Cats are hunters. Even indoor cats have this drive deep within their DNA. We need to use this to our advantage to improve their quality of life. We also need to remember this makes being their caretaker different than that of other species.
It is important to know that hunting cats are only successful 15-30% of the time. For that reason, they do not wait until they are hungry to hunt. They hunt (and eat) when the opportunity presents itself. That is why cats given a free choice food are so often obese. They don’t wait to be hungry they just eat. And eat. And eat.
Hunting felines use a lot of skills to succeed. They need to be patient and be able to solve problems. Where is the mouse? Have I been successful here before? How do I get it out of the place it is hiding or how do I get into the place it is hiding? If you watch barn cats, they spend hours prowling, waiting, and using paws and noses to poke into potential hiding areas. House cats just have to go to their ever-filled bowl and eat. Kind of a feline lunch- box let down.
So let’s use this knowledge to make our cats happier. No more dry food in bowls. Make them work for it. Some cats like puzzle solving. Make or purchase containers they have to open to get the food. Plastic containers with only a small opening for which they have to reach. Doors they have to open. Pillows they have to burrow under. Some cats like chasing. Treat balls they have to bat around. Throw single kibbles down a hardwood covered hallway. Some cats like to hide and seek. Four or five kibbles piled around the house. Up on cat trees. On top of the refrigerator. Added advantage to this one is that in a household with many cats no one cat guards all the locations ensuring every cat has a chance.
The added advantage is that hunting cats have less time for destructive behaviour. They are using their energy and brain power to do what comes naturally leaving less time to fight with housemates or spray urine. Win-win. And, of course, moving, hunting cats are less prone to obesity. Big win.
So use your knowledge of cat behaviour to get your feline friend up and to move. You and your cats will be happier.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTiMpkScKP0 cat food games
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTY8MAjd3 this also shows using shelving to give cats the vertical surface extensions they love
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeKsKr9X4KE no bowl feeder
Written by Jennifer Merry BSc(Agr), DVM