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Like cat fur and human hair, feline whiskers continuously grow, fall out and get replaced with new ones. This is quite normal. Minus injury, health problems or defects, all cats possess 12 whiskers on each side of the muzzle, for a total of 24. Technically called “vibrissae,” the whiskers are very sensitive and can do everything from gauge wind direction to detect movement under extreme low-light conditions. A little-known fact is that when a cat hunts a mouse or other prey, it can push its whiskers into a more forward position to focus in on the movements of its target.
You say, however, that you’ve noticed “an increase in lost whiskers.” Sudden loss of many whiskers at a time can be a symptom of infection and other health problems. Usually other symptoms, such as weight loss and lethargy, are evident as well. Should you have any doubts, a visit to your veterinarian is in order.
One last bit of advice is to never cut or unnecessarily touch your cat’s whiskers. Because whiskers are highly sensitive, these actions could cause your pet discomfort. Your cat also needs its whiskers for proper daily function, so just let them be and only admire them from afar.
Cats reach full skeletal development when they are this old: