Many cat parents don’t know about food puzzles. That’s unfortunate because food puzzles can solve a variety of health and behavior problems.
So what are food puzzles? Put simply, food puzzles are toys that, with a little work from your cat, dispense food. Though they come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes, the puzzles generally consist of tubes or balls that are filled with food that your cat must figure out how to access. You can find food puzzles in your local pet supply store, or you can make one out of recycled materials if you’re crafty.
Food puzzles activate your cat’s hunting instincts and in turn provide several health benefits. Read on to learn 5 ways that food puzzles can improve your cat’s health.
1. Mental Stimulation
Indoor cats can easily become bored if care isn’t taken to keep them stimulated. A stimulating cat environment will have a variety of toys, perches, and scratching posts. Ideally, you’d spend time every day engaging with your cat in play, with a wand toy or laser pointer. Food puzzles work in much the same way, but can engage your cat even when you aren’t around to play. When you put food into the puzzle your cat will have to problem solve to get the food out. This will stimulate a part of her brain that gets stimulated when she is hunting and stalking. Even domestic cats are still wild at heart and need to have this kind of mental stimulation.
2. Physical Health
While your cat is hunting the prey from the food puzzle and getting stimulated mentally, she will also be stimulated physically as she pounces, circles, paws, and stalks to get the food out of the puzzle. Food puzzles are a fun way to encourage lazy cats to become more active.
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3. Weight Control
Food puzzles are a great way to control your cat’s food consumption, allowing her time to digest and feel full before she can overeat. For a cat who has little self control, food puzzles can be an effective alternative to free-feeding. It will make feeding time last longer, but will give you more control over portioning.
4. Pace Eating
If your cat has a habit of scarfing up her food fast, then promptly vomiting, food puzzles may be a helpful tool to add into feeding time. Since she’ll have to work for her food she’ll be forced to eat at a slower pace, helping her to digest her food rather than immediately throw it up.
5. Add a Distraction
Whether you are redirecting an energetic cat to a food puzzle or getting her her mind off of something in the home that is making her anxious, food puzzles are a healthy and productive way to distract your cat.