Too many cats are bored, depressed and inactive because there isn’t enough stimulation in the environment. If you work long hours or if you have a single kitty who spends so much time alone in her home, it can get to the point where there just isn’t anything interesting to do. Is there a way to keep your cat entertained while you aren’t home? Yes! That’s where puzzle feeders come to the rescue. The concept behind the puzzle feeder is that the cat has to figure out how to get the food out of the puzzle toy and then is rewarded with the food when she succeeds. This is a great way to entertain your cat when you aren’t at home. The benefits of using a puzzle feeder include more than just the fun of seek and reward. It’s helpful if you’ve put your cat on a diet because she’ll have to work (play) for the food and will eat slowly since only a small amount is dispensed at a time. It’s also beneficial for cats who tend to gulp their meals too quickly. And of course, it’s a great boredom buster. I also incorporate the use of puzzle feeders with my clients’ cats who are in stressful situations. They can focus on the fun activity of trying to get food out of the puzzle feeder as a distraction from whatever is causing anxiety in the environment. Puzzle feeder designs When it comes to puzzle feeders there are many design options. They range from very simple ball designs with a hole in them for dispensing kibble, to very complex structures that will provide entertainment for more than one cat at a time. You can use dry food or wet food in the puzzle feeder, depending on the design of the particular feeder toy. A simple search on Google will turn up lots of sites that design and/or sell puzzle feeders for cats. You can also buy some at the pet product store but if your cat is up for the challenge, companies who specialize in puzzle feeders and animal environmental enrichment will have the most selection. Some companies who manufacture puzzle feeders include Kong, Premier, Our Pets and Nina Ottosson. Nina’s toys are mostly designed for dogs but she does have some great cat puzzles. You can also use some of the dog puzzle feeders if you choose the plastic versions and not the wooden ones. At our house, Nina Ottosson’s plastic dog brick is a very popular item. Homemade puzzle feeders To make a homemade puzzle feeder box, take a small cardboard box and cut holes that are larger than the size of your cat’s paws. Cut these holes in random places. Tape the flaps of the box closed and then toss some dry kibble in there. Shoe boxes make good puzzle feeder boxes. A popular homemade puzzle feeder design at our house is the toilet paper tube feeder. Take the cardboard center from the toilet paper roll and cut holes in it that are a little bigger than the size of the kibble. Fold the ends in to close them and you have an easy and cheap puzzle feeder. I also make one out of a small plastic water bottle. I cut holes in the plastic and then pour some dry kibble in there. Replace the cap and you have a feeder that’s easy for the cat to roll around and also makes an enticing sound. When you initially make homemade puzzle feeders make the holes large enough so kitty has lots of success at getting the kibble. Then when she gets the idea of the game you can make a puzzle feeder with smaller holes. With cardboard or plastic bottle feeders, make sure you only provide them to cats who don’t eat cardboard or plastic. Additionally, don’t put these feeders out in locations where the family dog can access them. Puzzle feeders for wet food If you feed wet food to your cat you can still incorporate puzzle feeders into her routine. For my cat I use a Kong toy. This company makes puzzle feeders for dogs but I get the one made for puppies and put a little canned food in there. The Kong is a rubber cone-shaped toy and can easily be found in the dog toy aisle of the pet product store. If your cat doesn’t get the concept initially then wipe some of the wet food on the outside of the toy as well so she gets used to licking the rubber surface. I also create a homemade wet food puzzle feeder with a muffin tin. It’s really simple but it provides my cat with an opportunity to do a little work for her food. I place a small amount of canned food in each of the muffin compartments so my cat has to walk around to each one to get her food. You can do this with dry food as well.
