Beat Boredom with Foraging
By: Becky Hodnefield, LVT, Fear Free Certified, Cat Enthusiast
Does your cat also double as your alarm clock? Does your cat wake you in the middle of the night wanting to play? Is your cat a source of mischief and mayhem around the house? If you answered yes, adding environmental enrichment can be beneficial.
Cats were born to roam and hunt. Housecats don’t typically get the chance to do much hunting. Usually food is set out twice a day in a bowl in the same place and at the same time each day. Although this may work for some cats, it can lead to boredom and frustration. It can also cause a heightened relationship with food for some. Hence the alarm clock cat in the morning.
Cats stomachs are roughly the size of a ping pong ball. In the wild they would normally eat 9-16 small, evenly sized meals through out the day…small prey caught at various times throughout the day. We can help our feline friends with their natural drive to hunt by placing ‘prey’ around the house.
Foraging toys can be simple, inexpensive, and homemade. There’s no better time than now while we’re all home and riding out the pandemic! Not only will it reduce your cat’s boredom, it can also provide some entertainment for the humans in the house.
Easter is right around the corner, and plastic eggs are in every store. One or two holes can be made into the larger plastic eggs to create a simple food toy. Eggs are also beneficial because they provide erratic movement unlike completely round toys. Other household items that can be used include plastic children’s cups with lids, small square food storage containers, carboard poster tubes, and ice cube trays. There is also a wide variety of commercially available food puzzles. Some popular ones include: Catit Food Tree, Trixie Activity Board, Petsafe SlimCat, and Doc and Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Feeder.
If you feed canned food there are options as well. Canned food can be placed into a heavy coffee mug. Lay the coffee mug on its side and cats can lick the canned food and scoop it out with their paws. Many of the commercially available stationary puzzles have little wells where canned food can be placed as well. Another option is a silicone mat with grooves for canned food to be spread in. A popular brand is LickiMat.
When introducing foraging to your cat, make it very easy. First have the egg (or other toy) open with kibble each half. Then move on to having the egg closed, but several large holes in it. In the beginning you want kibble to fall out very readily. As they catch on you can increase the difficulty by having smaller openings and less of them. Young, food motivated cats may catch on quick. If you have a 10 year old cat who’s always had food in a bowl, the process may take longer. Once they catch on you can even hide eggs in different rooms, allowing them to roam and hunt for their food. The foraging toys can also be pre-filled, and stored in an airtight container to save time.
We’re all getting a taste for the monotony of staying at home, and not getting out of the house. This is how our house cats live out most of their lives. Adding in foraging toys can help break up that monotony and keep their minds and bodies active. For any additional questions or advice call me at Animal Health Clinic!
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