Whisker Stress: What is it, and How do you Handle it?

You may have noticed that your cat prefers to pull his food out of his bowl, carefully and painstakingly, instead of just simply sticking his nose in and eating. Perhaps he’s one of those that stops eating the instant he can see the bottom of his bowl, and won’t go back to it until the food in it is at his preferred level again. Why is that? It turns out that there’s such a thing as whisker stress. This could be why your cat has apparent problems with his bowl.


One of our cats, Gizmo, does a lot of that. If she can see the bottom of her bowl, she stops eating. Because we feed her raw food, this sometimes means shaking her bowl around to eliminate the view of the bottom. She also won’t eat her food if it’s got too many chicken chunks in it, and she scoops water out of the water bowl all the time. She eats treats just fine off the floor, and her teeth and jaw are in good health, so we’re not sure what the problem is. It’s possible that the bowl, and the chicken chunks, cause her whisker stress.

What is whisker stress?

Whiskers are amazing little instruments. Cats have whiskers on their muzzles, above their eyes, and even on their paws. Whiskers’ roots are very deep, and that makes them very sensitive. According to Adoptapet.com, whiskers aren’t feelers, per se, but they sense changes in air currents, which helps cats avoid objects in low light and no light situations.

When cats’ whiskers brush against something, they know that an object is too close, or a space is too small. In other words, whiskers brushing something tells your cat to avoid it. When their whiskers are always brushing the sides of something, it can make the experience unpleasant. With all that information going to your cat’s brain, is it any wonder that he can suffer from whisker stress?

How do you relieve whisker stress?

Now that you know what whisker stress is, what can you do about it? Answers.com says that the biggest thing you can do to help with whisker stress is to use wide, shallow bowls, or even plates, for food and water. This makes it so your cat’s whiskers won’t brush the sides of the bowl when he’s eating or drinking. Ceramic, metal and glass bowls are preferable, since plastic bowls can hold onto odors and bacteria.


If this doesn’t remedy the issue, then it may be habitual for your cat to scoop his food and water out. He may also suffer from problems besides whisker stress, so if this behavior is new, or you can’t solve it and it seems to be getting worse, you should take him to your vet.

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