Cats Love a Puzzle
Bored cats are sometimes unhappy cats which can lead to behavioral problems, like aggression and destructiveness, and medical problems like obesity and age-related senility. Recent research is touting the many benefits of introducing “Food Puzzles” into your cat’s life. These are gadgets that force cats to work for their food. They take advantage of the feline hunting instinct, fulfilling their deeply ingrained desires. If you’ve ever seen a cat hunting, they don’t just dispatch a mole or mouse, they often bat them around a little, seemingly playing with their prey first. Food puzzles provide the same stimulation in an otherwise boring house lifestyle. By “foraging” for food in this way, cats are more physically active, experience reduced levels of stress, and they can become less demanding of their owners.
A variety of food puzzles are currently available on the market. Some require cats to push or roll a mobile device with their paw or nose (like a plastic ball with holes in it), while others are a stationary board requiring them to navigate various types of obstacles or mazes to get their meal. They can be used with either dry foods or treats, and some work with wet food too. Because part of the desired result is more activity without adding additional calories, a measured amount of food several times daily is most effective. If you look online, you can see that many types of food puzzles can be made at home (think empty water bottle with the correct size holes cut in it). Even a brown paper bag can work. You don’t want the pieces to fall out too easily, but it can’t be frustrating either. At first your cats may struggle to get the food out, so I would suggest overflowing the puzzle with food in the beginning to entice them (like leaving the cap off the homemade water bottle puzzle). As they become more proficient, you can reduce the volume to their daily caloric needs as recommended by our veterinarians.
Here are several actual cases showing the benefits. An obese eight year old shorthair cat lost 15% of it’s body weight gradually within a year of puzzle implementation. A three year old cat with frustration-based aggression toward the owner was resolved within six months. A two year old cat had a fear of people that was alleviated after the introduction of mobile and stationary puzzles.
Food puzzles are good for multi-cat households, but cats have their own individual preference for type of puzzle, so it’s important to figure out which works for which cat and they each need their own. It goes without saying that when dogs are in the household, they have to go outside for feline food puzzle time. A little bit of stolen high fat cat food can rapidly create an obese or sick dog.
Look online at the array of available devices. This should not take the place of playing with your cat, which I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, has also been shown to be psychologically and medically beneficial for your felines.
Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.
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