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Why your cat should work for food

Your cat is an intelligent creature,
designed to hunt for his food, not
to saunter over to his silver platter.

Why Food Puzzles are Vital to Cat Health and Obesity Prevention

Food puzzles are important for your cat's health.

Last updated October 6th, 2020

There is no doubt cats are one of the most pampered pets on the planet. We dote on their little darling faces, they walk all over us and they have programmed us to adhere to their feeding schedules. Whether it’s free-feeding all day long or convincing us with sweet songs of ‘Acatpella’ that they will certainly die of starvation if not fed this minute, we cater to every feline whim and fancy. But serving your cat on a silver platter is doing him more harm than good.

Feline obesity in cats is on the rise and that spells bad news for their health and well-being. October 14th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day so we thought It’s time to bring out your cat’s “inner cat” and make him do what comes naturally, hunt for his food.

Why food puzzles are important for cat health

Disclosure: We received a few treat dispensing toys/food puzzles from Petsafe® in exchange for our honest review, but this did not influence our opinions at all. We only share information that we feel is relevant to our readers and is in keeping with our site’s mission. Petsafe® is not responsible for the content of this post and our opinions are based on testing by the Chirpy Cats product testing team! This post contains affiliate links which means if you make a purchase we receive a small commission which helps maintain this site and won’t cost you a cent more.

Why Your Cat Wants to Work For Food

Our housecats, Felis Catus is genetically almost identical to their wild ancestors, The African Wild Cat, Felis Silvestris Lybica. It’s hard to imagine sometimes that our Chubby Charlie would want to lift a paw to do anything. But underneath that furry coat of couch potato cattitude lurks a wild hunter, hardwired to hunt, capture and kill prey. Your cat, a hunter by nature, never fully domesticated, comes packaged with all the right equipment to hunt for food. Excellent sight, hearing, physical dexterity, and sharp reflexes all make for a good hunter.

But your cat seldom gets a chance to use these hunting skills so it lies dormant, unchallenged and disconnected.

Cats risk becoming bored and obese when allowed to saunter over to their food bowl as it’s conveniently served up on a silver platter or left out for him to free feed. Much like we open the fridge to check for snacks when we’re supposed to be doing homework or finishing that report, a cat seeks out snacks as a distraction from boredom.

See, nothing new in that fridge and nothing new in his food bowl either.

But what’s an indoor cat to do when food is so readily available?

We need to engage their foraging skills to increase mental stimulation, encourage problem-solving and provide enrichment. Introducing food puzzles is an excellent form of cat enrichment and a fun way to bring out your cat’s wild side.

Feeding your cat with food puzzles also helps prevent stress and illness brought on by an unstimulating environment. Studies show that just the act of the hunt and the moments preceding the capture, there is a release of the feel-good hormone, dopamine, into your cat’s system. The anticipation of the hunt, capture, and kill is incredibly satisfying and pleasurable for a cat and is a wonderful confidence booster. Once you start feeding your cat using food puzzles you will find your kitty more alert, excited and engaged with his environment.

Twist ‘n Treat Teaser
twist and treat teaser puzzle food dispenser
Twist and treat teaser by Petsafe, is a great way to engage your cats foraging instinct.

This twist and treat teaser is made up of two halves that you can fill with a mixture of kibble and treats. To make it super easy to start with, the two halves are left uncovered, like conventional bowls, just to get your cat used to the idea of this new contraption. On day 3 – 5 the two halves are screwed together leaving the opening wide enough to facilitate pawing out the food. This stage I call “Foraging for Dummies” but eventually you screw the two halves tighter to reduce the gap when it gets too easy. Your cat soon gets used to the idea that procuring his food requires a little batting and tilting to get the kibble to fall out. Days 5 – 7, the ratio of treats to kibble is reduced.

Chirpies’ verdict: Our cats didn’t much care for the little feather feature attachment but enjoyed exploring a new food puzzle toy. If it comes with treats, “Hey, sure, Lady, I’ll work for it”.

Egg-cersizer food puzzle toy for cats

This egg-shaped treat/food dispensing toy comes with adjustable size holes for dispensing treats or kibble. You may use this treat dispenser to completely replace bowl feeding. At one end of the Egg-Cersizer there is a Treat Meter™ made up of little prongs designed to keep treats/food in but allows your cat to see, smell and hear the food moving. This creates even more anticipation and excitement to get that darned treat out of there.

Chirpies’ verdict: This food puzzle presented quite a challenge to get the treats out and required lots of rolling across the floor. But if you have some determined kitties they will get the treats.

Like a gang of hardworking dung beetles, the Chirpies were rolling this across the floor, lapping up their hard-earned prize treat.

The Fishbowl
Two cats playing with the fishbowl food puzzle
Two cats playing with the Petsafe food puzzle fish bowl toy with paws grabbing food
Look at me, I’ve got one paw stuck in the wild! Sure I can work for food

The fishbowl treat-dispensing toy provides a real challenge and really gets those paws working hard. Ollie had a bit of a hard time getting to them and this is his moment of victory. It was so much fun watching him engage his problem-solving skills and scooping out the treats with dexterous paws.

Have you ever bought a toy that just ends up collecting dust under the sofa, rejected just minutes after unboxing? Well, this is NOT that toy. I’m not sure if it’s the way it wobbles about, but this kept them entertained for a full morning. This is a great way to start changing up your feeding methods, offering a fun challenge for your little problem solver hunter. If you feed both dry and wet food, the fishbowl is great for serving your cats’ dry kibble feeding session.

Chirpies’ verdict: This is one of our favorite food puzzle challenges and gets used a lot. This is a keeper for sure!

Food puzzles are a fantastic way to provide enrichment for your bored indoor cat and engage his hunting instincts. They are especially great for cats with too much energy and no outlet to enact their high prey drive.

For some DIY fun check out how we made this cat grass food puzzle using egg cartons!

But If your cat is loving his food a little too much, it’s time to start making him work for his food.

Do you feed food or treats with food puzzles? Is your cat willing to get off the couch and work for food?

For more inspiring ways to your cat’s heart pounce on board with us to receive unique and fun DIY cat hacks, environment enrichment tips and lifestyle, reviews and giveaways.

About the author

The Lady Cat

Whiskers make me smile.
Coffee is good for you.
And cats are for life.
Helping cats live enriched lives with their people.
(Yasaar Nakchbendi)


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