You could be forgiven for not having heard of whisker fatigue – as many as 50% of feline owners haven’t come across the term. Or maybe you have heard of it. but believe it to be a hoax – something funny a cat owner came up with once. However, let’s just begin by stating one fact – whisker fatigue is a very real, but preventable, condition.
What is whisker fatigue?
Whisker fatigue is a condition caused by the over-stimulation of your cat’s whiskers. To better understand whisker fatigue, you also need to appreciate the true function of a cat’s whiskers.
Why do cats have whiskers?
Many people don’t realise that whiskers are much more than just a facial feature for cats. In fact, they are extremely powerful receptors that pulls signals into their brain and nervous system. There are also ultra-sensitive sensory organs at the base of their whiskers, which help to tell your cat valuable information about the space and environment around her. This enables your cat to move well in the dark, assess gaps that they can fit through and successfully hunt prey.
While cats have the ability to control the sensory element of their whiskers to some extent, the receptors are largely responsive subconsciously. This means that when the whiskers come into high levels of contact with things around them, it can lead to your cat experiencing sensory overload. There are simply too many messages coming in for your cat to be able to make sense of them all, which causes her to become extremely stressed. In fact, some people refer to the condition as ‘whisker stress’ rather than ‘whisker fatigue’.
Preventing whisker fatigue
Whisker fatigue is something that is managed more than treated. This is because the best way to help your cat is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Thankfully, this is pretty straightforward.
Whisker fatigue usually becomes apparent more when your cat is near her food or water bowls. This is because their whiskers may come into repeated contact with the sides of the bowl every time they use it. The sensory overload that it creates can cause your feline friend to start avoiding eating or drinking in an effort to avoid the stimulus.
To help prevent your cat from developing whisker fatigue, you should try and provide food and water dishes that are flat and wide enough that her whiskers don’t touch the sides when she eats or drinks. This will make her much more comfortable.
What about trimming her whiskers?
There are some cat owners who believe that regular trimming can provide the solution for whisker fatigue. However, doing this interferes with the natural perceptions of your cat and has a detrimental impact on their sensory ability. As such, whisker trimming should be avoided at all costs.
If you would like to obtain further advice about whisker fatigue, contact us for a consultation.