Whisker Fatigue: Decoding Strange Cat Behavior

Recently, we observed one of our product test cats, Olive, eating from her feeder. She would carefully scoop each piece of kibble out of the dish, and then eat it off the floor. Have you ever watched your cat do this? Or maybe you've experienced the more common phenomenon of your cat refusing to eat out of a dish that's only 3/4 full. It turns out your cat isn't just being finicky; there's a real reason behind this behavior! 

Your cat could be suffering from whisker fatigue! 

"Whisker fatigue" is commonly used to describe the unpleasant feeling that cats experience when their whiskers repeatedly touch the sides of objects, and in this case, typical cat bowls. I often find myself educating cat owners about the effects of whisker fatigue, because many cat people think their cat is just being difficult or strange. Recognizing the problem, and understanding the effect on your cat’s quality of life, is the first step toward treatment. The good news is how simple, effective, and easy the cure is.

Why whiskers matter 

profile of ginger cat with text about cat whiskers

Cats have approximately twelve whiskers on each side. They are vitally important to a cat in several ways. It is a fact that “whiskers have a heightened sense of feeling. They are actually touch receptors and even respond to vibrations in the air. They are very sensitive to even the smallest change in the cat’s environment. They are sort of like kitty radar.”1

Given how sensitive whiskers are, you can imagine how having them in contact with the side of a food bowl could be uncomfortable. The next time your cat eats, watch the position of their whiskers as they stick their faces into their food bowl. Notice how the whiskers are forced upward, and are squished together against the surface of the bowl. It is unnatural for a cat that would normally eat prey off the ground to constantly have their whiskers squished for every meal.

black and white cat eating dead bird

Is whisker fatigue a problem?

Good eating habits are extremely important to a cat’s overall health and well-being—therefore whisker fatigue may play a detrimental role in their lives. There are many jokes and memes about how cats hate seeing the bottom of their bowls, even if there is still food in the bowl. My belief is that the real reason behind this behavior is due to the pain a cat experiences when placing their faces (and whiskers) into a bowl. They are only eating the food in the center of the bowl to avoid pain.  After my own observations of many cat’s behavior, I am convinced that whisker discomfort is real and negatively affects the way cats eat. 

meme about empty cat food bowls and cats demanding more food

What can be done to prevent whisker fatigue?

Preventing whisker fatigue is simple!  Feeding your cats on plates, platters, or very shallow bowls completely eliminates the problem. Even if you're not sure that whisker fatigue is an issue, cats enjoy receiving their food in new ways (to mimic the hunt if they were in the wild) so that it may serve as enrichment and important stimulation for your feline friend. 

Our solution: The Beco Bowl

I founded Dezi & Roo as a way to help owners find pet solutions that enhance life.  In keeping with the company philosophy of offering products that are economical, safe, effective and socially responsible, I was excited to find these incredible Beco bowls for cats! They are the "purrf"ect solution for this common problem.

tabby cat eating canned food from shallow bowl

With scalloped edges, the Beco bowl is shallow, biodegradable and dishwasher friendly.  They stack well and are economical. Shallow bowls can make such a difference for the comfort of cats during mealtime!

tabby cat eating from scallop edged cat bowl

Your cat deserves the opportunity to eat in a more natural way and without having to endure the sensation of having their whiskers touching the edge of a bowl at every meal. Let them enjoy their food without suffering from whisker fatigue.

You can "Purr"chase a Beco bowl for your cat here 

[1] Cespedes, Yahaira. "Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?" Why Do Cats Have Whiskers? PetMD, n.d. Web.

1 comment

  • Kristin Jagelski

    Thank you for a very nice article. My boys would eat off anything, but the girl does best with a saucer.

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