It might be time to consider some enrichment when it comes to how you feed your cat. Cats are hardwired to hunt for prey, keeping them active both mentally and physically, but indoor cats typically have meals either served to them on a regular schedule, or they have access to food 24/7 with little activity involved. Outdoors, cats would eat multiple small meals throughout the day, and they would have to work for each one. With a little creativity, you can introduce some fun and games to your cat’s mealtime, helping to activate her brain and trim her waistline.
Cats like to stick paws into small spaces or under things. They have a natural instinct to reach into cracks and crevices where small prey might be hiding. Outside, this could be under a rock or in a hollowed-out tree trunk. Inside, simulate this experience with puzzle toys or slow feeders that have compartments and small openings. Simply fill the feeder with a small portion of food or treats, and watch your cat reach in to claim the prize.
Another option to get kitty moving for her meal is to use a treat/food dispenser — smaller toys filled with food or treats. When cats play with the toy, batting it around or tossing it in the air as they would do with their prey, the food falls out a few pieces at a time as a reward. Most dispenser toys allow you to adjust the number and size of openings so you can set the difficulty level for your cat. Larger dispenser toys can be filled with a bigger portion of food to accommodate multiple cats. Smaller treat dispensers can be filled and hidden around the house so kitty will need to hunt to find her food.
Has your cat mastered basic puzzle toys and treat dispensers? Up the ante and give her a bigger challenge. Maybe she needs a more complicated puzzle toy, something with multiple compartments or parts she has to move to access the food. These toys engage a cat’s sense of curiosity and require the most work for the payoff. You can easily make your own food puzzle toys.
Kate Benjamin has been writing about feline design since 2007 and is co-author with Jackson Galaxy of two New York Times best-selling books, Catification and Catify to Satisfy. Get more of Kate’s feline design tips at hauspanther.com.