When It Comes To Cat Bowls, Size Really Does Matter

Brilliance | Dec. 14, 2017

If you've gone through several brands of cat food and your feline companions are still throwing their grub around like beads at a Mardi Gras parade—or worse, refusing to eat entirely—it might not be the food. As it turns out, cats have very sensitive whiskers and can experience whisker stress when they eat or drink out of bowls that are too small.

Sensory Super Tools

You might've noticed that your cat has funny facial hair. But unlike a hipster with a beard, he didn't grow whiskers to fit in at coffee shops. Instead, his whiskers, or "tactile hairs," function as an environmental scanning system. According to Live Science, whiskers can help a cat do things like see in the dark, "gauge whether it can fit into a tight space," and "detect changes in air currents" to warn him of "approaching dangers." So, what does this have to do with your cat's food bowl? We'll get to it.

The follicles of cat whiskers are surrounded by muscle tissue loaded with nerves and sensory cells, making them very, very sensitive. So sensitive, Today I Found Out elaborates, that "cats don't actually need to touch the objects with their whiskers to detect the object." Now, let's address the bowl. When your cat's feeding dish is smaller than the width of his whiskers, his sensitive hairs are constantly bumping into the sides. Rather than experience pain or discomfort, your cat might refuse his tiny bowl of food.


How do you know if your cat is experiencing "whisker stress"? Many cats will simply transfer their food to the floor. Others will appear finicky when they beg for food, then proceed to meow at you in protest once their bowls are full. The common denominator: they don't want to force their whiskers into dishes that are way too small.

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