Eyelashes are something we don’t pay much attention to except when they cause irritation or are missing entirely. Like humans, many animals have eyelashes to protect their eyes from damage. However, whether cats have eyelashes or not is a topic that’s widely debated among cat-lovers.
While some breeds like the Sphinx don’t have any eyelashes, the majority of cats do have them, even if they’re hard for us to see. Come with me as I answer some commonly asked questions about cats, eyelashes, and whether our feline friends have them.
Eyelashes are an important part of our ocular protection system. They are a type of hair that grows from the edges of our eyelids and help to keep particles such as dirt and dust out of our eyes. Eyelashes also protect our eyes from wind and UV damage.
Eyelashes have the ability to sense when something is too close to the eye and signal the brain to blink. This blink reflex is a crucial defense mechanism that allows us to protect our eyes from potential harm. Eyelashes work together with other protective mechanisms in the eye, such as tears and the eyelids themselves, to create a layer of protection for the eye.
Eyelashes can also enhance our appearance, making our eyes more expressive and beautiful. Lengthening or curling eyelashes with cosmetics can create a more youthful and alluring appearance. However, artificial eyelashes, such as false eyelashes or eyelash extensions, are not a substitute for natural eyelashes and should only be worn temporarily for special occasions.
Do Cats Have Eyelashes?
At first glance, cats may not seem to have eyelashes. Human eyelashes are long, dark, and curve away from the eye, and are often emphasized to draw attention. Many animals have eyelashes that are similar to humans’, with a similar appearance.
Cats, on the other hand, have much smaller and harder-to-see eyelashes. This makes them difficult to notice, especially when they blend in well with the rest of the fur on their faces. However, the fact that they’re hard to see doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Some cat breeds don’t have eyelashes. Hairless breeds like the Sphynx and the Peterbald often don’t have eyelashes or whiskers. The Cornish Rex and Devon Rex breeds are also unlikely to have eyelashes despite their dense, curly coats.
Why Are Eyelashes Difficult to See on Cats?
Eyelashes do the same job whether they belong to us or our cats – they protect our eyes from dirt, debris, or anything else that gets too close to our eyes. While cats’ eyelashes may be much smaller and harder to see, they still serve the same purpose.
Considering the importance of eyelashes, it can be surprising to find they’re so small on cats. It almost seems like they’re not of much use at all when it comes to protecting your cat’s eyes. Unlike us, cats don’t rely on just their eyelashes to protect their eyes. They have several other built-in, protective measures that work just as well as eyelashes do for us.
One of the most obvious reasons why cats don’t need eyelashes as much as we do is their fur. Incidentally, it’s also their fur that makes it so difficult for us to see our cat’s eyelashes at all since they blend in so well with the surrounding hair.
Along with keeping them warm, a cat’s fur coat also serves to protect them when they’re out in the wilderness. The fur catches debris that would otherwise end up scratching their skin or getting in their eyes.
Cats also have a third eyelid that helps to keep their eyes clean and protected. If you’re familiar with cats, you’ve probably seen the thin white layer appear in the inner corner of your cat’s eyes when they’ve just woken up or are relaxing.
It looks a little odd, especially if you’re not expecting it, but the third eyelid is a natural layer of protection. Similar to eyelashes, the third eyelid prevents dirt and debris from getting in your cat’s eyes—especially when they wander around in the bushes outdoors or through the dust underneath your bed. The third eyelid also helps to remove dirt and keep the eye moist and healthy.
The last feature that helps cats “see” items that are close to them—like the distance between their face and the crack in the door they’re trying to squeeze through—are their whiskers. These long, stiff strands of hair are similar to eyelashes in that they are sensitive to touch too.
Many cats dislike eating out of bowls and prefer flat plates, this is due to their whiskers. When a cat eats, if their whiskers constantly brush against the sides of the bowl, it can cause whisker fatigue.
This sensitivity can make your cat feel stressed when it comes to their food and water bowl, but whiskers also serve as a way for them to protect their eyes.
Three Eyelash Disorders in Cats
One of the telltale signs that cats have eyelashes—even if you can’t see them—is that they can develop eyelash disorders. These disorders are not very common but they are possible. The symptoms of eyelash disorders often include:
Scratching or pawing at the affected area
Pink or red eyes
Your veterinarian can help you diagnose the eyelash disorder affecting your cat and tell you how to effectively treat it. Most of these disorders may require multiple treatment sessions as the eyelashes grow back.
Eyelashes are usually found lining the eyelid, but sometimes they can grow in other places as well. This is called distichiasis, which is when stray eyelashes grow in places they shouldn’t or even curl towards the eye, rather than away from it.
Although similar to distichiasis, ectopic eyelashes are a disorder caused by eyelashes growing on the inside of the eyelid. It is more common in young dogs than cats and, unlike distichiasis, often requires surgery to correct.
Trichiasis is a condition where the eyelashes grow inward or in a different direction. Unlike the other two eye diseases we have mentioned, trichiasis is the one that most likely does not require veterinary intervention. While it may require surgery to correct the problem in severe cases, it can often correct itself without treatment.
Many people assume cats don’t have eyelashes at all, but this is not true! While hairless cat breeds like the Sphynx don’t have eyelashes, many other cat breeds do have short, hidden eyelashes. If you take a closer look, you’ll probably change your mind!
Fortunately, our cats don’t rely solely on their eyelashes to protect their eyes. They also have a third eyelid, whiskers, and fur to prevent damage to their eyes from debris during their adventures.