What Is Feline Whisker Fatigue?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
fast facts

Who knew that whiskers could get so tired? It’s true, and whisker fatigue could be causing your cat some serious stress around mealtimes.

One of your cat’s many eye-catching features is her set of long whiskers. But did you know that whiskers aren’t just there to make your pet look super cute? And did you know that your kitty might end up experiencing a problem known as “whisker fatigue”?

Whisker fatigue is something that a lot of cat owners have probably never heard of, but it could be making your kitty an unhappy feline. So, it’s important to have a general understanding of what this is all about, and it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of whisker fatigue. That way, you can help your furry friend feel better right away.

To help you out, we’ve compiled some handy information below. Continue reading to learn about what whisker fatigue is, as well as what you can do to stop it. And, remember, if you aren’t sure if your cat is experiencing whisker fatigue or she isn’t acting like herself, it’s a great idea to have a chat with your vet to address all of your questions and concerns.

First Off, What’s Whisker Fatigue?

Your pet’s whiskers are more than just long, thick hairs that look adorable and perfectly complement your kitty’s face. You might not realize it, but those whiskers play a critical role, and they’re actually really impressive.

Related: How Much Should I Feed My Cat?

At the end of every whisker is a proprioceptor, which is a sensory organ that sends signals to the nervous system and brain. Proprioceptors are so sensitive that they can detect vibrations within the air, and they help your cat get around in dark rooms and tight spaces. Also, because felines are farsighted, whiskers give them what they need to essentially be able to see what’s in front of their faces. Incredible, right?

Whiskers are pretty awesome, there is no denying that. But, because they are highly sensitive, over time, they can become stressed and fatigued after having a lot of unnecessary contact with objects, such as with the sides of a food bowl. This is when whisker fatigue might occur, and it isn’t something that you want your kitty to experience. Thankfully, there are steps you can take at home to help those whiskers feel good again.

What Are the Symptoms of Whisker Fatigue?

How can you tell if your feline companion is feeling whisker fatigue? Well, there are certain signs that you can look out for—just another reason to keep an eye on your pet every day to see if there are any changes in her behavior that need to be addressed.

If your cat is exhibiting the following behaviors, she might be dealing with whisker fatigue, which can be annoying and painful:

  • Pulling food out of the bowl to eat it on the floor instead
  • Leaving food behind in the bowl, despite still being hungry
  • Behaving aggressively towards other pets while eating
  • Making a mess with her food on the floor
  • Showing signs of hunger, but hesitating to eat by pacing near her food bowl or standing next to it for some time prior to eating

Note: As is the case with a lot of symptoms, these might also be signs that something else is wrong. If you aren’t sure whether whisker fatigue is to blame, you could always contact your veterinarian to discuss what’s going on with your cat and get some valuable advice and guidance on what to do next.

What Can You Do? It’s All About the Bowls

Thankfully, the solution for whisker fatigue is pretty simple, as it involves merely switching the type of food and water bowls that you’re using. This is because whisker fatigue can occur when the wrong type of bowl is used.

What type of food and water bowls will make a difference? Well, the right bowl will be ergonomically appropriate for your kitty’s face, making eating a comfortable and enjoyable experience rather than a frustrating or painful one.

Related: Tame Your Cat’s Hairballs with Wellness Natural Hairball Control Formula

There are several cat food bowls on the market that are designed to relieve and prevent whisker fatigue, such as Dr. Catsby’s Feline Remedies bowl. But even if you don’t buy a product that is made specifically for whisker fatigue prevention, you can search for other food and water dishes and bowls that will provide the same type of relief.

For instance, you can look for a food bowl that’s designed with a shallow, wide shape so your cat can easily access her food without having her whiskers stimulated or pulled back. The right design will also prevent your cat from having to painfully push her nose into the inside edges of the bowl in order to get to the food there. And, when it comes to water bowls, look for one that’s wide so your kitty can drink the water from the middle of the bowl without affecting the whiskers.

With the wide variety of pet products that are out there these days, you can quickly find new bowls that your cat will feel comfortable using. So, the good news is it’s easy to help your pet enjoy her meals and snacks again.

Choose the Right Material

In addition to looking into the shape of the bowls you plan on using to give your kitty food and water every day, it’s also wise to check the materials that those items are made of.

When shopping for your pet’s food and water bowls, opt for those that are made of non-porous materials. According to experts, stainless steel is the best option, followed by glass and ceramic. As an example, Dr. Catsby’s Bowl for Whisker Relief is a stainless steel product, but you can find similar items on the market made from other recommended materials.

What about plastic? Well, one thing to keep in mind is that plastic cat food bowls are generally not recommended, even if they are deemed “food safe,” because the material can develop micro-abrasions where bacteria could grow. The bacteria, which might persist despite the bowls being washed, would then come into contact with your cat’s face and nose, potentially resulting in feline acne. So, if your kitty has been showing symptoms of whisker fatigue or she has developed some acne, trying out different types of bowls may help you find the ideal solution to these problems.

Tackling Whisker Fatigue Is Easier Than You Think

Mealtime is an important part of your kitty’s day, so if you find that your pet is hesitating or wants to take her food to go because she’d rather not eat out of the bowl, she may be suffering from whisker fatigue. A simple swap of the food bowl for one that’s ergonomic and designed to prevent whisker fatigue could help.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

More by Lisa Selvaggio