There’s a lot of words on the internet about whisker fatigue in cats. Plenty of articles tell readers that cats’ whiskers become overstimulated when they rub against food and water dishes, causing discomfort.
Is it true? Is whisker fatigue an actual thing? Who knows?
Plenty of theories and arguments make it sound likely, but as far as I can find, there’s no real evidence to support (or disavow) its existence . . . yet.
Until there is, we all may want to think twice about purchasing those expensive specialty food dishes. Here’s why:
Whiskers are sensitive, yes. Given their job, they have to be. They allow cats to feel vibrations, assisting in movement and balance. Their roots are embedded in masses of nerves. That fact alone could make face pain caused by whisker stress a believable theory. But not so fast.
Even when they had high-sided bowls, I’ve seen my cats voluntarily settle into positions with whiskers bent or smashed, without care. I’m sure if eating caused overstimulation to the point of discomfort, they’d adjust their position in other instances.
I’ve scoured the internet. I’ve trudged through veterinarian forums on all things whiskers. Most veterinarians involved in the discussions I’ve seen say they’ve never heard of such a thing as whisker fatigue.
The articles I’ve read that used an actual DVM as a source quote them as saying they wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. That’s hardly a definitive answer.
Finally, I contacted my cats’ doctor. I told her I can’t seem to find anything solid either way on reputable websites or in journals or studies. She said she has never heard of whisker fatigue. She also isn’t surprised I can’t find any veterinarian-confirmed information about it.
What I take from my research and from my trustworthy animal doctor is that we can’t know if it’s fact or paranoia, yet. We can only suppose one way or the other, pay attention to how our cats act, and keep open communication with our veterinarians.
If your cat develops odd eating habits contact your veterinarian. These could be circling the dish, knocking food out of the dish, or refusing to eat or drink. These are signs that something is up, be it whisker fatigue or something else. There could be a medical reason for the behavior, or your cat may simply not like their dish.
I don’t find whisker fatigue something to be worried about. However, I don’t have a problem letting my babes eat out of a flat dish if it makes them happy. There’s nothing wrong with trying new food and water dishes in an attempt to provide more comfort to your babe, fatigue or no.
I’ve seen a few expensive dishes on the internet advertised as solutions to whisker fatigue.
I got two perfect dishes at the pet store for five bucks a pop. No big deal.
Try a wide, shallow dish for food. For water, use a wide dish with no lip. Keep it full and clean at all times. You may consider getting an automatic, circulating water dish. Some cats prefer drinking from dishes with gently moving water.
Whatever type of dish you choose, make sure it’s lead-free ceramic or steel, and BPA-free if you’re using plastic. Keep in mind that plastic dishes can harbor bacteria and off-putting odors. Keep dishes clean and watch for cracks, scratches, or chips.
One more thing: don’t mess around with your cat’s whiskers. Don’t handle them, trim them, or pluck them. Sometimes, veterinarian have cause to do a little trimming, but leave that to them.
We all want our cats to be as happy, safe, and comfortable as possible. Whisker fatigue may or may not be an actual problem. Until we find out for sure, all we can do is take cues from our cats and listen to our vets.