A Fresh Approach to Feeding Cats
Historically we have fed our pet cats from bowls, but we now understand that this does not meet the cat’s instinctive, natural feeding needs. As humans we naturally want to feed the people and animals that we love, and like to see an empty plate! Just because your cat doesn’t finish their bowl at the first sitting, does not necessarily mean that they don’t like the food. It is normal for cats to pick at their food throughout the day (and night!).
Cats are predators, tending to eat little and often in their natural environment, hunting 10-20 times a day. Cats can spend on average 6 hours a day seeking food, which provides them with the majority of their daily exercise. Hunting releases Dopamine, a hormone that causes the feeling of eager anticipation. Catching and then eating prey, the cat is left satisfied. Hunting also provides cats with the majority of their daily exercise, and many enjoy playing with their food before eating it.
A cat that is denied their normal hunting or feeding behaviour (e.g. indoor-only cat, no cat flap, scared to go outside due to friction with neighbouring cats) may suffer mentally and physically.
Ideally cats will have free access to outdoors, to come and go as they please, and have their food and water sources located separately. Obviously this is not always possible due to our many different lifestyles and housing arrangements, but the good news is that there are some things that we can change and implement to create a healthier and happier cat.
Feeding puzzles are great at allowing cats to express some of their natural hunting instinct, encourage exercise and allow for portion control. Some of the problems that can be improved or corrected with the use of a food puzzle include obesity, harassing owner for food, waking owners at night for food, stealing food from owners plates, frustration based aggression towards owner, fear of people, fear aggression behaviour, separation anxiety, multi-cat household competition for food, inappropriate toileting, hunting wildlife, regurgitation after food due to eating too quickly and destruction of furniture.
There are many types of food puzzles available, and they don’t have to be expensive – some of the best are homemade. It’s important to find the right puzzle for your cat, some may prefer puzzles that move and are very interactive, whereas others prefer a stationary puzzle. It is also important to introduce your cat to the puzzle correctly, and not to give up after the first go. Have a go at home by making some simple beginners feeding puzzles. We would love to see photos of your creations once you have finished. We also have some puzzles available to buy at the clinic.