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What Is Whisker Fatigue? Explaining Symptoms And Solutions

What Is Whisker Fatigue? Explaining Symptoms And Solutions

The whiskers are one of those features that make our cats even more irresistible. But, they are not there just for looks – they also have an essential purpose, since they help cats stay balanced, and in a way act like eyelashes in humans; protecting cats’ faces.

Since whiskers are this important, all you cat parents should be informed on potential issues with them.

There is something called whisker fatigue. This is an expression for a cat’s unpleasant sensation caused by the overuse and overstimulation of her whiskers.

Whisker fatigue is an ongoing debate of veterinarians, since this is not an actual disease. However, it’s a condition that can affect any cat and bother her a lot – since whiskers are such an essential part of their bodies.

How Whisker Fatigue Affects Cats?

black and white cat sleeps

Whisker fatigue might sound funny, but this can happen to any cat, and it’s not a fun experience for them! What do I mean by this?

Cat’s whiskers have tiny, sensitive nerves through which she receives information about her surroundings. For example, when your cat sees a box, and tries to figure out whether she can fit into it – her whiskers are there to help her make this decision.

So, a cat with damaged whiskers, or one that has no whiskers at all is likely to feel lost and frustrated. Fatigue in this case does not mean that your cat’s whiskers are tired, but rather that they are stressed and irritated.

What Causes Whisker Fatigue? 

Cat’s whiskers are one of the most delicate parts of her body. When your cat tries to eat or drink water, and her whiskers are touching the sides of the bowl, this can cause anxiety and discomfort in her. 

Tired whiskers in your cat? It might sound silly, but, when you think about it – most water and food bowls for cats use high-siding that is actually a source of constant (and unwanted) stimulation for your cat.

Therefore – eating and drinking out of a high-sided dish dish is the number one cause of whisker stress in cats.

Symptoms Of Whisker Fatigue

the cat eats from the orange bowl

No matter how much we feel in tune with our felines, the fact is they can’t really speak to us and can’t always tell us when they’re uncomfortable. 

It might not have occurred to you that your cat’s whiskers are stressed, but there are some symptoms that will help you recognize this condition.

1. Cat Only Eating From The Middle Of The Bowl

Your cat is excited every time you get near her food bowl and she just can’t wait for you to fill it up with some delicious food!

But, when you look up to see if she is done with the meal – the thing that bothers is that she only eats the food from the middle of the bowl, but leaves the one in the edges. 

This is a symptom of whisker fatigue; a cat will feel bothered when her whiskers touch the bowl edges.

2. Cat Puts Her Food Out Of The Bowl

Have you ever wondered why your cat is so stubborn? She seems to like putting all the food out of the bowl and eating it from the floor! What’s this about?

Again – another potential symptom of whisker stress. You see; eating off the floor or countertop is more comfortable than eating out of the high rimmed bowl.

3. Cat Refusing To Eat

Your cat is giving you all the signals she’s hungry.

She’s following you around the house and is obviously waiting for you to fill her food bowl up.

But, when you do this – you only get to see her stare blankly at the bowl. This is one more symptom of whisker fatigue: Your cat is just not comfortable with eating from the high-sided dish.

4. Cat Showing Aggression

Whisker stress can be uncomfortable and even lead to behavioral problems in cats.

So, some cats will get so frustrated and might show aggression, most often directed towards other animals in the house.

How Do You Stop Whiskers From Fatigue?

Luckily, the solution for whisker fatigue is pretty simple and there are a variety of whisker friendly cat bowls on the market. Our list of whisker-relief cat dishes will be very helpful for all of you looking for a solution of whisker stress in your cat.

Also, a simple thing to do would be to replace a bowl with a plate.

Take a look at the video below that shows the difference between these two supplies for your cat’s food.

@hoogie_bear_

If you’ve ever experienced over stimulation in a physical sense, like being very aware of the seam in your sock for example – that’s whisker fatigue for cats. Their brain is telling them “hey, your whiskers are touching the bowl” over & over while they eat and it can be incredibly stressful. #catmom #catadvice #catfpodtips #catfood #whiskers #whiskerfatigue #cattips @TikiPets

♬ Morning Routine – Tollan Kim

The important thing here is to stay away from the plastic. Plastic bowls or plates can even cause skin irritation in cats, so, you should rather choose a ceramic or stainless-steel material.

Worried if your cat will have eaten too much food, or would spend more time at the whisker-friendly dish?

A study published in the Journal of feline medicine and surgery [1] found that eating from a whisker-friendly dish didn’t increase the cats’ amount of time spent eating, nor the amount of food eaten. 

Therefore, buying a whisker-friendly dish will not change your cat’s eating habits, but will prevent whisker stress in her!

Can Trimming Your Cat’s Whiskers Help?

Some cat owners might consider trimming as a good option for combating whisker fatigue.

This is not a good idea!

Whiskers do more than just make your cat look cool. Whiskers can help your cat navigate tight spaces, dark areas and even feel incoming objects before they actually come in contact with your cat’s face or eyes. 

Generally, you’ll want to avoid messing with your cat’s whiskers too much. Remember, these are highly tuned and sensitive receptors for our feline companions.

Trimming your cat’s whiskers is like taking away one of your senses that you depend on. Your cats are constantly using their whiskers every day, so cutting them off will not bring any relief, but rather an additional bother.

In The End

There you have it – the whisker fatigue is a real thing! 

This condition can really bother cats, since whiskers are so important for their everyday life. Luckily, we can help them by simply changing their regular bowls with whisker-friendly dishes.

Have you seen whisker fatigue in your own cats? Let us know your experiences!

References:

[1] Slovak, JE, Foster, TE: Evaluation of whisker stress in cats. J Feline Med Surg. 2021 Apr;23(4):389-392. DOI, Retrieved March 22, 2023.

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