For a variety of reasons (e.g. - safety, health, wildlife predation) current veterinary guidelines recommend that owners keep cats indoors. This, along with the concurrent misperception of cats as low-maintenance lead us to keep pet cats in conditions that are suboptimal. One significant influence on cats’ living conditions is how they are routinely fed. Most cats are offered food ad libitum from a bowl and are often required to share feeding areas or dishes with other cats; they expend little to no effort to acquire calories.
Outdoor, "community cats," hunt, catch and eat several small prey every day. Your indoor, domestic cat, shares these same instincts. Enabling our companion animals - engaging them both mentally and physically - to make decisions that result in desired outcomes is one of the most empowering things we can do for them and helps them to be mentally and behaviorally healthy.
Lack of environmental enrichment, has been associated with health issues, such as chronic lower urinary tract signs, and development of problem behaviors, which can cause weakening of the human–animal bond. Environmental enrichment may mitigate the effects of these problems and one approach is to take advantage of cats’ natural instinct to work for their food.
Food puzzles are toys that make your cat do some work to get the food out of them. Maybe they have to stick their paw in and pick pieces of food out, or maybe they roll it around with their nose or paw to make food fall out of the holes. There are many different types of food toys, some of which stay in one place and others that the cat has to move around.
The options for pet food puzzles are nearly limitless. A quick Internet search will yield dozens of websites that sell food puzzles for a wide variety of species, and just as many sites offer ideas on how to make your own.
Here are some examples you can buy:
Or you can DIY:
- Build your puzzle out of cardboard tubes and paper cups
- Use an old Tupperware Container
- Use a cardboard box