Cats are natural hunters and in need of daily exercise. A simple way to increase the amount of activity in your cat’s day is to stop feeding your cat in a bowl and allow your cat to “hunt” for their meals.
Instead of just putting your cat’s meals into a bowl or on a dish, you can channel your cat’s natural hunting instinct by purchasing or creating feeding puzzles. This turns mealtime into an interactive game adding enrichment to your cat’s day.
Dr. Jamie Richardson, DVM with Small Door Veterinary, recommends providing puzzle toys and interactive toys for your cat to play with on their own.
Dr. Richardson specifically recommends the: Nina Ottosson puzzle toys and Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Feeder.” Another option is the KONG Cat Treat Dispensing Ball. Although designed for treats depending on the side/shape of your cat’s kibble, you can also use this for dispensing dry cat food as part of mealtime. These toys allow your cat to “work” for their food by figuring out how to interact with the puzzles/treat dispensers to release the food.
You can easily create puzzles for your cat to hunt treats in by repurposing boxes that get delivered. Take empty boxes and either leave them open or cut holes into them that your cat can “fish” with her paws into. Then put all or a portion of your cat’s kibble for a meal into the boxes. By spreading the meal through multiple boxes of different sizes and different-shaped holes, your cat will have an interactive meal that provides mental exercise and stimulation.
If your cat eats wet food for some or all of his meals, it’s still possible to add enrichment to your feeding routine. The Doc & Phoebe Wet Feeder is designed to increase enrichment while your cat eats and slow your cat down to prevent him from scarfing his meal. You can also create slow feeders for wet food by utilizing food-safe use of silicone plates, cupcakes and cake molds. Purchase them in various shapes in the baking or cooking section of most stores. By spreading wet food around, the silicone’s shapes and texture give your cat something interesting to lick, and she will have to work to get all the food out of the different cervices. Most of these molds are dishwasher safe making them easy to clean and sterilize after feeding.
In addition to using or making puzzles for feeding your cat, you can create more of a hunting experience for your cats by using the cat furniture you already have in your house. Take your cat’s pre-measured kibble and scatter it into cat tunnels, cat trees, or other climbing areas. This is a great way to increase your cat’s overall physical activity level as he will have to go in search of his meal instead of just eating from a dish.
Adding enrichment to feeding time is fun for most cats. The more practice your cat gets, the better she will get at “hunting” for her food. Over time you can begin to expand the search/puzzles you provide to make them more complicated. You can also combine multiple boxes into puzzle structures to make the hunt more complicated.
Be sure to monitor your cat as they are “hunting” for their meal to ensure that your cat finds all of its food and gets enough to eat.
If you have multiple cats, it’s generally best to keep your cats separated during mealtime. This is especially true if you are hiding food for your cat to search for. This will ensure that each cat is getting its appropriate serving of food for each meal. It will also prevent conflict or bullying between the cats as they hunt for their meals.
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