Cats and Whisker Stress Bowl Versus Plate

Cat Whiskers Aid Navigation and Communication

We cats are super curious. We like to investigate and explore unusual places and spaces. Many times cat parents try to restrict the movement of their feline friends but it seems that a cat’s  curiosity only increases when they are denied access. You might have experienced this when a door is closed.  We cats like our options to remain open.

Thankfully nature equipped us with our whiskers as a tool to help keep us safe. Did you know that a cat’s whiskers are the same width as a cat’s body?  When the whiskers brush up against the sides of the entrance to a space, this acts as a warning that the space is too small.  Whiskers also help cats move stealthily in the darkness by preventing us from running into things.  Cat whiskers can detect changes in air currents and wind.

Cat Whiskers are Super Sensitive

A cat’s whiskers are super sensitive.   In fact,  the cat’s whiskers are so superbly programmed that if they move even 1/2000th of the width of a human hair, a signal is triggered and sent to the cat’s brain.  Cat experts think this could be the reason for a domestic cat’s need to always have their chow bowl filled to the top.

When the food level is too low, a cat is forced to put her face down into the bowl  causing her whiskers to brush up against the sides.  This whisker stress  might cause discomfort for your cat and  may explain why she is so adamant to have her bowl always filled.

Gracey in Thundershirt thinking about Whisker Stress

My whiskers will be stressed if I try to nibble my kibble.

Bowl versus Plate

Have you noticed your cat exhibiting distress when her bowl is half empty?  Have you observed your cat throwing her food

Kibble on plate

Whisker Stress Free Food Plate given to us by our friends at Purina One.

out of her bowl onto the mat or floor to eat?  If so, you might try the bowl versus plate experiment.

Here is how:

  1. Switch your cat’s dish to a shallow container that enables her to grab her food without restricting her whiskers.
  2. Choose a dish large enough to hold a day’s worth of food and place the dish in a place that allows her to observe any activity in the room.
  3. If your cat is throwing her food out of the bowl, you might try a wide plate.  This enables your cat to eat whisker stress free and save you from the need to continually clean up after her.

I am super curious to learn what you think about whisker stress and your cat’s food dishes.  Please let me know what you have observed in your habitat and if you think you might try the bowl versus plate experiment.

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  1. Very helpful information! Switched to flatter saucers instead of bowls for our boys (wet food twice a day, instead of dry). The older one stopped tossing food on the floor to eat, and the new one finally started eating well.

  2. Mick Damphousse says

    I have noticed one of our cats in particular pushes food out of the bowls, and another one prefers to eat it off the floor. This article explains a lot, so I am definitely going to do the plate vs bowl experiment. I will not be at all surprised if the 3 of them prefer plates to bowls. Thank you for this very informative article.

  3. Yes, low sides or a flat plate work best. Have been feeding this way for decades b/c I noticed that lost of my feline friends preferred not to have whisker stress, when feeding. Glad to see it posted. Helpful information for cat lovers everywhere!

  4. using a shallow dish solved the problem for us, believe it or not I came to this same conclusion by watching my cat when the bowl was half full

  5. OMG!!! This explains sooo much about my household now!! going home and putting the food on a tray…. I have 3 cats….. which are kind enough to share the same 2 sided bowl …. wow… they will be so happy!! thank yOu!!!!!!

  6. Very interesting,now i know why my cat eats only from the bowl,when is full and eats from the floor.Thanks.

  7. Always wondered why my female kitty pulls her food from the bowls. We always thought she was being picky. Only picking out the kibble pieces she liked the most. But now that I’ve read this, I’ll have to give it a try. We give our cats soft food every so often as a treat, and we do serve it on a plate, but they make a horrible mess. All their hard food goes into wide rimmed bowls, but they will pick out pieces from time to time. Will have to give it a shot with placing their food into a better dish. Thank you for this article.

  8. Great article Gracey. All the SDR Kittehs eat their wet food off of plates. They have huge oversized bowls for their dry noms and for their water dishes, as well. So hopefully no whisker stress here 🙂

  9. Very interesting…always wondered about that. thank you.

  10. No wonder Lola likes it when I taker her food out of the bowl and is sometimes fussy about eating. She has very long whiskers. I’m going to look into getting a different bowl for her. Thanks, Gracey!

  11. Gracey, is that a thundershirt? Does it work? Do you hate to put it on? Are you scared of storms? Inquiring minds!

  12. Purrrr We will investigate dis. Our kibbles are in bowls but our wet food is on plates. My sisfur Bugs pulls food off da plate so she can eat in off da floor. She complicated like dat.

    Another thing she does is put ONE kibble in da water bowl. Any thoughts on that?

    P.S. Dat stuff about dark is questionable. Da lady followed us around in total blackness with surplus military night vision (FLIR) and says we kittehs didn’t seem to think it was dark.

  13. BorisKitty says

    pawsum post. we haz low profile bowls n wide ones fur ma big head cause of dis very issue.

    Y iz u in a thunder shirt. r u nervous pussycat?