Cat whiskers send signals to brain and nervous system and the sensory organs at base of whiskers help cat judge distance and space.
These whisker hairs are sensitive to all changes in the environment and every time a cat recognises movement or encounters and object, the sensory organs send messages to the brain.
When there is an over stimuli due to too many messages, it can stress the cat and lead to whisker fatigue.
Whisker fatigue can often be a result of stress due to too much contact with food and water bowls on a daily basis. This then leads to a cat avoiding eating and drinking and this again result in a cat dehydrating and getting sick.
Typical symptoms to look out for can be:
- pacing up and down in front of food and water bowls but being reluctant to eat
- appearing to be hungry, but not eating
- pawing at food and putting it on the floor before eating it
- even acting aggressive towards other cats around food
To try and prevent whisker fatigue, you can consider feeding a cat from a wide bowl so their whiskers touch the sides of the bowl less. Supplying water in a large bowl or a flowing water source is a consideration too to limit stress.
We have to keep in mind that cats cannot ignore or get away from too many unnecessary messages like we can filter out background noise, so kitty might find more stimulation in most common situations like at the food bowl.
If you do have any concerns about your cat’s behaviour or change in health, please consult your vet, but whatever you do, don’t cut those whiskers.
I never realised that having a small bowl could stress cats so much, I used to feed my cats on a plate with a large bowl for the water, just so they could all have a drink at the same time (I had three cats and three plates of food were left out). I noticed that they respected each others space and none of the cats, not even the Tom, would eat from another cats plate.
I think it also depends on the cat. A previous cat of mine (who was a very big cat), hated eating out of bowls. He used to lift the food out and drop it on the floor to eat it. We even tried dog bowls for him, but he hated having his face and whiskers in the bowl. Nowadays we feed the wet food from plates, and water and dry food from very shallow angled bowls. They seemed to prefer it. Our three eat in order. The young one rushes first and eats a bit from all the plates. Then the other two come when he is finished (he doesn’t eat much) and go to their own plates. Much later they nibble from a different plate, just to taste.