Do Cats Have Eyelashes

Cats are adorable, loving furry friends. With their thick fur and distinctive, striking eyes, they are gorgeous. However, many people wonder whether cats have eyelashes. This topic is widely debated, and there are two camps. One camp says they do not have eyelashes because they have a third eyelid to protect the eye. The other camp says yes, they do, with many cat humans saying that their cat has eyelashes.

The answer is yes; cats do have eyelashes. However, unlike humans, cows, and horses, their eyelashes aren’t long and pronounced. This is primarily to do with the shape of their eyes and the fact that many cats have thick fur around their face, and the eyelashes aren’t long and fluttery.

Let’s have a look at some science to answer this question.

Cat Eye Anatomy and Structure

The cat’s eye has many parts that make up the whole. The orbit comprises several bones that contain muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and tear production structures.

The eye itself contains the sclera, which is the white of the eye. The sclera is covered by the conjunctiva, a thin membrane covering the inside of the eyelid. It runs to the edge of the cornea.

The cornea is the clear protective dome at the front of the eye, which lets in light. The cornea also focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye.

The iris is the colored circular area at the front of the eye. The iris controls how much light enters the eye by making the pupil larger or smaller.

The pupil is the black area of the eye. It shrinks and enlarges to allow light into the eye. The less light available, the larger the pupil becomes. The circular sphincter muscle controls the pupil.

The lens sits at the back of the iris. The lens changes shape to allow the focus of the light onto the retina. Ciliary muscles contract to make the lens thicker, allowing closer objects to be seen. The ciliary muscles relax to allow distant objects to be seen.

The retina contains photoreceptors; the two mains photoreceptors are the cones and rods. The cones allow visual acuity and binocular vision. Cats have many rod cells, which collect light. This is why cats can see up to six times better than humans in dim light.

The area centralis is the most sensitive part of the retina. It is tightly packed with photoreceptors making images sharp. Each photoreceptor is attached to a nerve fiber, leading to a large bundle called the optic nerve. The photoreceptors convert the image into electrical impulses carried to the brain by the optic nerve.

Cats have three eyelids. The upper and lower eyelid are thin layers of skin that work the same as humans, blinking to protect the eye, clear dust or debris from the eye, and spreading tears across the eye, keeping it moist.

However, a cat has a third membrane called the nictitating membrane. This eyelid sits under the other eyelids and extends from the nose area of the eye. It can cover the eye and still allow the cat to see. This offers protection to the eye from scratches or dust. The nictitating membrane also has a gland that contributes to the watery substance of tears.

Tears are needed to keep the eye moist and wash out any particles which may affect the eye function. Tears consist of three substances, water, oil, and mucus. A different gland produces each substance.

The lacrimal glands are at the top outer edge of each eye. These are the glands that produce the water part of the tears. Goblet cells in the conjunctiva produce the mucus substance in tears. Meibomian glands in the eyelids produce the oil substance in tears. The oil and mucus substances provide extra protection for the tear, preventing the water from evaporating too quickly.

Nasolacrimal ducts at the inner edge of the top and bottom eyelids allow the tears to drain into the nose.

On the outer eyelid is the eyelashes.

Eyelash Function

In humans and other mammals, such as horses and cows, eyelashes are long and sweeping. The eyelashes prevent dust and other particles from entering the eye. They are a protective measure.

As we have seen, the cat has a third eyelid used as a protective layer, and it seems that the need for eyelashes is redundant. Interestingly, humans also used to have a third eyelid, but it’s vestigial, meaning evolution has made it redundant. This would be the pink area in the inner corner of your eye.

However, the cat still has its third eyelid and eyelashes, so it has another layer of protection for its eyes. This makes sense as cats still have strong hunter instincts.

Eyelash Medical Conditions

Although rare, cats can develop issues with eyelashes. Namely:

  • Trichiasis
  • Distichiasis
  • Ectopic cilia

Trichiasis is the ingrowth of the eyelash. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Abnormal twitching of the eyelid
  • Swelling of the eye
  • Excessive tears/eye-watering
  • Pigmentation change in the iris

Distichiasis is an eyelash growing from an abnormal spot on the eyelid. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Irregular twitching of the eyelid
  • Excessive tears/eye-watering
  • Increase of blood vessels in the cornea
  • Pigmentation change in the iris
  • Ulcers on the cornea
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Stiff eyelash

Ectopic cilia are one or more eyelashes growing inside the eyelid. Symptoms to look out for are:

  • Extreme abnormal twitching or ticking of the eyelid
  • Eye pain
  • Excessive tears/eye-watering

These conditions can cause eyelash hair to come into contact with or damage the cornea or conjunctiva of the cat’s eye. If your cat displays any of the symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your vet. They will be able to perform an eye examination and treat the condition.

I hope that you found this article helpful.

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