Whisker Fatigue: What You Need to Know

whisker fatigue what you need to knowThe thought of tired whiskers may sound silly, but the truth is, whisker fatigue can actually be a problem that makes your cat act completely different than usual. This condition is one that can cause problems like lack of appetite, changes in mood and behavior, and a lot of stress for your kitty. As the owner of a cat, you will definitely want to know what whisker fatigue is and why it is something you should take seriously.

Whisker Fatigue: What You Need to Know as a Feline Pet Owner

Understanding the Anatomy of Your Cat’s Whiskers

Most pet owners see their cat’s whiskers as merely a physical trait, much akin to hair or similar to facial hair on a human face. However, your cat’s whiskers are actually much more complex than that. Whiskers, which are actually called vibrissa, are coarse touch receptors that reach far deeper under the skin to connect with the nervous system of the cat.

While your cat doesn’t necessarily have feelings in their whiskers, the movement and touch that affect the whiskers send signals to their brain and sensory system. So this physical trait acts like an antenna that is constantly collecting important information about a cat’s environment, such as what direction the wind is blowing, how close they are to a wall, and when they could be in danger.

So what is whisker fatigue?

In basic terms, whisker fatigue is simply over-stimulation of the sensory system of the whiskers. What happens when the whiskers are touched too much, even if it is basic brushing against food and water dishes, is the cat’s brain gets an onslaught of sensory messages transmitted to their brain. This overload of stimulation can make your cat feel stressed out or appear agitated. Some of the most common symptoms of whisker fatigue include:

  • refusal to eat or drink from their usual dishes
  • pacing in front of the food bowls and meowing like something is wrong
  • pawing at food and water to try and pull it from the bowl
  • acting more aggressive around food or treats when it is given to them out of the dish

How can you combat whisker fatigue?

Thankfully, combating problems with whisker fatigue is a simple process. Because of awareness, pet supply manufacturers have begun creating feed trays and bowls that are specifically designed to be whisker-friendly. These dishes have a wider opening and tend to be shallow so the cat’s whisker’s do not brush against the sides of the bowl while they eat their food or sip water. If you cannot find whisker-friendly pet dishes for your kitty, feeding your cat in a shallow dish with low sides, such as a plate or saucer can offer the same relief.

Should you take your cat to the vet for whisker fatigue symptoms?

In most cases, simple adjustments to how you feed your cat and the dish you use to do so will get rid of any symptoms of whisker fatigue your cat has experienced. However, if you have made the necessary changes and your cat still seems stressed about eating, make sure you come see us or contact us at the Cat Hospital of Tucson to make sure there are not more serious issues at play.