I feel as though I am pretty knowledgeable regarding cats. I’ve owned cats all my life and up until recently had never heard of Whisker Fatigue. I’ve always known that a cat’s whiskers are sensitive and help them determine if they can fit through or in something (whiskers are usually about as long as a cat is wide). But in researching the topic of Whisker Fatigue I learned some new things as well.
Most people know that a cat’s whiskers are thicker, longer hairs but did you know they are more deeply rooted than their regular fur and the area around each has a generous supply of nerves and blood? They typically have 8 to 12 whiskers on each side of their nose as well as above their eyes. They also have whiskers on their chins and on the lower back of their front legs.
Whiskers are super sensitive because each has a sensory organ at the end called a proprioceptor. This organ can detect the slightest vibration or change in air movement. This helps cats when catching prey as well as navigating in the dark based on how air currents change.
Whisker Fatigue… because of the ultrasensitive proprioceptors at the end of each whisker it is painful for your cat to eat if their food and water dishes are not shallow enough. When they are fed from a deep bowl their whiskers endure unnecessary contact with the sides of the bowl causing fatigue and even pain. This can turn mealtimes into a stressful even aggression causing scenario.
Symptoms of Whisker Fatigue
If your cat displays any of the following behaviors while eating or drinking, whisker fatigue could be the cause:
- Paws or pulls food out of the bowl before eating from the floor
- Leaves food in the bowl but still seems to be hungry
- Eats only from the center of the bowl
- Hesitates before eating – stands near the bowl or paces around the outside
- Insists that the bowl be filled to the brim when it’s not empty
- Drinks water by using their paw to scoop up the water then licking their paw
- Behaves aggressively towards other pets at meal times.
What can you do? Change out those dishes fast! Choose wide, shallow dishes that allow for your cat to eat and drink without their whiskers touching the sides. Don’t mess with your cat’s whiskers and never cut your cat’s whiskers!