Foraging Feline: A New Way to Enrich
At Just Cats Clinic, we believe feeding wet food exclusively is the best plan for most cats. However, we all know cats don’t always do what we want them to! Many of our patients love dry food and overall do well on it or eat a combination of wet and dry. Recently at the American Association of Feline Practitioners Conference, Dr. Elizabeth learned more about the benefits of feline foraging and enrichment through food. Enrichment can also help cats that love dry food keep the weight off. So what does “feline foraging” mean exactly?
Feline foraging refers to a cat’s natural tendency to want to hunt for their food which can leave our indoor house cats feeling bored and less engaged when fed meals at set times in a bowl. Feelings of boredom in our felines can lead to behavioral problems, weight gain and even stress. By allowing our cats to “hunt” or “forage” for their food we engage their natural instincts stimulating them physically and mentally.
The basic principle is that we make our cats work and think for their food instead of just feeding them a set amount in a bowl all at once. By hiding their food in puzzle toys or products like the NoBowl Feeding System, your cat can “hunt” or “forage” throughout the house. Most cats can be re-trained to search for food, but it will take some work. Think of it from your cat’s point of view – for years, breakfast has showed up in a bowl in a timely fashion and now there’s no bowl and no breakfast! Try mixing in some treats or something to entice them with their usual food – the new smell may spark their curiosity even more. Remember if your cat is on a prescription diet, check with your vet before adding any new food or treats to make sure it’s okay for your cat.
This will be a gradual process as your cat learns. If your cat isn’t taking to the new style of eating, try sprinkling the kibble in their favorite places without the toy so they “happen” upon it throughout the day. As they become more interested you can incorporate more challenging toys and hidden spots in your house.
Our favorite product at Just Cats is the NoBowl Feeding System. Made for ease and efficiency, the NoBowl feeders are easy to clean, easy to use and mimic the size and shape of a mouse. The NoBowl Feeding System helps to mimic the natural cycle of hunting by stimulating their instinctual desire to search for food and then provide satisfaction with the completion of a food reward. The exterior “skin” on the feeder provides stimulation through touch as well by allowing cats to use their teeth, claws and paws in the hunt – just like in the wild.
If you are interested in helping your cat find their inner hunter, visit us at Just Cats for more information. We are now carrying the NoBowl Feeding System in sets and as singles. The single feeders can be a great option for cats on an exclusively wet food diet because you can hide it around your house with a few treats inside to engage them throughout the day or while you’re away. They make great Christmas or Hanukkah presents for your furry friend or cat lovers!
This blog will be the first in our series of environmental enrichment – next month we’ll talk about puzzle feeders and ways to engage cats on wet food only diets. Stay tuned!