Make Your Cat Happier & Healthier With This Simple Switch In His Mealtime Routine

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on October 11, 2016

Most cat moms and dads would do anything to make their feline family members happier. And if there is a cheap, easy way to do this? There’s no question about it!

The good news is, you can help your kitty live a happier, healthier life simply by changing her mealtime habits. All you have to do is challenge your cat to work for her food.

In a study published by Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, it was discovered that cats who “hunted” their food with either puzzle toys or homemade contraptions lived happier, healthier lives. This is because it satisfies their prey drive, an instinct that still dwells within your kitty, even though she’s been domesticated.

“Indoor housing 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 and lead to euthanasia of the cat,” reports the abstract of the study.

A photo posted by Kahlua (@kahluathebengal) on

We understand that unless they are leashed or have an outdoor enclosure, cats are safest from sickness, injury, predators, and more when they’re kept indoors. But that doesn’t mean that their need to forage can’t be fulfilled in the safety of your own home!

That’s where food puzzles come in. They activate a feline’s body, mind, and prey drive, allowing them to follow their instincts and feel the gratification of consuming what they’ve “caught.”

Your kitty can be challenged in many different ways, and you may have to try a few out in order to find which method he likes the best.

PetMD gives these suggestions:

1. Have several feeding stations placed throughout the house and split up your cat’s meal so he has to move from one place to the next.

2. Feed smaller meals throughout the day, simulating the smaller portions that a cat would experience in the wild as he eats one catch at a time.

3. Buy some puzzle feeders. There are a ton of different styles and skill levels, from balls that dispense food to complex contraptions that will make your kitty sniff, dig, and reach for his food. (See a ton of great options here.)

4. Make your own puzzle feeder using things like paper towel rolls, egg cartons, paper bags to fashion your own foraging station. (Check out some ideas here.)

5. Play hunting games with your cat by having him “dig” for food in a folded up towel, rewarding him for tricks, or playing hide-and-seek with treats–that is, if he’s willing to play along!

According to Gizmodo, there were impressive results from some of the cats that were included in the aforementioned study. One was an obese cat that lost 20% of its body weight after being fed through puzzle challenges for a year; another was a frustrated cat whose aggression was relieved once it started “foraging” for his food; yet another was able to overcome its fear of people.

It seems a simple solution to some serious problems, but think about it: by simulating a situation that feels natural to your kitty–and eliminating something that feels quite unnatural–it only makes sense that her health and happiness will improve!

Have you tried feeding your cat using puzzle challenges? Will you try it after learning about this study?

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