Cats are natural hunters and need daily exercise. An easy way to increase activity on your cat’s day is to stop feeding your cat in a bowl and allow your cat to “hunt” after their meals.
Rather than just putting your cat’s meals in a bowl or on top of a bowl, you can channel your cat’s natural hunting instinct by buying or creating feeding puzzles. This turns mealtime into an interactive game that will enrich your cat’s day.
How to feed a cat with puzzle feeders
Dr. Jamie Richardson, DVM at Small Door Veterinary, recommends providing puzzle and interactive toys for your cat to play with on their own.
Dr. Richardson strongly recommends the following: Nina Ottosson puzzle toy and Doc & Phoebes Indoor Hunting Feeder. Another option is the KONG Cat Treat Dispensing Ball. Although designed for treats that depend on the side / shape of your cat’s nibble, these can also be used to dispense dry cat food as part of meals. These toys allow your cat to “work” on their food by figuring out how to interact with the puzzle / treatment dispensers to release the food.
Here’s how to make your cat search for food using DIY puzzles
You can easily create puzzles for your cat in which to hunt goodies by reusing the boxes that were provided. Take empty boxes and either leave them open or cut holes in them for your cat to “fish” into with their paws. Then place all or part of your cat’s nibble in the boxes for a meal. By distributing the meal across multiple boxes of different sizes and holes, your cat will get an interactive meal that provides mental movement and stimulation.
You can feed your cat wet food and still make the meals interactive
If your cat eats wet food for some or all of his meals, it is still possible to enrich your feeding routine. The Doc & Phoebe Wet Feeder is designed to increase accumulation while your cat is eating and to slow your cat down to prevent it from peeling off its meal. You can also create slow feeders for wet food using food grade silicone plates, cupcakes, and cake pans. Buy them in a variety of shapes from the baking or cooking area of most stores. By spreading wet food, the shapes and texture of the silicone give your cat something interesting to lick, and she’ll have to work to get all of the food out of the various cervices. Most of these shapes are dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sterilize after feeding.
Use search options to feed your cat
In addition to using or creating puzzles for feeding your cat, you can create a better hunting experience for your cats with the cat furniture you already have in your house. Take your cat’s pre-measured snacks and sprinkle them in cat tunnels, scratching posts, or other climbing areas. This is a great way to increase your cat’s overall physical activity as they need to be looking for their meal instead of just eating from one dish.
How to add challenges
Most cats enjoy enriching the feeding time. The more exercise your cat gets, the better it can find its food. Over time, you can start expanding the searches / 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 while it “hunts” for its food to make sure your cat can find all of its food and is getting enough to eat.
If you have multiple cats, it is generally best to keep your cats separate during meals. This is especially true when hiding food that your cat is supposed to be looking for. This will ensure that every cat gets the right amount of food for every meal. It will also prevent conflict or bullying between the cats as they forage for their meals.
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