Food puzzles enhance feline wellbeing

Greater understanding of the importance of environmental enrichment is bringing benefits for pet cats.

An indoor-only lifestyle for our feline companions, unless managed appropriately, can give rise to health issues (such as obesity and diabetes) and problem behaviours (including aggression, house-soiling and attention-seeking). One approach to mitigating these potential problems is with the use of ‘food puzzles’ – devices that release food when an animal interacts with them.

Food puzzles take advantage of cats’ natural instincts to work for their food. There is a wide range of puzzles on the market: some are mobile (rolled or pushed with the cat’s nose or paws), others are stationary, and they can be used with either wet or dry food.

The effect of food puzzles on cats is a relatively new area of study but cases where food puzzles were introduced have displayed positive results as shown in this month’s Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. Examples include an obese 8-year-old male domestic shorthair cat who lost 20% of his bodyweight within 12 months of puzzle implementation; and a 2-year-old domestic shorthair cat whose fear of people (his owners included) significantly improved following the addition of food puzzles, to the point that he would come when called and was relaxed for cuddles.

Cats are likely to have individual preferences in terms of types of food puzzles. The study offers valuable practical advice as well as tips for troubleshooting potential challenges. Given time, patience and appropriate introduction, most, if not all, cats can adjust to food puzzles. 

The article is freely available here

cat with food puzzle
Courtesy of Mikel Delgado

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