If you're feeding your cat from a plain old bowl, you might be doing him a disservice — and getting in the way of him leading the happiest possible kitty existence in the process. It turns out cats actually prefer to work a little for their supper, in spite of their reputation for contented laziness.
It Turns Out That Cats Actually Enjoy Working For Food
According to findings by researchers at University of California — Berkeley, cats are much better off (and happier) if they have to complete food puzzles to get to their dinner. Live Science reports that food puzzles are any contraption that forces cats to think and solve a problem in order to get to their food. This could be as simple as putting their dry food in an empty yogurt container, forcing them to bat at it with their paw to get the food to professional quality puzzles involving mazes and doors that open and close.
Food puzzles are good for cats across the board, according to Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behavior consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and doctoral candidate of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley who co-authored the review by Berkeley researchers.
"[Food puzzles] provide cats with exercise and mental stimulation," she told Live Science. "It gives them an outlet for foraging for their food. As hunters, cats would be working for their food all day if they were not provided with a bowl."
Makes sense, right? Live Science notes that indoor cats are at a high risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, joint problems, and chronic lower urinary tract signs — meaning that they extra exercise they get solving food puzzles can be life changing. And, as natural hunters, cats are actually happier when they're working for their food, like they would out in the wild (of course, solving a food puzzle is much lower stakes than actually hunting, so there's no danger of your kitty going hungry).
Delgado notes that, if you make the decision to put your cat on the food puzzle plan, you'll have to monitor their progress and increase the difficulty of the puzzles over time.
"But once they're good at it, you don't want it to be too easy," she said. "Nobody wants to do the same crossword puzzle over and over again. So, offer your cat some variety in problem-solving. Multiple puzzles are good."
Ready to challenge your cat to work for his grub (and test your DIY skills in the process)? Check out our article on how to make your own cat puzzle feeders out of cardboard.