Every cat parent knows that cats’ whiskers are sensitive organs, and they help our feline friends interact with their living environment. But is there such a thing as whisker stress, also known as whisker fatigue? And if there is, what are its causes, and how does it happen?
We’re answering these questions and more in today’s article, so keep on reading!
Is Whisker Stress a Real Thing?
It’s actually a little complicated to provide a straight answer, and the reason for that is that not enough studies have been performed in this sense. One of the few ones that we came across is Evaluation of whisker stress in cats by Jennifer E. Slovak and Taylor E. Forster, and it seems to have revealed that most cats actually prefer eating from a whisker-stress-free dish rather than a normal one.
As you probably know by now, cats are very unique, so some might actually refuse to eat or drink from bowls with raised walls just because they tend to bother their whiskers. On the other hand, there are cats out there that are going to completely ignore the design of their food or water bowls and keep using them regardless of the mild discomfort they might feel.
What Causes Whisker Stress?
Whisker stress is actually a syndrome where the cat’s whiskers send out too many signals to the brain, so the pet’s behavior can change to some extent.
As previously mentioned, some cats are completely unfazed by their bowls, but others might experience a number of symptoms that mostly deal with anxiety or agitation — if they have to use the same unnerving bowl time and again.
But how do cats with whisker fatigue behave? Some might become quite frustrated with their serving dishes and could develop aggression every time they are given food or treats from the bowls that are causing the problem.
Other cats might pace around their feeding area without expressing a particular interest in the food itself. Some might meow loudly when you pass through the area and try to get your attention.
There’s also the possibility of the cat pawing at the food or water bowl and actually getting the food out in order to eat it. We’ve all noticed that cats somehow like to eat from the floor every now and then, but with pets that have whisker stress, this will happen quite often.
Water consumption is extremely important for cats as they’re already known as not to be thirsty animals, which can cause a variety of health issues (mostly relating to their urinary tract). If your cat’s bowl basically convinces her not to drink enough water, you might end up with your feline friend at the vet clinic sooner rather than later — so the water bowl needs to relieve whisker fatigue as best as possible.
Is Whisker Stress Good in Some Cases?
If your cat is overweight or at risk of developing diabetes due to her weight, you might think that whisker fatigue might actually do more good than harm. That’s not a solution, though. You will be making your cat uncomfortable, and there are other, better ways of controlling her food intake.
For example, you can avoid free feeding and can get your cat accustomed to a schedule where you feed her just twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. In this way, you will have complete control over how much your pet eats.
Do You Have to Change Your Cat’s Food Bowl?
Since all pet parents want their cats to be as comfortable as possible, we’d say that changing your pet’s food and water bowls might be a good idea. Some might argue that there isn’t enough evidence to support the theory that cats actually experience whisker stress, but it’s far better to eliminate any possibility rather than having to deal with its effects later on.
Can whisker stress cause a health issue? Generally speaking, if your cat is a completely healthy adult and she does want to eat food and drink water, she’ll go out of her way to do this even if she does experience whisker fatigue.
So it would be incorrect to assume that cats that have this ‘problem’ would end up suffering from anorexia, for example.
In a nutshell, dishes that have a wider opening and are shallower can prevent whisker stress, so your cat will feel better about drinking more water and eating more food.
Different Bowl Designs
From what we’ve gathered, there are two main types of bowls aimed at eliminating whisker stress. You have the option of getting a flat, ceramic one, which is also a good choice in terms of cleaning since this material is not too porous, so it won’t keep the bacteria on its surface easily.
But there’s also the option of getting a raised flatter bowl, which we suggest that you use for canned food like pate or gravy pouches. This one is better for senior cats, who might feel less inclined to bow their head to the ground in order to reach their food.
The average cost of a whisker-friendly raised bowl is around $20-$30. A flat ceramic bowl can cost as little as $8 or even less.