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Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Improve Your Cats' Health By Letting Them 'Hunt' for Food

November 14, 2014 / (2) comments

Last updated on April 15, 2016

 

I believe the biggest problems most cats face today are boredom, inactivity, and obesity. Think about it. We’ve taken a species whose ancestors spent countless hours each day procuring enough food to survive and moved them indoors with near continuous access to food that doesn’t try to escape from them. Is it any wonder so many cats are fat and a touch neurotic?

 

The solution to these interrelated problems lies in promoting the activity that every cat enjoys — hunting. No, I’m not advocating that we all let our cats outdoors (local wildlife would not be appreciative) or introduce a mischief of mice into our homes, but we can make some simple changes that support a cat’s natural inclination to hunt.

 

1. Have Several Feeding Stations

Make your cat move to get his or her food. Divide meals into multiple small servings and place them around your home. If your cat has no issues with mobility, you can get creative by placing food in places that require using the stairs, jumping, climbing, etc.

 

2. Feed Multiple Meals Throughout the Day

When cats are left to their own devices (think the “mouser” at the barn) they eat 8-10 small meals per day. While that number would be difficult to reach for most owners, even increasing the number of meals from two to four can have a significant beneficial effect. To avoid over feeding, place the amount to be fed that day in a container (include treats too) and make sure everyone in the house knows that when the container is empty, “Fluffy” is done for the day.

 

3. Buy Puzzle Feeders

A quick online search reveals all different sorts of puzzle feeders designed for cats. You can find many variations on the kibble-loaded ball with holes that dispense food as it is rolled across the floor, but more elaborate puzzle feeders are also available, including contraptions made with tubes of various heights or numerous compartments that have to be reached into or opened to get a small meal. Rotating through different types of puzzle feeders will keep a cat’s interest piqued.

 

4. Make Your Own Puzzle Feeders

If you’re handy with an x-acto knife and glue gun, making your own puzzle feeders will be a breeze. Plans are widely available online, but your imagination combined with knowledge of your cat’s likes and dislikes can make your own design the most rewarding option. Puzzle feeders should be challenging but still offer up food rewards frequently enough to prevent cats from becoming frustrated.

 

5. Play Hunting Games with Your Cat

Teach your cat a trick like fetch the cotton swab and reward him with treats, or while your cat watches, place a few pieces of kibble on the floor and cover them with a thin cloth. What does she do when you slowly drag the cloth across the floor or quickly flick it away?

 

Cats need to “hunt” to stay mentally and physically sharp. With a little creativity, owners can find simple ways to support this normal cat behavior and ward off boredom, inactivity and obesity.

 

Comments  2

Leave Comment
  • Catching Food
    11/14/2014 10:15pm

    I have one that's very food-motivated and that would all work quite well.

    However, my Josie isn't at all food-motivated (we're currently trying to put weight ON her!). She will walk away from food if it's not what she wants, regardless of how hungry she is. I suspect if she had to work for dinner, she's end up skin and bones.

  • 01/20/2015 02:58pm

    I have a similar problem. One is so food-driven, so feeding him is easy. We put his bowl down and he eats it. Our other cat is an attention whore and thinks he is entitled to being entertained 24-7, including at mealtime. He won't eat unless his toys are being thrown at his bowl. We even put his feather balls ON the bowl while he eats and he will eat a few bites, sniff the ball to make sure it's there, then go back to eating a few more bites. Before reading this article, we thought maybe it was a security blanket sort of thing, but maybe he is bored with eating. He is definitely the bush dweller, while the food-driven one is certainly the tree dweller.

    Maybe this approach will help your finicky eater and my ADHD little bugger. :)

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.


 
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