This puzzle feeder topic is one of the more fun of a series of blogs to come for our readers, to help enrich the environments (and lives) of indoor cats. Lack of environmental stimulation contributes to stress and many behavior disorders we deal with in our patients such as intercat aggression, urine marking, house soiling, owner-directed aggression, and behavioral overgrooming. Puzzle feeders keep their mind and body at work.
Cats are by instinct hunters, so to offer them their food in a bowl, no matter how clean or cute it is, just doesn’t make sense when you think about it. Help your indoor cat release his natural tiger inside by challenging him with food puzzles and other ways to catch and earn his food!
Food puzzles come in different forms. They can be creative, clever homemade creations OR strategically engineered devices for purchase. Varieties can be used with canned foods, dry foods, or your kitty’s favorite treats.
Cats new to puzzles should start with relatively easy to dispense “prey”. Clear puzzles with multiple openings so the they can see, smell, and hear the food inside makes conquering the prize easier…and gets them motivated for their next harder challenge. Just as with everything, some cats catch on a little quicker to thing than others. Be there to encourage your hunter, put treats around the puzzle, and give them praise and let them enjoy their catch proudly.
Slowly increase the challenge with puzzles that have smaller holes, more unique shapes, and may be opaque.
For the skilled hunter you may try hiding puzzles around the house, put a puzzle within a box along with some clues leading to it, or put objects like ping pong balls within the puzzle to supply a bigger challenge to get to the reward. One of my favorite puzzles is one that a bengal patient’s mom created to keep him busy. She used a simple round wooden box with a small latch, with the treats wrapped in a small cloth inside, which provided him with a fun and rewarding challenge at the end of each day. Nothing fancy…get creative!
Overtime, all of your cat’s daily ration can be given in clever ways via unique puzzles. We love it when cats board at our clinic, with their puzzles and daily hunt directions packed along!
We do not officially endorse any products or websites, but we do encourage exploring all the ideas and products out there. We love pictures and videos and updates of what gets your cat excited, and/or what doesn’t. As with anything with cats…what excited and stimulates one may be a catastrophic bore for another!