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Make Them Work for Their Food

Written by Shireen Abbasey Haynes.

For the past 5,000 – 10,000 years, humans and felines have shared a wonderful co-existence together. Many ancient civilizations like the Egyptians revered cats and as the old joke goes, cats have never forgotten that. It is common knowledge that indoor cats are safer and generally healthier than their outdoor counterparts. An outdoor cat may fall victim to predators and disease thereby shortening their life spans. Indoor cats, however, can have a tendency to be obese due to their sedentary lifestyles and free-flowing food. While a feral cat may spend the majority of its day, hunting, eating and sleeping, an indoor cat may spend the majority of its day just sleeping and eating. Despite domestication and the bond they share with humans, cats have never lost their instinctual need to hunt.

As pet owners it is our responsibility to provide mental and physical stimulation for our furry friends. Physical play with a fishing pole toy, laser pointer or catnip mouse is very important for cats. It stimulates their hunting instinct and allows them to expend excess energy. Hunting is also a stress reliever. A stressed cat can often times become a cat with bad behaviors.

A useful tool that will come in handy for all cat owners are puzzle feeders. Puzzle feeders allow a cat to fulfill their mental and physical innate need to hunt. Puzzle feeders will vary from basic to more complex. The type to use will depend on how quickly your cat gets the concept. Some cats will immediately take to them and others not as fast. Some cats can master a complex food dispenser and others will need to start with a basic container with holes large enough for food to fall through easily. The point isn’t to deny the cat but rather, tap into their natural hunting and problem-solving skills.

Basic puzzle feeders for kibble can be made with just a water bottle and a craft knife. Remove the label, cut a few holes large enough for the kibble to fall through and voila! You have a puzzle feeder. If your cat prefers wet food, you can place a dollop of food in each compartment of a muffin tin. Your cat will need to walk around the tin to eat all of the compartments.   Strategically placing tins of food around the around where the cat eats will do the trick!

It is important to monitor your cat and make sure that their daily intake is adequate, however. Switching from free-feeding to puzzle feeding can take some time and will be trial-and-error to see what works best for your cat. Take your time, have patience and you will have a nice bonding experience for you and your kitty. In turn, your cat will be happier and healthier.