Whisker fatigue is real and can be the reason our cats are not eating. Here, we learn about the anatomy of cat whiskers, their function to cats, how to reduce whisker stress, and some cat products for our cats.
Cat whisker fatigue is an important issue that is often overlooked and can lead to our cats experiencing discomfort on a daily basis.
In order to begin to understand what whisker fatigue is, we first need to learn the anatomy of cat whiskers, what function they serve to our kitty’s whiskers, and then figure out how to lessen the amount of whisker fatigue our cats may experience.
Anatomy of Cat Whiskers
Although cat whiskers might sometimes seem like an extension of a cat’s fur, it actually serves a greater purpose than just to keep the cat nice and cozy during cold seasons.
Cat whiskers, also called “vibrissae” have touch receptors, and they go much deeper into a cat’s skin than their regular hair does. These vibrissae are connected to sensitive muscles as well as the nervous system in a cat.
Function of Whiskers
Our Nervous System controls our movements, thoughts, as well as automatic responses to our external environment. Through sensory receptors on our skin, we send signals to our brains that can control our responses to different situations. An example can be when you place your hand on a hot stove, the sensory receptors in your fingers send signals to your brain that say “HOT!” to make your muscles move your hand away from the heat that may damage your body.
This is a reason why cutting a cat’s whiskers can be so detrimental to their health and well-being. Imagine cutting off the nerves that tell you you are burning yourself. Whiskers can grow back, but it is best to try and leave them be.
Our bodies can have a natural way of automating these responses and only choosing to send us the important ones to pay attention to. Imagine our bodies sending us a signal the entire time we are drinking a glass of water, telling us: “Hey, your lips are touching the glass, your lips are touching the glass.” Instead, our brain just pushes it to the side so that we don’t focus on it.
When looking at a cat’s whiskers, cats are able to tune into specific parts of their whiskers for sensory information. However, most of the receptors on the whiskers send signals unconsciously throughout the cat’s body, so they are always on. Because of this is why your cat may experience “whisker fatigue” (often times called “whisker stress”).
Reducing Whisker Stress
Now that we know what function whiskers serve to our kitties, and understand what whisker stress is, we can learn the different environments that may cause our cats whisker stress in order to better their overall life.
Most instances that a cat may experience whisker overstimulation may be from feeding time as they eat and drink from their bowls.
Many bowls may come with a deeper container to fill more food into the bowl, however, this is what may be causing our cats to become overstimulated. If not taking into account the length of our cat’s whiskers, the sides of the bowl may come into contact with the cat’s whiskers if they are long enough and may cause the cat to become stressed as their are eating or drinking.
If our cat’s whiskers are touching the sides of the bowl while they eat this may allow the cat to become more prone experiencing sensory stimulation the entire time they are eating, as they are aware of the sides of the bowl the whole time.
Some signs that your cat may be experiencing whisker stress are:
• Your cat may pace in front of their food or water bowl without approaching it.
• Your cat might act hungry or thirsty, but not want to eat or drink from their bowl
• Your cat might paw at their food until it falls on the floor before eating it
It is also important to note that although your cat may be exhibiting these symptoms, it is important to check with your veterinarian if your cat keeps showing these behaviors after their bowl is replaced, because it may be a sign of an underlying problem.
The way to reduce this is simple, we just need to buy a shallower bowl. Luckily for us, there are many options online for shallow bowls, even some specifically designed for cats who experience whisker stress more frequently.
Dr. Neil Marrinan of the Old Lyme Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut states that “many vets, regardless of their opinions on whisker fatigue, agree that cats often find eating out of a bowl unappealing in general and providing a flat surface for meals is preferable.”
Here are some amazing cat bowls for whisker fatigue that can be found online on Amazon.
• Dr. Catsby Whisker Fatigue Bowl
• SOCOSY Ceramic Seasoning Dishes
• OurPets Dish
• WonderCreature Cat Water Fountain
• PetSafe Stainless Steel
• NPET Cat Fountain PIR Motion Sensor Switch
Having stainless steel cat bowls or ceramic cat bowls are often better than serving food on a plastic cat bowl because of the bacteria that can remain behind in the plastic if not washed well.
Also, stainless steel and ceramic, as opposed to plastic plates, are more sustainable as they do not leach toxins after prolonged use, and also do not release micro-plastics into the water every time they are cleaned. Also, plastic bowls, when scratched by washing, have more chances of keeping bacteria in the ridges of small scratches.
Another interesting tidbit is that cat fountains are perfect for cats with whisker stress since the cat’s whiskers are free in this situation, since the water falls into the bowl is out in the open as it flows.
I also added in a very convenient extension that can help save money alongside these cat fountains. As long as the fountain is USB compatible, you are able to plug in a motion sensor so that the fountain only turns on when your cat is near it! Neat! I believe it does work with the WonderCreature bowl listed.
These are some affordable stainless steel pet bowl and ceramic pet bowl options available. These products are still stylish and sleek in order to match anyone’s home.
- Cat whiskers have sensory receptors that constantly inform cats of their environment.
- Overstimulation of these sensory receptors in a cat’s whiskers can cause “whisker fatigue” or “whisker stress”
- Whisker stress can lead to your cat showing signs of wanting to eat or drink, but not being able to because of the overstimulation they might experiencing as their whiskers touch the bowls as they eat.
A simple way to reduce this whisker stress is to change the food or water bowls in question.
- If signs of whisker fatigue persist after changing bowls, then it is important to consult your veterinarian.