5 Ways to Make Eating More Enjoyable for Cats
Your domesticated feline may love snuggling up to you on a cozy couch or perhaps they prefer spending most of their time in the predatory-free quarters of your family home. However, that doesn’t change the inherent hunting and chasing instincts their non-tamed ancestors passed down. Fact: undomesticated felines can spend 60 to 80 percent of their day prowling for food!
One way to harness this genetic trait is to get more creative during meal and snack time, giving your cat the opportunity to feel mentally and physically stimulated before chowing down. This can also help reduce general boredom, keep your kitty at a healthy weight, prevent behavioral issues like begging and not using the litter box, and can even reduce anxious or depressive tendencies. To make eating feel more like a rewarding game and to feed into your cat’s emotional need to hunt, consider the following advice.
Hide their food
Place your cat’s food or treats in hidden, but accessible, areas around your home. Doing so engages those hunting instincts and requires them to move around and search for their grub, just like they were meant to do. Place food in high and low spots and change up the locations to keep them guessing. Protip: we recommend keeping a log of where you’ve hidden the food and going back to those places to make sure your cat found it, because food sitting anywhere for a period of time can attract bugs.
Change up their feeding time
We humans really enjoy our routines, but cats aren’t quite the same way when it comes to eating. Change up when and how much you feed your cat to keep them on their toes, and to prevent behavior issues like excessive begging. Speaking of, if that’s something your cat does frequently, know that you’re not alone. Cats constantly think about food — it’s in their DNA to do so — so begging from the source that makes food magically appear turns into a default behavior.
Don’t leave heaping bowls out
Sure, it may be easy to set out a large quantity of food and then forget about it, but free-for-all access to food throughout the day is a recipe for an overweight cat (not to mention areas of vomit around the house). A full gravity feeder may make sense if you’re out of the house for a brief period of time, but it shouldn’t be the standard.
Feed them away from other animals
You might have noticed your cat gets anxious or protective when eating. This is completely normal, as cats are inherently solo predators and eaters. Feeding them next to other pets — and even humans — can be extremely stressful at worst, or unpleasant at best. They really need to be able to eat in solitude.
Use food dispensing toys and puzzles
There’s an entire niche in the pet market dedicated to feeding toys and puzzles for cats. These range from simple to challenging, so consider working your cat up to the more difficult options and experimenting with what toys they respond to best. For example, there are clear, round feeders — like this PetSafe Funkitty Egg-Cersizer Cat Toy — that dispenses kibbles as your cat bats at it and rolls it across the floor. This particular type of toy can be adjusted to dispense a little or a lot, making it a great introductory option.
There are also more complex toys and puzzles, such as Trixie’s Activity Strategy Game Tunnel Feeder Cat Toy and Catit Senses’ 2.0 Food Tree Cat Toy. Another option is to DIY toys with toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, water bottles, and boxes. Once your cat seems acclimated, consider utilizing something like Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder, which completely eliminates the need for bowls.
Bottom line: Remember, cats not only enjoy hunting for their food, they can actually become bored, frustrated, and stressed if not presented with the ability to engage their predatory instincts. Changing how you feed them will certainly improve their happiness and can result in improved behavior that ultimately makes your life more pleasant too.
If you love your cat like family but aren’t financially prepared if the worst should happen, consider pet insurance! You can cover your furry family member and protect your wallet at the same time. Start by getting a free quote.