09 August 2016

Whisker Fatigue: Who Knew?

  If you've been following my blog, you probably remember my posts about Tinsel's food issues. As she has aged, her appetite has fallen off fairly dramatically. I give her an appetite stimulant (which works well) but I still have to try all kinds of different foods, elevate her food on boxes, sit with her, and sometimes stand on my head (okay, not really but almost!) to get her to eat. It's an ongoing struggle!
The one thing I hadn't done was change the dish she uses, a shallow dish with two sections for food. Then one day -- instead of just washing it and putting it back out for use -- I put her dry food on a small plate. BINGO! Tinsel ate like a CHAMP! I haven't used the old dish since and although she still has her big appetite fluctuations, she is eating much better overall. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me that she might be objecting to the dish -- duh!

 Last night I was chatting on Facebook with some other cat moms who have kitties with appetite issues. We were all sharing tips for getting the kitties to eat, and I happened to mention that I had recently switched to a plate. Someone commented that Tinsel might have been experiencing WHISKER FATIGUE, something I hadn't heard of! Here's more about it:

Because whiskers are highly sensitive, if they are over-stimulated the cat can experience whisker fatigue. Contrary to what the name might imply, whisker fatigue doesn’t mean the whiskers become tired. A better way to describe it might be whisker stress.

The most common cause of whisker fatigue is from something a cat does every day – eating. That charming little bowl you serve their food in could be allowing the whiskers to touch the sides of the bowl. A high-sided water bowl can contribute to whisker stress as well. At best, it can annoy your cat to have his whiskers repeatedly come into contact with the dish as he chows down his food or takes a drink. For some cats, it can be quite painful.

 Some common signs of whisker fatigue are:
• the cat leaves food in the bowl, but is still hungry -- YEP!
• the cat pulls food out of their bowl with their mouth or paw, then places it on the floor and eats it off the floor (this can get messy) -- YEP!
• food aggression toward other animals in the house -- NO!
• standing by the bowl before eating for a period of time, pacing around the bowl, or being hesitant to eat, though hungry -- YEP, all the time!

So of the four signs listed, Tinsel has three! I wish I'd known about this long ago. I don't think whisker fatigue accounts for all of her appetite issues, but if changing food dishes helps her eat even a tiny bit better, I'm happy!

I hope this little bit of information helps some of my fellow cat-loving friends!

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