Of all their beautiful features, your cat’s long whiskers are probably among your favorites.
While they may not get as much credit as the highly capable eyes or ears, whiskers bring a lot to the table. They make your cat look really cool and help them navigate the ever-changing world around them. But since they poke outward from the sides of their face, can these touch receptors suffer from whisker fatigue?
If you haven’t heard of whisker fatigue, you’re not alone. It isn’t a condition that gets a lot of mainstream attention. But that doesn’t make it less real to cats that may experience it. In fact, when they are overused or overstimulated, a cat’s whiskers can suffer significant discomfort and stress.
It Makes Sense
Your cat’s whiskers serve as touch receptors that send signals to the brain about the surroundings. Whiskers are tactile hairs, or vibrissae, that are equipped with tiny sensory organs called proprioceptors. Located at the base of each whisker, proprioceptors help felines “feel” around in the dark, sense air currents to hunt prey, gauge distance for jumping, and assess spatial constraints.
How It Happens
The most common reason why cats experience whisker fatigue is because of eating and drinking. When their bowls are small and deep, the whiskers repeatedly touch the high sides. Symptoms can range from slight irritation to unsettling pain.
Your cat may not want to eat or drink, and end up just sitting and staring at their food or water. They may also use their paw to dig out the food or tip the bowls over. Some cats react aggressively to other animals in the house.
Watch and Learn
Take a moment at meal time to discover your cat’s eating and drinking behavior. If they demonstrate frustration or irritation, it may be time to act. Whisker fatigue can become a real problem if it’s not addressed promptly.
With ongoing frustration, fatigue, and pain, your cat’s hydration and nutrition can be adversely affected. They may stop eating and drinking altogether if it gets bad enough, leading to a variety of other issues.
Easy Adjustments for Whisker Fatigue
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reduce the amount of pressure to their sensitive vibrissae. Simply provide your cat with a shallow bowl, or a wide, flat dish. A circulating water fountain works wonders for cats that mess around with a full water bowl. These products can even encourage greater hydration. Win-win!
Happy Cat, Healthy Cat
Your cat’s health and happiness are priorities, but sometimes little things can sneak by even the most involved cat owners. Remember, they mask any signs of weakness or illness. If you ever suspect that your cat is suffering, please let us know. Our staff is always here for your cat at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital.