Between running a business and raising two young children, I don’t have a lot of extra time or energy to put toward this effort. But I am taking some new approaches to keeping Sparrow healthy as well as mentally stimulated. The biggest change is the way I feed my kitten. Rather than putting food in her dish and letting her graze through the day, expending little or no energy, I have invested in commercially available food puzzle toys. These toys force my cat to play with them and get a mental and physical workout if she wants food to spill out so she can eat.
PetSafe makes highly durable puzzle toys that Sparrow enjoys. Another nice feature of commercially available toys is they typically have progressively difficult settings that allow the cat to learn the toy over time and step up in the difficulty ranking. With the toy on its most difficult setting, cats must expend a fair bit of energy chasing the toy, batting it and reaching in with their paws to get their meals. Far from frustrating cats, these prey-driven animals really enjoy working for their meals. It’s hardly a surprise. An outdoor cat will make multiple efforts during any given day to catch prey. This includes everything from stalking grasshoppers to small rabbits. I also have made my own puzzle toys for Sparrow. One of her favorites is when I simply cut large holes along the top of a cardboard egg carton. She typically turns the carton on its side and uses her paws to scoop out the food.
Even with a feeding toy, of course, it’s important to know how much to feed your cat. My cat weighs 5 pounds. Based on that weight, her food bag recommends feeding her half a cup of kibble per day. Each morning, I pour that much food into a measuring cup I keep on the top of the refrigerator. This is her daily allowance that I place in her food toys and also use for treats on days we are training, such as learning how to sit, use her harness and walk on her leash.
The Internet has many examples of easy make-it-yourself puzzle toys for cats. You can create them from old pizza boxes, shoe boxes or paper bags, trimmed with a pair of scissors. With a little effort, you’ll be amazed at the hours of fun you can provide your cat. What fun homemade food toys can you create to encourage your cat to use her natural instincts to earn her meals? Please post photos of them—and your cat playing with them—on our PetCare of Duluth Facebook page.