The following article is courtesy of our partner, Banfield Pet Hospital. Used with permission. Heather Stratton, CVT “What are you doing to help his weight?” This was the question that my veterinarian asked last year when I went in to pick up my cat after surgery. It was a question I was totally unprepared for. At just over a year, Stanford was starting to develop the “fat pad” that most house cats get, but I hadn’t paid it much attention — until that moment. Having worked in a veterinary hospital for several years, I already knew the standard suggestions for increasing activity or changing to a lower-calorie diet, and being a cat owner, I was skeptical about getting Stanford to exercise more. I asked several of my peers and other veterinarians that I know for their ideas and what they do with their cats to help them maintain a healthy body weight. Thinkstock One of the items suggested was to get him a treat ball. These balls are designed to hold kibble and have a small hole that when it is batted around, would drop out the food. The idea being that he would now have to start working for his food. It sounded like it might work, so I picked one up from the toy aisle and went home determined to help him get back to a healthy body weight. As most cat owners are when bringing home a new toy, I was hopeful that it would last beyond the typical 5 minutes before he went back to playing with the paper bag or cardboard box. I put his normal portion of food into the ball, shook it around to try and get him excited, and set it on the ground. After batting it around a couple times, one kibble fell out and Stanford looked up at me with a face that said nothing but “You’ve got to be kidding me.” After more failed attempts over several weeks to get him to eat his food from the ball, I went back to putting his food in his dish and the treat ball was chased into obscurity somewhere under the couch. A couple months ago, I heard him playing in the kitchen and looked up to see what he had, and low and behold, it was the ball! Although there was no food in it, he was happily chasing it around the kitchen. I quickly went to the cupboard and grabbed his bag of treats, grabbed the ball, and plopped a couple in. Once he resumed playing with the ball, the treats started to pop out and he continued to play until every last piece dropped! Since he rediscovered the ball, I’ve started mixing in his normal food with some of his treats and putting this in the ball while I go to work and still measuring out the amount that he gets on a daily basis. I’m excited to come home and find the ball either empty, or nearly empty, and as it gets closer to his next vet appointment I’m looking forward to getting to answer the question “What are you doing to help his weight,” knowing that I truly am!
Cat Food Ball SlimCat is a good choice if you need your cat to lose weight or correct bad behavior with food. This ball food dispenser is made for your cat to play, hunt and eat, all three at the same time. The ball has a hole on it where you put about 70% of a dry cat food cup, then adjust the hole in the Slimcat to let one piece of food pass through easily. If you want to let more than one piece of food, you can adjust the hole little bigger.
Our food puzzle paper was one of the most widely cited and downloaded articles of 2016 earning us a “top performing article” certificate. Welcome to Food Puzzles for Cats, a one stop resource for information about feeding your cat using foraging toys! We were inspired to create this website after we published our paper about food puzzles in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery with Drs. Tony Buffington and Leticia Dantas! We felt this website would be a helpful supplement to the manuscript. Boredom, frustration, and environmental stress are some of the most common reasons that cats exhibit behavior problems. We strongly believe that encouraging foraging behavior is one of the best things you can do for your cat and we are here to show you how to do it! Please check back regularly as we will be adding new content frequently! You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter! We do not endorse or recommend any one toy or brand over another. Our goal is to educate cat guardians and make implementing this type of environmental enrichment as easy as possible. Foraging limits overweight cat’s access to carbohydrates. Stimulating Cat Food Bowl IQ Treat Ball by Our Pets (yes, this is a dog toy!) – Taking Toilet Paper Rolls to a New Level The Catch Something Outta Nothing! The Poker Box by Trixie Pet Foraging Eggs by Fundamentally Feline Water bottle spinner puzzle Ikea Hack Chair Puzzle – A Nestle Quick container? Why yes! Parker using eggcersizer toy. Soren learning the “Mad Scientist” by Trixie Pet This site will: Teach you how to implement foraging as the way you feed your cat. Help you assess when to increase the difficulty level of foraging toys. Show you how to make your own toys at home. Offer resources where you can read and learn about food puzzles. Help you troubleshoot if your cats are just not getting the hang of using food puzzles. Foraging slows down voracious over eaters.