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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to make a food puzzle for your cat to play with

Like their ancestors, the African Wildcat, domestic cats are programmed to hunt. Each part of the hunting activity – the stalk, pounce, play and kill – releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Cats need to have frequent successful ‘kills’ to avoid frustration and are most likely to hunt at dawn and dusk.

Cats in the wild spend a lot of their time on frequent hunting expeditions, catching up to 12 small rodents per day. In comparison, our pet cats are given bowls of food, so a meal doesn’t take long to eat or make use of their great senses.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create interest at meal times by hiding food around the house for your cat to search out. Short games for a few minutes frequently throughout the day are also a good idea to mimic the cat's natural hunting activity.  Ensure that you spend a few minutes showing your cat how to use their new feeding puzzles so that they get the hang of it.

You can easily and cheaply make your own enrichment feeders for your cat, here are a couple of ideas:

Egg box cat food puzzles

Start with a cardboard egg box that's open and place a portion of your cat’s daily allowance of dry food (if they have dry food) in the egg box for them to paw out.

Egg box feeding puzzle containing cat biscuits

You can build up to more complex enrichment very gradually. For example, you could slowly start to close the lid of the egg box so your cat has to open it to find the food; or you could loosely scrunch up small pieces of newspaper and wrap the biscuits up.

Cat biscuits wrapped in newspaper in an egg box

Then let your cat enjoy the food!

Cat eating biscuits from an egg box enrichment puzzle

Toilet roll food puzzle for your cat

Use sticky tape to attach cardboard toilet roll tubes together, adjacent in a line. Take further rolls and place them on top to make a second row in a brick-like pattern. Again, tape these to any adjacent rolls. Continue to tape rows of tubes in descending numbers, to make a pyramid shape or rows of toilet rolls inside a box, as pictured.

Remember to use tape on both sides of the pyramid and you could add a cardboard base to make it extra stable.

Cat exploring a toilet roll pyramid feeding puzzle

You can teach a cat how to use the toilet roll puzzle by 'pawing' at it with your fingers.

Food must be taken out of the cat’s daily amount of weighed biscuits to avoid obesity. Read more about feeding in our leaflet Feeding and obesity.

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