What is Whisker Fatigue in Cats?

CALLING ALL CAT OWNERS:

Your furry friends might not be picky eaters after all!

Does it look like your cats are picky eaters by simply only eating from the middle part of the bowl and leaving the rest of the pellets? The good news is that they might not be picky eaters after all but may suffer from whisker fatigue.

A cat’s whiskers are a vital, sensory tool to their way of life. Their whiskers are not only thicker and longer than normal hair, but they also sit deeper in the skin, attached to nerve endings and muscles which allow them to move their whiskers to sense their prey and understand the environment around them (Blue Cross).

Whiskers are the same length as a cat’s body and properly serve as a sensory function, allowing cats to judge the distance between things and how far away objects are from their face and body, with the ability to feel even the slightest vibration in the air (Blue Cross).

This means that a cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive to touch and even more so to continuous touch. This is where whisker fatigue (also known as whisker stress) comes in…
Whisker fatigue is when a cat’s whiskers become overstimulated with constant and too much touch, causing them discomfort and therefore transmitting an overflow of messages to the cat’s brain. According to an article written by Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, cat food and water bowls are the biggest culprits that causes whisker fatigue (Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital).

 

To spot potential whisker fatigue symptoms, keep an eye on your cat while they are eating (Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital). These are the most common symptoms following whisker fatigue:

  • Dragging or dropping food outside of the bowl and eating off the ground.
  • Always leaving food in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pawing at the water or food dishes.
  • Nervously approaching the food or water bowl.
  • Pacing or vocalizing near the bowls.
  • Becoming aggressive toward other pets in the home.
  • Acting hungry when there’s food in the bowl.

What are the solutions to minimize or prevent whisker fatigue all together?
The easiest and most simple way to prevent whisker fatigue is by replacing your cat’s deep water and food bowls with wide, shallow ones—preferably made of stainless steel to help prevent bacteria growth. Many manufacturers of pet products, for example Rogz, have created whisker-friendly bowls, but regular saucers work, too (Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital).

 

References
Blue Cross. Bluecross. 2019 March 2019. Article. 15 April 2024.
Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital. What is Whisker fatigue in Cats? New Jersey, 28 February 2023. Blog.