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'Whisker Fatigue' May Be Causing Your Cat's Grumpiness at Mealtime


Cat whiskers are pretty sensitive, which can cause some problems for felines. Murika/iStock/Thinkstock
Cat whiskers are pretty sensitive, which can cause some problems for felines. Murika/iStock/Thinkstock

Pop quiz: Who do you think suffers from "whisker fatigue"? Those fantastically-facial-haired hipsters we hear so much about, or people who have to spend time with them?

There's no arguing you could become exhausted from a day of watching Riley wax his handlebar mustache, but "whisker fatigue" is actually a feline ailment. While it might sound funny to us humans who indignantly deal with stresses like job security, don't bat it away like an amusing string just yet.

We've known for a while that cats have perceptually sensitive whiskers that allow them to navigate and investigate, as explained in the BrainStuff episode below. The long hairs help them detect air currents and judge the size of spaces. But the drawback is that they're also physically sensitive; touching them against something can trigger stress or discomfort, especially if they're not providing information to the cat. So when you see, for instance, a kitty carefully scooping food out of its dish to eat off the floor, it might not simply be playing with its food. It could be trying to avoid rubbing its whiskers against the sides of the bowl.

The solution? If your cat avoids or becomes aggressive or apprehensive around its food or water dish, try a bowl that is shallow. That allows the kitty to nosh happily without sticking its snout too deep. A plate, of course, would also be fine — but who doesn't want to give their cat a specially-designed, whisker stress-free $40 dish?