Stressing About Whiskers: Whisker Stress In Cats
The term “whisker fatigue” or “whisker stress in cats” is a relatively new one in the cat-care industry and it’s gotten a great many people talking. For the moment a lot of that talk includes trying to determine if it’s a real concern or simply a marketing tactic. Numerous experts have been consulted and many admit that it’s possible, but won’t commit until there’s more solid data available. While that’s fair for them, it doesn’t mean that in the meantime many kitties aren’t being bothered by their dishes. Whiskers after all are not like normal hairs. These touch receptors, also known as vibrissae, are deeply rooted and are very, very sensitive. They’re responsible for sending all sorts of information which means that when they experience an unpleasant sensation they’re sending a great big unpleasant message straight to kitty!
Keeping this in mind and without going into too much depth about how whiskers work (there are numerous articles on the subject which include far superior knowledge than I can offer you at present) it seems only logical that if a cat’s whiskers are being bent back to feed it might not be a good thing.
Now personally, I like the common sense approach. I ask myself questions like “How does a cat eat in the wild?” or “Is my cat seeming hesitant about using his bowl?” Because cats may have trouble eating for any number of reasons a hesitant kitty doesn’t confirm that the dish is bothering their whiskers, however, it’s sure easy enough to check! There are some wonderful dishes on the market that are stylish and fit the whisker-space bill, but you can also simply test it out by grabbing a plate and seeing how kitty reacts. Best to use one with a slight lip as it helps keep food from being spread everywhere, but the flatter surface can help determine whether or not kitty has a preference. To me this boils down to communication. If I could just ask my furball buddy what he wants, that would be stellar, but until technology, (or maybe animal telepathy?) gets us there we have to use a lot of trial and error. I know if I had someone looking after me I would sure want my comfort being taken into consideration and I don’t think our fuzzy companions deserve any less. So whether whisker fatigue/stress really is an exaggeration, or a very real discomfort that can lead to serious feline dietary issues, it seems worth investigating to ensure our cats have the safest and happiest homes.
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