Is cat whisker fatigue real?

Cat whisker fatigue is real according to a lady, Miss Gardner, who owns a black domestic short hair cat that she calls Moon. She found that her cat was having eating issues. He became a finicky eater. She even says that some days he was terrified to approach his feeding bowl! Having done some Internet research she decided that he was suffering from “whisker fatigue”.

She bought a range of bowls from Walmart. She observed how her cat ate from them. She put the bowls side-by-side. She discovered that the “whisker-friendly” bowl was licked clean whereas the other bowls remained full of food.

Well, that test seems very convincing I must say. I’m not altogether convinced myself, however. I am rather cynical about whisker fatigue. But that said, veterinarians do write about it but others are not convinced that it exists.

As you might have guessed, whisker fatigue is when a cat’s whiskers brush the side of the feeding bowl when they are feeding. In doing so the cat is receiving too many inappropriate messages from his/her nervous system. We know that at the base of whiskers there are many nerve connections which send signals from the whiskers to the brain. The cat’s whisker is incredibly sensitive. Whisker fatigue is a form of sensory overload.

The answer to this dilemma is to create a bowl which is shallow. The picture on this page shows one which Miss Gardner found the most effective. It is from Dr Catsby’s Feline Remedies and costs $19.99 (cheaper on Amazon?). This appears to be an American company. The person who designed the bowl implies that whisker fatigue causes pain to a cat. They took the average whisker rake “and designed this bowl so that the food could be eaten by the cat pain-free,” (Erik Strom, chief executive).

I don’t see any harm in at least checking whether your cat suffers from whisker fatigue. I would not buy any new bowls in order to do that. I’ll simply feed your cat from a shallow human bowl or plate for the time being if he or she has become a finicky eater or shows signs of not eating even though he looks well.

That said, you want to be very careful when dealing with a cat who is not eating properly. There may be underlying health issue requiring veterinary treatment.

Do you have any experience of whisker fatigue?




3 thoughts on “Is cat whisker fatigue real?”

  1. Can’t say I’ve ever had a cat who suffered whisker fatigue. Then again, I’ve always used saucers or stainless steel, shallow dishes to serve up their meals.

    Whilst I don’t doubt the sensitivity of cats’ whiskers, I can’t help thinking this is being used a marketing ploy to flog expensive dishes.

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  2. While constant firing of nerves will reinforce neural pathways, I think it is more likely some cats get annoyed rather than in pain. I feed mine from shallow metal bowls (metal being easy to sterilise) that can be bought from any pet shop, but they happily poke their muzzles into tubs and yoghurt pots to get at whatever is at the bottom of the pot.

    Rather than pay $20 for a gimmicky bowl, simply use a plate, a wide soup dish, a shallow round cake tin or even a shallow dog dish. If you feed dry biscuits use a puzzle feeder (which can be home made) to stimulate the mind as well as the tastebuds. There are already cheap bowls that closely resemble the whisker-friendly bowl so this person hasn’t invented anything new, just a logo and a pseudo-medical condition and a higher price!

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    • Thank you Sarah for your comment. I have similar thoughts to yours. I think it is over stated this problem. And of course somebody has jumped onto the commercial bandwagon to make some money out of it.

      Reply

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