Fact or Fiction? Whisker Fatigue in Cats

whisker fatigue in catsWe’re understanding animals more and more. Not so long ago, we held many misconceptions about how they think, feel, and love. Sometimes, though, we learn things that are a little difficult to wrap our heads around. Recently, a term called whisker fatigue in cats has begun to make its rounds. Join Schertz Animal Hospital in deciding whether this novel idea is fact or far fetched fiction.

The Almighty Whisker

Your cat’s whiskers are, without a doubt, a complicated organ. While they may appear to just be long hairs, they’re truly an essential part of how felines interact with the world.

Whiskers are more properly known as vibrissae. These long, thick hairs are anchored in a bed of nerves that help your cat navigate his or her world. The modern housecat has different needs than a lion, but the whisker is important nonetheless. Vibrissae help your cat:

  • Understand his or her surroundings in dim lighting
  • Orient in tight spaces
  • Provide a visual metering system to aid in jumping
  • Pick up on changes in air currents, alerting your cat to movement
  • Determine the position of his or her prey when delivering fatal blows
  • Protect the eyes by triggering the blink reflex
  • Communicate with us and other cats

The more we learn, the more we understand how important whiskers are to our feline friends. In fact, we know that cats whose whiskers have been damaged or cut seem to be more anxious and experience higher levels of stress.

The Verdict on Whisker Fatigue in Cats

We can agree on the fact that whiskers are extremely important. Recently, however, whisker fatigue in cats has been used to describe the apparent stress cats can feel when their senses are bombarded by input from the whiskers.

Reportedly, the biggest culprits of whisker fatigue in cats are the deep food bowls and water dishes that we offer our four legged housemates.

While this sensory input may be troublesome to our more sensitive kitty companions, whisker fatigue in and of itself is likely an exaggeration. As we understand more about cat behavior, we’re coming to realize it’s probably more the lifestyle we ask our pets to participate in that is stressful.

By nature, cats are outdoor, solitary animals that we’ve decided to bring indoors and force into our pack. Taking steps to reduce environmental stress  and enrich your pet’s environment are an important part of responsible cat ownership. This may include providing a flowing water source and feeding from a flatter surface. Remember, combating whisker fatigue in cats is just a small part of making them feel welcome in our homes. Please ask us if you’d like to know more about how to keep your cat happy and healthy.