With a warm home, friendly humans, and a regular feeding schedule, domestic cats have little to complain about. However, cats are highly intelligent creatures, and they sometimes miss the problem solving aspect to hunting for food. This is where puzzle feeders come into play.
What is a puzzle feeder?
A puzzle feeder is an interactive, solo toy for your cat that rewards solving a problem by dispensing food or treats. The design can be simple, such as a ball that has to be rolled in just the right way, or they can be complex activity centers.
What are the benefits?
Bored cats are destructive cats, but a puzzle feeder can be a mentally stimulating way to channel the extra time and energy that would have been used to get into mischief. Not to mention, the puzzle rewards your kitty for solving it independently, whereas (in your cat’s mind) bad behavior is only worthwhile once you respond to it
Moreover, for tubby tabbies, having to stop and solve a puzzle can slow down feeding time, giving your cat more exercise and time to feel the sensation of fullness.
Where can I find one?
Puzzle feeders are widely available online and in pet stores. Popular cat-approved models include the Snacky Mouse, the SmartCat Peek a Prize, which can also be used with toys, and the Kong Treat Ball. If you have a real smarty-cat, you might want to opt for a more complex puzzle like the Trixie 5-in-1 Cat Activity Board or the Northmate Interactive Slow Pet Feeder.
You might notice that some of those options can be a little pricey. As anyone who’s ever seen a kitty play with a foil ball can tell you, you don’t have to break the bank to entertain your cat! Purina asked a team of behaviorists and engineers to design puzzle feeders that you can make yourself.
What if my cat doesn’t catch on?
One of the potential downfalls is that your cat may not be able to solve the puzzle, and you don’t want to frustrate your fur baby. For some cats, watching you solve the puzzle yourself can be enough for them to figure it out.
There is also an entire website devoted to puzzle feeders! So whether your cat is slow to solve puzzles or is eager to try new ones, there are plenty of resources available to you.
Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.
photo by Dom Fellowes on flickr