Whiskers act as sensory tools for guinea pigs, helping them move around, make sense of nearby objects, and better understand the depth of space, among many other navigational endeavors.
Guinea pigs have prominent whiskers, not just under their nose but also close to their eyes and cheeks, because these long strands are incredible aids to facilitate cavies in everyday tasks.
From measuring up a path to knowing whether it’s scalable to protecting the eyes, guinea pig whiskers do a great deal of essential work for their owners.
While guinea pigs have exceptional senses overall, their sense of touch is more pronounced because of the long hair-like strings on their face.
What Do Guinea Pig Whiskers Do Exactly?
As we have already established that whiskers help cavies move around, it’s now crucial to understand how these hairy aids facilitate guineas.
Help Guineas Get Through the Way
Guinea pigs are many things, but stupid is not one of them, and that can be ascertained by how they use their whiskers.
Although cavies are rather tiny, they fear getting stuck in passageways.
To go around their phobia, guinea pigs measure the pathway before them with their whiskers.
If the space is equal to the length of the sprouted facial strands, the smart creatures will not move forward.
Even though cavy whiskers are pretty long, the pocket pets still do not pass through space if it only measures up to their whisker length.
As humans or outsiders, we might not be able to understand why cavies don’t go through pathways that are equal to the size of their whiskers when it’s considerably wide.
That is why it must be noted that guinea pigs are not strong enough to fight predators or rescue themselves should they get in any trouble.
Therefore, they avoid getting trapped in precarious situations, such as a narrow corridor not to get stuck.
Help Guineas Acquire A Sense of Depth
Just like cavies use whiskers to measure the width of a passage, they use the same instruments to ascertain a sense of depth around objects and in different spaces.
In simple terms, let’s say your fuzzy friend wishes to enter a new inclusion (compartment) in their hutch, but they cannot make out the dimensions just by looking.
So, to navigate the unfamiliar space, they will use their whiskers and check if there is an object they might bump into when entering the space.
Likewise, they will get some idea of the overall space in the new addition to their cabin.
Think of how we light up a torch when chartering unknown territories, for example, when gallivanting into the woods for camping.
Similar to that, guinea pigs spread their hair-like threads and ensure that they are safe and that no harmful thing is around them.
Help Guineas Survive A Lack of Light
While piggy pals have incredible vision, they do require sufficient light to look around properly.
But when it’s not present, they need support to traverse places, and that’s where wonderful whiskers come into play again.
Using the sensory aids, cavies ensure that there are no objects nearby that they might bump into due to the lack or absence of light.
Protect Their Eyes
Unlike humans who have eyelashes to keep their eyes safe, guinea pigs have whiskers to do the job.
Eyes are pretty sensitive and get irritated easily, especially when a foreign particle makes its way into an eye.
To prevent such a thing from happening, cavies have hair-like strands above and around their eyes that intercept most, if not all, foreign bodies from entering the eyes.
On top of that, whiskers notify guinea pigs if there is an object before them that can hurt the eyes so that they can change their track and not get injured.
Structure Of Guinea Whiskers
Mammals typically have long hair-like strands on their face, known as whiskers, all of which have a stem or shaft and an end charged with nerves.
Although said group of animals has hairs on other parts of the body too, the two hair types are different and have different compositions.
Whiskers are composed of keratin protein, found in healthy head hair.
The sensory ends are supplied with nerves that receive stimuli from the surroundings and enable cavies to decide if a place is safe.
Imagine if there is no light in a room; it’s pitch black, and you need to get out of it.
What will you do then? You will most likely spread your arms and use them as aids to feel things around you to go around those. (Of course, you don’t have your smartphone on you; otherwise, you will turn on the torch).
If the picture painted above rings a bell for you, you will better understand how guinea pigs use whiskers.
Things to Know about Guinea Whiskers
Every organ or part of a living organism’s body has aspects that require in-depth study for a better understanding.
So, naturally, there are things about guinea whiskers that all piggy parents should know to give them superior care if need be.
Guinea Whiskers Shouldn’t (Don’t Need To) Be Cut.
Many times pet parents make the mistake of dealing with whiskers the same way they deal with their little one’s fur.
In other words, they cut the hair-like strands, assuming that those require trimming. But that’s not the case.
Since the tips of whiskers carry nerve endings that are needed to receive stimuli, trimming would mean removing everything.
This means if you cut your fuzzy friend’s whiskers, their ability to perceive the surroundings will be impaired.
Long story short, don’t trim your little one’s facial hair-like threads under most circumstances.
Can You Never Trim Your Guinea Pig’s Whiskers?
No, you can do it only if the strands begin to curl at the corners and get out of shape.
To restore the shape of your little one’s whiskers, you can nip them a little. But even then, consult your vet before such a grooming session.
Whiskers Grow At Their Own Pace
There shouldn’t be a discussion about treating your snuggle bear’s whiskers like fur because, well, you shouldn’t.
But even if you do and groom those a little, you don’t have to worry about the regrowth as they grow back at their own pace.
If you recently clipped your little one’s facial strands dangling from several points on the face, you don’t need to panic, thinking that clipped whiskers would mean an impaired sense of touch for life.
That’s certainly not the case.
Whiskers may not be managed like fur; they sure grow back just like the latter.
Another whisker quality similar to fur is shedding.
That’s right, whiskers also have specific shedding and growing seasons throughout the year. However, even during those periods, guinea pigs do not lose all of their whiskers.
If you find that to be the case with your tiny pal, you need to get them checked because that could be a sign of something else, perhaps a disease.
Falling Of Whiskers
While whiskers are shed at some point in time, they do not completely fall off, leaving the skin bare.
If that happens to a piggy pal, there must be some underlying factors that should be addressed.
If you have more than one piggy pal or you have other pets that play with your cavy companion, they may get aggressive with one another, resulting in whisker loss.
Therefore, if you notice that your guinea appears unexplainably shaved, monitor your pets closely and ensure that they are not fighting.
Also read: Why Are My Guinea Pigs Fighting?
If it turns out that your piggies are going at each other’s throats, your fur child may have a hair disorder, such as alopecia.
Alopecia is a common hair-related condition characterized by hair loss in different parts of or entire body.
It typically occurs in guinea pigs due to stress.
If your fuzzy pal is stressed for whatever reason, it can take a toll on their physical well-being in more than one way, and loss of hair is surely one of them.
Bacterial or Fungal Infection
Skin infections caused by bacteria or fungi can also result in a complete loss of whiskers.
In the case of a fungal infection, you may notice the presence of roundworms on your little one’s face along with the absence of whiskers, making it easier for you to spot the cause.
Dermatological conditions are common guinea pig health-related issues as they are common in the piggy population.
And in some skin allergies, a cavy can lose its whiskers.
More often than not, when there is no plausible physical explanation of a noticeable change, internal physiological disturbances are the culprit.
If you cannot find anything apparently wrong with your fuzzy friend, yet they continue to lose (if have not already lost) whiskers, chances are they may have hormonal imbalances.
Finding why your cavy companion doesn’t have all of their whiskers is critical if you want to take corrective measures.
And if the cause turns out to be health-related, seek professional help right away.
Having healthy whiskers is imperative for guinea pigs to wield maximum navigating abilities.
Therefore, you should ensure that your tiny bud’s whiskers are not damaged or falling off and help them live their best life.
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