Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whisker Stress - What is it?

Whisker Stress - what is it? Well I know I had whisker stress when my whiskers were burned off in our nasty fire a few years ago but I don't think that's what the V E T is talking about.

See? No whiskers....

Do you or have you seen a kitty that doesn’t want to eat their kibble in their bowl, preferring to pull it out one piece at a time with their paw, then eating it off the counter or floor? Or maybe a kitty that only seems to like to eat the top layer of food out of his (or her) bowl, acting like he needs to get a refill, even when there is still plenty of morsels left on the bottom of his dish? You may be witnessing Whisker Stress! Mom always thought I did this because I was afraid brofur Cosmo was going to eat all the food but I still do it. I even did it when I was the only kitty in the house after Cosmo passed away and before mom adopted Mia. Mom isn't particularly fond of my need to drag food all over the floor to eat rather than eat from the dish but I am spoiled so I get to do what I want. 

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Many cats suffer from whisker stress daily, and your kitty might too. Domesticated cats that live and eat indoors don’t have the luxury of eating their food anywhere they’d like.  A feral cat can hunt down her prey, and consume it wherever she pleases. Circumstances are much different in a domestic environment where the human is in charge of when, where, and how the kitty will eat (we'll pretend the human thinks they are in charge for arguments sake!). So how do a cat’s whiskers play into all of this?

The role that whiskers play in cats is mainly to augment their short-distance vision.  A kitty has approximately 8 to 12 of these whiskers on each side of their face, arranged in horizontal rows that fan out sideways on each side of the upper lip, plus some tufts of shorter whiskers above their eyes, on their chin, and even on the back of their forelegs, just above the paw!  

It took a couple of months for all my whiskers to grow back. This pic is 3 months post fire and you can easily see my whiskers have returned! 

Whiskers are deeply-rooted, and rich in blood vessels and nerve endings that provide your kitty with information about surrounding objects and even air movement.  This exceptionally sensitive tool assists kitty's in many forms of navigation.  Each whisker functions as a mechanical transmitter, conveying pressure applied along the shaft to receptors in the follicle at the whisker base. So imagine what forcing those delicate instruments into a food dish must feel like. Ouch! The good news is that cat-friendly designers have come up with lots of beautiful flat feline feeding dishes to help your kitty avoid whisker stress. They look like elegant serving platters, wide and shallow, with plenty of room for your kitty to pick up the food with their mouth, without their whiskers touching anything. I am not sure why mom hasn't bought sisfur Mia and I those elegant serving platters, uh mom????

In short, making sure that your cat has an adequately sized food bowl could make a tremendous difference in how comfortable he (or she) is when he’s eating his food. It’s amazing what you will learn when you take the time to OBSERVE your kitty's!

How does your kitty prefer to eat?  Do they behave strangely sometimes when eating?  Do they stop and start again? Do they refuse to eat when they seemed hungry just minutes earlier?  Your kitty just might be trying to tell you that they have whisker stress and a new food bowl is a necessity! I'm wondering when mom will get the hint... to be fair, she has changed how she feeds us our dinner (on a saucer instead of from a bowl). Mom also knows that I prefer to drink water off the floor rather than from a bowl so she will sometimes intentionally spill the water on the floor so I can lap it up. The sink is a good option for water too!

Do my pals have any strange eating or drinking habits I wonder? Is it whisker stress or are they just spoiled like me?


  1. Our bowls are fairly shallow, so we don't have that much difficulty eating out of them. I do think a plate (preferably China!) would be nice though!

  2. Well, we are OK with our whiskers. TBT got us food bowls that dont disturb them when we eat.

  3. We weren't aware of whisker stress. Perhaps that's Rusty's problem. He's much bigger than all us other kitties. Maybe he needs a larger bowl.

  4. You must have felt very naked without your whiskers, CJ! They sure did grow back nicely!