Why Food Puzzles are Vital to Cat Health and Obesity Prevention
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.
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
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”.
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.
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?
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21 CommentsLeave a comment
We have several of these, I need to get them out. Thanks for the reminder.
Ellen Pilch recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: We Love Chewy
We’ve tried out a couple food puzzles before! These ones look like fun for the kitties! I think Sophie would really like the fishbowl one.
Three Chatty Cats recently posted…Caring for Cats Displaced by Hurricane Harvey: An Interview with Samantha Bell DiGenova
Yip she definitely would! Funny thing is, Scout was the one who figured it out first, and it seemed like she was demonstrating to Ollie how to use it mol.
Oh they look so fun Chirpy Cats, the P.A. bought us the Dreamie aka Temptations Mouse Treat Dispenser last year, it was great until Fudge broke it! MOL
Basil & CO xox
Fudge sounds like Baggy – always the one to break things, but mostly when he’s flipping things off the table.
Umm, isn’t your P.A. supposed to get another one for you?
We have the egg shaped feeder but we don’t use it much.
Athena and Marie
Athena recently posted…Whiskers Wednesday
What a great review! I am thinking Rosie might really enjoy the Egg-Cercizer and the Fishbowl.
Thank you! Yes, they do really enjoy batting it around for the treats.
Hi Miss Yas. Mom says I’m not really food or treat motivated! She leaves my kibble out all day for me to graze and I get moist food a few times a week. I do love to play with toys & that fishbowl that Ollie has there looks like it is all kinds of wobbly fun! Mew Mew & kisses to all the Chirpy Cats!
Valentine recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Warm, Fuzzy Thoughts
You would love to play with that fishy bowl, Valentine, it’s loads of fun. Some of us are also grazers but the Big Man Cat is strict about sticking to a feeding schedule, so the two bros Ollie and Baggy are always still hungry looking for snacks just 30 minutes after breakfast!
Well, as cats….we say we should never have to work that hard for food or treats. 😉 But we have some food puzzles that the mom has used with us…mostly to get us moving a little bit more. 🙂
The Island Cats recently posted…What’s That Wally Doing?
Oh yes kitties, it’s so impurrtant to get moving, even if it’s just doing some kitty paw stretches to reach for treats! mol
Those puzzles are such pawsome inventions. Not for us though, because Mudpie has so little interest in food that if she had to work for it she’d never eat! LOL
Melissa & Mudpie recently posted…Maneki Neko Mudpie
Oh is Mudpie watching waistline? She wants to be a meowdel, Oh I forgot she already is! mol
Zorro loves that kind of puzzles, but Pixie has barely no interest in food… Purrs
There’s always one that’s not food motivated.
Lexy loves food puzzles. I, on the other paw, won’t work for food. I’d just rather not eat, and it drives our mom nuts. We’re glad you like them! Nice review!
Lola The Rescued Cat recently posted…Selfie Sunday – Lexy’s Naked!
My cat’s LOVE their food puzzle toy. I only have one, I really should look into more…I like the Twist n Treat one that you reviewed. My son has started to pick it up now, though, and try to see what’s in it (he’s 13mo) – so this might get a little bit tricky but it’s worth it to see them “hunting” for their food. Cat’s really do need that kind of stimulant and the thrill of “hunting”, I noticed a change in my cats’ behaviour when I introduced that toy about a year ago.
My one cat struggles a bit with being overweight because some of the neighbours feed her as well as us (she’s an indoor/outdoor). She’s a fairly active cat and hunts mice outside (doesn’t eat them) but she gets food from everywhere! It’s hard for us to come up with a way to limit her diet when we aren’t the only ones feeding her, but the food puzzles might be something that could work for her.
Thanks for the honest review, Petsafe is a great brand!
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My cat LOVEs their food puzzle toy. It’s so amazing.
This is a great idea to make cats work a bit to get to their food. This would definitely give them a bit of workout and help keep their mental faculties alert.
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