All animals evolved to acquire their food through activity, whether hunting, scavenging, or foraging. No animal evolved waking up to a full food bowl!
Increasingly, pets who lack sufficient mental and physical stimulation display behavioural issues related to boredom and anxiety (such as destructive chewing of inappropriate items). These can be tackled by providing them with some form of mental stimulation during feeding.
Instead of serving up their meals in a bowl, make meal times more interesting by putting them in puzzle toys and snuffle mats. These can be store-bought or made at home with everyday household items.
Think of a dog's natural behaviour of hunting, sniffing, searching, finding, licking, tearing apart while a cat forages, stalks, pounces, bats and scoops with its paws.
All these natural behaviours can be encouraged during meal times.
Initially, it's best to start on the easy level (of food toys), just to get your pet used to this feeding method. Never make it so difficult that your pet goes hungry because it couldn't solve the food puzzle.
Food puzzles also help to slow our pet's speed of eating. Many of our pets vacuum up their food with little chewing and sometimes suffer from regurgitation or indigestion soon after.
Mealtime Is Fun
Wet food can be smeared onto lick mats, while biscuits can be hidden in shoeboxes, cardboard rolls, or snuffle mats. Food pieces can be hidden around the house to simulate a seek and find activity.
Pet owners can also slide a piece of kibble across a smooth floor for running and pouncing fun. Kibble, meat and canned food can be stuffed into rubber feeding toys and frozen to give that extra time required to lick the wholesome goodness out of it.
Incorporate a feeding puzzle in as many meal times as possible. Also, remember to rotate the toys used – using the same ones can become repetitive and become boring too!
Remember that feeding puzzles can be used to provide all food and not just treats! Get creative, and your pet will thank you for that!
Dr Liang Xutian BVSc (Hons)
Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist
Fear Free Certified Veterinarian
For more on food, read:
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
A comprehensive guide to picking the right food for your pet.
How do you make mealtimes for your four-legged friends a lot more fun?
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