Cats may be cute, but they're wild tigers at heart. They haven't lost their hunter's instinct despite generations of domestication. Just watch them stalk, pounce, and tackle a feather toy. That's why food-dispensing toys are so important for the well-being of your cat. Feeding toys, or puzzle feeders, enrich the environment, provide mental stimulation, and help keep cats physically fit.
Health benefits of using feeder toys include:
- Helping cats eat more slowly
- Helping with weight loss
- Alleviating boredom
- Providing exercise
- Encouraging cats to think
- Strengthening the human-cat bond
Feeder toys are available for purchase, but they're also cheap and easy to make. You can turn almost any household object into a feeder toy just by cutting holes in it. For example, some things that would work great include:
- Paper bags
- Water bottles
- Toilet paper rolls
- Tissue boxes
- Cardboard boxes
- Yogurt containers
- Cottage cheese containers
If your cat has never used a feeder toy before, start by making it as easy as possible for your cat to get to the treat. Create more openings. Cut larger holes. As your cat masters each toy, make them more complex by sealing shut a hole or two. Duct tape can also be used to dull any sharp plastic edges.
Some cats love to eat cardboard, paper, and plastic. If that's the case, avoid using those materials. Stick with rubber, cloth, wooden or metal objects. Tennis balls work well. You can hide treats under towels and inside pillow cases too. Or you may just have to purchase a commercial feeder toy instead of making one yourself.
You can also hide treats around the house, turning every room into a giant feeding puzzle. The hole on the side of an incline cardboard scratching post makes for a great hiding spot. Avoid litter box areas since cats don't like to eat where they poop.
Bonus tip: Leave your cat's carrier out in the open long before you have to go to the vet. If you occasionally hide treats inside, your cat will associate his carrier with happy rewards, making it that much easier on the both of you when you do have to go to the vet.
- Seal the top shut with duct tape.
- Cut a hole on either side, one per cat.
- Add treats.
This one works great for multi-cat households. Set the prepared bag between your cats and let them take turns pawing at one of the holes. Or don't do anything with the bag at all. Simply hide treats inside.
- Cut holes along the bottle's side.
- Add treats.
If you have a cat who needs a little help getting started, use a transparent bottle because he or she will be able to see the treats inside. Round bottles are also easier to master because they can be rolled across the floor.
Cut holes along a roll's side to make it easier for your cat to get at the treat. To build a more complex feeder toy, use rolls of different lengths and connect them together with duct tape.
The next time you're about to take out the recycling, see if there's anything that can be turned into a puzzle feeder. Use your imagination! Feeder toys don't have to be expensive, and they're a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your cat.
We'd love to see what you come up with! Email us a photo of your cat's feeder toy. Let us know what you used and how you made it. We may even share it on our Facebook Page to inspire more people to use puzzle feeders for their cats.