Cats are cute pets with glossy, smooth fur that coats their entire bodies. They even have beautiful whiskers protruding from their face. However, there is one area where humans have hair that cats seem like they don’t; eyelashes. It’s no surprise that lots of people and cat owners wonder whether cats have eyelashes.
So, do cats have eyelashes?
Yes! Cats have eyelashes. Eyelashes are the row of stiff hairs known as cilia that grow on cats’ lower and upper eyelids. However, the eyelashes are not what you expect. The cat’s eyelashes are not long and prominent like us humans and are mixed with hair around the cat’s eyes; hence not usually very noticeable. The cat’s eyelashes easily blend in with the fur covering their face giving an illusion that they aren’t present to an onlooker. But there are also exceptions to this rule. If a cat has or does not have eyelashes will also depend on the breed.
Which Cat Breeds Have Eyelashes?
All cats that have fur also have eyelashes. However, some cat breeds have more noticeable and prominent eyelashes than others. For instance, long-haired cat breeds are likely to have more pronounced and longer eyelashes than short-haired cats. Some examples of long-haired breeds include; the Persian cat, Maine Coon, and Ragdoll. Additionally, some cat owners with short to medium-haired cats also claim that some of these cats display prominent eyelashes. It is all down to the genetic makeup of your cat and its look. Sphynx is the only cat breed exception that will often lack eyelashes. According to Wikipedia.com, Sphynx cats have a genetic mutation that deviates from how their hair grows to cause most of them to be hairless. While it’s relatively common for Sphynx cats to feature a thin layer of fuzz-like hair, they often lack whiskers and eyelashes.
Why Is It Difficult to See a Cat’s Eyelashes?
Cat’s eyelashes don’t look exactly like those of humans, which is where the confusion comes in. According to Isthatyourcat.com, the cat’s eyelashes are difficult to see because cats have thick hair around the eye, unlike humans. The eyelashes are not distinguishable or visible from the thick hair all around the eye area. This makes most people think that cats don’t have eyelashes.
Why Do Cats Have Eyelashes?
Most humans have the impression that their eyelashes are meant to enhance the beauty of their eyes. You don’t know that your eyelashes are meant to protect your eyes. Human eyelashes help prevent dirt debris from getting into their eyes. Cats require eyelashes for the same function as human beings. However, the cat actually has more protection forms for its eyes because eyelashes are generally short. Besides eyelashes, cats have their whiskers, fur coat, and third eyelid to protect their eyes.
- Fur coats- the fur coats of the cats also provide the first line of defense against dirt and dust. The longer the fur, the more effective it will prevent the dirt debris from reaching its eyes.
- Whiskers- These signal the cat when its face is close to an object. They also potentially play the role of eyelashes in protecting the eyes from debris but at a longer distance.
- Third eyelid- felines have a third eyelid that stretches along the eyeball surface. The third eyelid helps clean the cat’s eye and prevent other foreign things from getting into the eyes.
This can explain why cats have evolved to have small and almost non-existent eyelashes as they have several other kinds of protection.
What Is the Third Eyelid in Cats?
While cats’ fur coats are relatively understandable, most people probably wonder which is the cat’s third eyelid. According to Excited Cats, the third eyelid is also referred to as a nictitating membrane. In simpler terms, this is a significantly thin and translucent membrane that sits in the inner corner of the cat’s eyes. You are likely to see the edge of the third eyelid immediately after a cat wakes up from a nap or is very relaxed. A cat draws out the third eyelid to cover the entire eyeball and serve as a protection layer to protect any debris and dirt from getting into the eyes. The third eyelid is also adequately lubricated and can effectively eliminate any debris from the eyeball. This also helps keep the cat’s eyes lubricated and moist, a requirement for good vision and healthy eyes. Because the membrane is translucent, felines will still see well with the membrane stretched across the eye’s surface. This means that your cat can outspread their third eyelid when walking in bushes to prevent dust, twigs, and dirt from entering the eye, but the cat can still see where it’s going.
Feline Eyelash Disorders
Even if a cat’s eyelashes are not long compared to humans and are not essential in protecting the cat’s eyes, there are some medical conditions linked with eyelashes. These conditions are sporadic and not hazardous in cats. However, they might contribute to the worsening of eye conditions. All eyelash disorders result from hair growing in the wrong places. This makes the lashes contact with the eye surface, causing irritation or damage. Based on the location of the abnormal hair growth, the three major eyelash disorders include:
- Ectopic Cilia. The eyelashes develop from the interior of the eyelid toward the eye.
- Distichiasis. This involves a partial or complete eyelash double row located closer to the eye, causing discomfort.
- Trichiasis. The eyelashes grow in any direction and at weird angles that contact the cat’s eye.
If your cat has any of these disorders, you might see them blinking excessively, and their eyes might be swollen or red. The cat may also produce excessive tears from the eyes and frequent pawing at their eyes. If you see such symptoms consult your vet as soon as possible for proper treatment.
The answer to heated debate is that cats have eyelashes. Although the cat’s eyelashes are shorter than those of humans, less distinctive, and blend easily with the fur coat, the eyelashes are there nevertheless. The only exception is hairless cats known as Sphynx, which lack these eyelashes. Remarkably, while most cats have eyelashes, they don’t require them as they have whiskers, fur coats, and a third eyelid that help prevent dirt from getting into the eye. The next time you spend time with your feline friend, look whether you can see their eyelashes.