it effectively. Many of these disorders may require repeated treatments as the eyelashes grow back.
Eyelashes are usually around the eyebrows, but sometimes they can grow in other places as well. Distichiasis is when you have stray eyelashes growing where they shouldn’t be, or curling towards the eye.
Although similar to distichiasis, ectopic cilia is a disorder caused by eyelashes growing inside the eyelid. It is more common in young dogs than cats and, unlike distichiasis, often requires surgery to correct.
Simply put, trichiasis is when the eyelashes grow or develop in different directions. Unlike the other two disorders we mentioned, trichiasis is one that does not require veterinary intervention. In the worst case, surgery may be required to correct the problem, but it can be corrected without treatment.
Seeing your cat’s eyelashes can be difficult, and many people assume that cats don’t have eyelashes. But if you look closely, you will change your mind! Hairless cats like the Sphynx don’t have eyelashes, and many other cat breeds have short eyelashes hidden by their fur.
Fortunately, our cats don’t just rely on their eyelids to protect their eyes. They have a third eyelid, whiskers, and fur to prevent eye damage from debris during their adventures.