Whisker fatigue in cats.

Feline whiskers have wonderful abilities and serve important purposes beyond adding to the cuteness quotient of kittens and adult cats. Whiskers are uber-sensitive and provide felines with valuable information about their surroundings. These long, thick, tactile hairs send signals to a cat’s brain and sensory system. These signals help cats navigate in the dark, detect changes in air movement, and let them know if they can squeeze into tight spaces. 

But what happens when a cat’s sensitive whiskers become overstimulated with too much touch? Whisker fatigue (sometimes called whisker stress) can be the result of a cat’s whiskers brushing against too many things and transmitting an onslaught of messages to the cat’s brain. 

If you’re just as curious as a cat about whisker fatigue, keep reading for information about this unusual cat behavior from our team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital. 

The Primary Cause of Whisker Fatigue

The most common culprits behind whisker fatigue are food and water bowls that are too small in diameter and too deep. Some cats will become uncomfortable with the sensation of their whiskers repeatedly contacting the sides of the bowls. This constant stimulation of their whiskers can cause cats to become stressed.

Whisker Fatigue Symptoms

To spot whisker fatigue symptoms, pay attention to your cat’s eating habits. Does your cat exhibit any of these behaviors while eating?

  • 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

Can Whisker Fatigue Cause Vomiting?

Vomiting is not a whisker fatigue symptom. If your cat is vomiting repeatedly, please contact your veterinarian right away. Frequent bouts of vomiting can point to serious illnesses, including diabetes

How to Prevent Whisker Fatigue

The simplest way to combat whisker fatigue is to replace deep bowls with wide, shallow ones—preferably made of stainless steel to curb bacteria growth. Many manufacturers of pet products have created whisker-friendly bowls, but regular saucers work, too. Never trim a cat’s whiskers, as this will distort a cat’s perception of their environment.

A pet drinking fountain with a wide bowl can also help cats avoid whisker fatigue while encouraging them to drink enough water.

Seek Medical Advice

If your cat still seems uncomfortable at mealtime after switching to whisker-friendly food bowls, contact us at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital. We can conduct a thorough examination to rule out medical conditions that could be to blame and help find a solution to your cat’s eating problems.