Cats need to 'work' for their food, researchers say
Have you ever given your cat a food puzzle?
New research shows that puzzles benefit domestic cats by stimulating their brain and bringing out their natural foraging behaviour.
This means they are good for your pet's mental and physical health.
While you can buy them in the shops, a food puzzle can be any object - like a toilet roll tube or plastic cup - that holds food and requires your feline friend to figure out how to get it.
"Before cats were domesticated, they lived in the wild where they hunted for food," explained lead author Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral researcher on cat behaviour at the University of California, Davis. "Then humans came along and took their jobs away."
In a survey of over 3,000 cat owners, 30% said they use food puzzles. Another 18% had tried them but stopped using them, with many saying their cat was too lazy to work out how to get the food or wasn't smart enough to solve the puzzle.
"When starting out with a food puzzle, it's important to make it easy for the cat at first so they can figure it out and not become frustrated," Delgado said. "At the same time, you want to make sure it's challenging enough that it provides some activity and mental stimulation."
Most healthy cats should be able to work out and use a puzzle for a significant portion of their diets without too much assistance, Delgado added.
And if you have a dog or several cats with different diets or weight goals, you can offer food puzzles under supervision or use a baby gate to create a dog-free zone.
The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
If you need inspiration to create a puzzle feeder for your cat, there are plenty of videos on YouTube including this from the RSPCA.
To make sure your cat is covered, please visit our cat insurance page.