Cats are much happier and healthier when they have to work for their food
Many cats are kept indoors for various reasons, but because they’re natural foragers, this can lead to a host of behavioral and health problems.
New research shows that food puzzles are effective at staving off many of these problems.
Cats aren't far removed from their wild cat ancestors, thus making indoor life a serious challenge. This can lead to health concerns including chronic lower urinary tract issues, obesity, diabetes, and troublesome behaviors such as aggression, house-soiling, and attention seeking.
Basically, cabin fever and boredom can take its toll on your cat. That's why we advocate to keep your cat indoors but provide plenty of cat trees, boxes, and fun things for them to play, climb and explore. Letting your cat outside is risky, unless you take safety precautions such as having an awesome catio in place!
That being said, food... food drives us all. So, how do we make that more fun for our feline friends?
In a new study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, a research team from the University of California at Berkeley tout the benefits of food puzzles—gadgets that force cats to work for their food. These puzzles take advantage of the feline hunting instinct, fulfilling their ingrained desires. By “foraging” for food in this way, cats are more physically active, they experience reduced levels of stress, and they become less demanding of their owners.
There are actually plenty of food puzzles on the market right now.
Some require cats to push or roll a mobile device with their nose (like a plastic ball with holes in it) , while others are stationary, requiring cats to navigate a board. Typically, these puzzles can be used with either wet or dry food.
These puzzles are also easy to make at home. A simple life hack is to cut holes into an empty milk carton or water bottle and placing treats and food inside. A brown paper bag works as well.
Watch the video below for an example:
In the new study, the researchers describe over 30 cases from their own practice in which these puzzles were shown to help with a specific health or behavioral concern.
In one example, an obese eight-year-old domestic shorthair cat lost 20 percent of its body weight within a year of puzzle implementation.
Other examples included a three-year-old cat whose impulsive and frustration-based aggression was resolved within six months, and a two-year-old cat whose fear of people was alleviated following the introduction of both mobile and stationary puzzles.
As well all know, each cat is different and each will have his/her own preference to food puzzles. It’s important for owners to choose the right one. It can be a trial-and-error process, but ultimately the end goal is to provide several different types of puzzles to keep them engaged.
Watch the video below of another cat "hunting for food" in this amazing food puzzle:
A good tip is to overflowing the puzzle with food in the beginning, since it may be difficult for your cat to get the food out early in the process. As they become more proficient, the quantity can be decreased.
Food puzzles are good for multi-cat households, but the researchers suggest that each cat should have their own toy (like each cat should have their own food bowl, water bowl, and litter box.)
Are food puzzles right for your cat?
Share this story and let us know!
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