While cats’ whiskers are adorable and give some cats character, they actually serve a really important purpose for our feline friends. Whiskers are touch receptors for cat and can even help them see in the dark! At the end of each whisker there is a receptor that sends signals to a cat’s brain and nervous system to help them detect and comprehend their environment.
Since a cat’s whiskers are so sensitive, they can sometimes experience whisker stress (aka whisker fatigue) when eating. Whisker stress is triggered when a cat’s whiskers brush against their bowl while eating. The symptoms of a cat experiencing whisker stress are if they do not want to eat out of their bowl and are pulling their food out and eating next to it. Cats who are feeling whisker stress may also try to use their paws to get food out of their dish.
Whisker stress is typically caused when a cat’s bowl is too narrow and deep, and they have to put their face completely into the bowl to get their food. This causes discomfort when their whiskers bump against the sides of the bowl. If the whisker stress becomes too painful for your cat, they may even stop eating out of their usual bowl.
Don’t fret – there is an easy solution to whisker stress! Offer your cat food in a shallow bowl or plate that is wide enough, so their whiskers do not brush against the sides. The Conscious Cat has some great resources for bowls designed to help cats avoid whisker stress.
If you have any further questions about whisker stress or are concerned your cat may be experiencing it, please contact your veterinarian at Blum at: (773) 327-4446.
Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.