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What is Whisker Fatigue in Cats?

What is Whisker Fatigue in Cats?

If you’ve never heard of whiskery fatigue, don’t worry. It’s not a widely known condition, but its discovery has answered a lot of questions cat owners have asked in the past.

Whisker fatigue is a condition caused by cats sticking their face into food bowls that rub against their whiskers. For some cats, this rubbing of the whiskers causes a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Keep reading to learn more about whisker fatigue and how to prevent it.

Why do cats have whiskers? 

To understand whisker fatigue, you first need to understand why cats have whiskers and what they use them for. Cats don’t have whiskers just for cuteness! Whiskers are an import sensory organ that helps cats learn and be aware of their environment. The whiskers send signals back to the cat’s brain and nervous system. They provide cats with important information like their spacial orientation and changes in air currents. Whiskers are the reason cats can dark around furniture in the dark and determine if they can squeeze into tight spaces. Needless to say, whiskers are very important to cats!

***Author’s Note*** NEVER trim your cat’s whiskers. The growth of whiskers are naturally controlled by the cat’s body and do not need trimming. Since whiskers are an important sensory organ, trimming whiskers causes extreme stress and anxiety for cats.

What is whisker fatigue? 

Whisker fatigue occurs when cats experience “sensory overload” from their whiskers. Each time your cat comes in contact with an object, detects movement, or detects a change in air currents, information gathered from the whiskers is transmitted to the brain. Because a cat’s whiskers are so sensitive, too much contact with the whiskers causes them great discomfort, stress, and anxiety. This eventually causes what is now known as “whisker fatigue”.

However, “fatigue” is not the best term to use to describe this condition because it does not cause fatigue. A better term to describe it should be called “whisker stress”.


What causes whisker fatigue?

Cats can’t tune out information gathered by their whiskers the way humans tune out noise. Cats are still stimulated when their whiskers touch their food or water bowl. This overstimulation causes them to often reject food or make a mess by nudging their food out of their bowl, and then eating it from the ground.

Below are some signs of whisker fatigue:

  • pacing in front of bowls
  • pawing or nudging food out of bowl and eating it off the floor
  • aggressive behavior toward other animals that are around the untouched food
  • refusal to eat food that is prepared for them

**IMPORTANT** These are also signs of other serious diseases that you should consult with your vet about. Whisker fatigue is not classified as a “disease” and it is not a life threatening condition.

Whisker fatigue seems to be caused by repeated daily contact of the whiskers with food and water bowls. Although whisker fatigue is not a disease, it does cause stress. A stressed cat is not a happy cat.

How can I prevent whisker fatigue? 

It’s very simple – change your cat’s food and water bowls. Consider plating the food and putting water in a shallow bowl that does not make contact with your kitty’s whiskers.

There are some specialized bowls made specifically to prevent whisker fatigue such as the Dr. Catsby Food Bowl. I’ve listed some of the features that make the Dr. Catsby Food Bowl a great solution to whisker fatigue.

  • Wide shallow dish design specifically measured to prevent whisker fatigue. 
  • Stainless steel & dishwasher safe 
  • Food grade silicone non-slip mat included
  • 1 day’s portion to prevent over feeding
  • New York Times: “…the winning bowl…”

Take the stress out of meal time so your cat can be happy and healthy. Happy cats = healthy cats!

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3 Replies to “What is Whisker Fatigue in Cats?”

  1. I love all cats. They feel my kind loving heart and will let me pet them and talk to them,even the ones that trust nobody.

  2. Thank you for the information. I’ve never heard of that and will change in order to prevent my cats ever having this.

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