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November 20, 2019

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Creative Meal Times for Cats: Part II

In addition to feeding cats with the creative food containers described in last weeks’ blog-article,  meal times can be spiced up with food games and increased feeding times.

Treasure hunts and treat rolls

Cat Behavior-Feeding Cats. Jinniyha on a treasure hunt

Jinniyha on a treasure hunt

Treasure hunts are fun for everyone—cats and their humans. The goal of a treasure hunt is for cats to seek and find their food. In the process of tracking down tasty morsels of food, they burn calories and exercise—perfect for those kitties living a sedentary life.

Strategically place treats and small pieces of food on shelves, cat trees, sofas, in puzzle boxes and in toys. The game starts simple, becoming increasingly more challenging as the participants understand their roles. Start by putting small pieces of food near the cat. A widely spaced trail of food then leads to low shelves. The next step is planting the treats and food in harder-to-access locations such as high shelves, tunnels, paper bags, boxes and toys.

After the cat effortlessly finds the food, make the game slightly more difficult. Instead of letting her observe the food placement, temporarily put her in another room and close the door while placing food in other areas. Then open the door. The kitty will have to rely more on her nose then her eyes for locating the food.

Add an occasional treat roll for diversity. Although treat rolls work well in homes with stairs, they are also effective on flat surfaces. Treat rolls are exactly as described. Roll treats on the floor or down the stairs and the cat will chase, catch and munch down on them.

Because these food games should stimulate and not frustrate, they need to be tailored to each individual. Every cat is different. Those who are older or have physical limitations cannot climb as high or move as fast as young, healthier cats.

An example of treasure hunts for kitties with limitations is positioning a smattering of treats in circle patterns around them. In order to access the food morsels, they will have to locate and walk to each treat.  Energetic attention seekers benefit from more challenging games—climbing higher for prizes and seeking food in harder to reach areas. Monitor cats—treasure hunts should be stimulating and fun, not unpleasant and aggravating. Additionally, they need to eat their allotted portions of food every day.

Multiple small meals

Cats are not designed to graze. In the wild, they do not meander over to a food bowls for snacks when they are hungry. Instead of free feeding or feeding only two meals a day, divide the food up into smaller portions and increase the number of meals fed each day. Auto feeders are perfect for this task. They can be adjusted to automatically open at specific times throughout the day and night. Some have ice packs, designed for keeping canned food fresh.

Diversity

Make it fun for everyone involved. Alternating between feeding cats through treasure hunts, treat rolls and creative food containers keeps meal times from becoming mundane and boring. Additionally, these creative feeding solutions burn calories and provide stimulation.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Cat Behavior Feeding Cats Asia

Asia

It’s a Toy! It’s a Scratcher!

Cats are not designed to be bored. They are intelligent predators who need activities and toys to stimulate them mentally and physically. There are a variety of toys on the market that are designed to enrich their lives—some are more affective at fighting boredom then others.

Treasure hunt in the Turbo Scratcher

Kingsley and Sudan searching for treats in the Turbo Scratcher(r)

Turbo Scratcher® Review

I am always on the search for cat toys that mentally stimulate and physically motivate cats. There are two types I am on the alert for—interactive toys that people use to play with their cats and toys that cats can interact with when their people are not around to entertain them. One toy that stands out for me is the Turbo Scratcher®. Most cats enjoy interacting with this toy with or without the benefit of people intervention. Turbo Scratchers® are always marked as must-have toys on product lists I send my cat behavior clients.

The Turbo Scratcher® is multi-functional. In addition to mentally stimulating cats, it is a behavior tool. The TS is a flat, circular combo toy/scratcher with a replaceable cardboard scratcher in the center. Circling the scratcher is a tract with a ball inside.  This toy takes the frustration factor out of playing. The tract is open from the top—perfect for directly interacting with the ball. Because play is an extension of the hunt, cats need to catch their prey and feel it under their paws. The open tract design is perfect for satisfying this need—allowing them to chase and finally catch the ball.

Additionally, Turbo Scratchers® are perfect for hiding treats in when conducting treasure hunts. Encouraging cats to hunt and work for treats helps burn calories and mentally stimulates them. Treats are placed throughout a room, on vertical territory (cat trees), shelves, in puzzle boxes and of course in the TS. The added benefit of hiding a few treats in the TS is that cats typically will bat the ball around a bit while fishing for their treats.

It goes without saying—the Turbo Scratcher® is also a scratcher. Cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons. In addition to nail maintenance, marking territory, scratching when frustrated, they scratch when playing and when they excessive energy. The TS, being multi-functional, encourages cats to both scratch and play.

I like this combo scratcher/toy. It addresses cat behavior. I have not found many other cat toys that are as versatile and multi-functional as the Turbo Scratcher®.

Fat Cats

Many of the cats that I see are over indulging in the culinary delights that are being offered to them. Lately, it seems that the majority of cats that I visit are more then pleasingly plump. Unfortunately, obesity is a health concern in cats. The Winn Foundation has a very good article on obesity in cats and why obesity puts cats at risk for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis as well as other diseases. One alarming fact in this article is that somewhere between 40-50% of household cats suffer from obesity.

Why do we see more cats now suffering from obesity? What can be done about it? There are few reasons for this obesity trend that we are seeing in our cats. I will focus on one of the causes and a few possible solutions.

Thankfully, more people now keep their cats in 24/7 (a good thing), but they are failing to provide them adequate exercise and environmental enrichment. This is relatively easy to remedy through a few environmental additions and activities. Before doing any of these, please check with your veterinarian. Your vet may also prescribe a special diet for your porky kitty.

§        Treat balls. Many people free feed their cats, leaving bowls of food out all of the time for the cats. Free feeding and dry food can contribute to a cat’s over-weight challenges. If you must free feed, instead of leaving the food out in bowls, encourage your cat to work for his food. Put his food in treat balls. Treat balls are hard hollow balls with holes in them. You fill them either with dry food or treats. The cat has to work for his food, rolling the treat ball around in order to have access to the food. My favorite treat balls are Play-N-Treat and the Talk to me Treat balls.

§        Tall cat trees. Give your feline friend tall cat trees to climb. They should be at least 6 feet tall and have lots of wide shelves. Make sure the trees are stable and strong. Cats like cat trees that are placed next to secure windows. Putting bird feeders out in the spring or summer will provide endless hours of entertainment.

§        Treasure hunts. Use a small portion of your cat’s regular food and conduct treasure hunts. Hide the food up in the cat trees or on window perches or up on cabinets. The goal is for the cat to work for his food instead of grazing for food in a bowl.

§        Play time. Schedule regular play times with your cats. Use fishing pole toys and other toys that will encourage your cat to move around. Don’t overdo the exercise, gradually increase the time you play with your cat, based on your cat’s health and abilities. You do not want to over extend or compromise the health of the cat. Make sure to talk to your vet about the limits.

§        Interactive toys. TurboScratchers and puzzle boxes are a couple of fun interactive toys that can keep cats occupied for hours. TurboScratchers are round flat objects with a round cardboard scratcher in the middle, surrounded by a channel. In the channel there is a ping pong ball. You can add your cat’s favorite toys in the channel, or the channel can be another place for the treasure hunts. Puzzle boxes are boxes with lots of holes in them. There are already a few toys in the boxes and you can add your cat’s favorites. Additionally,  like the TurboScratcher, puzzle boxes can be used for treasure hunts.

§        Clicker training is always a great tool for encouraging your cat to move around and do various behaviors.

These are just a few suggestions on how to help your cat-friend slim down a little. It’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian, you want to make sure that whatever weight loss or exercise plan you put your kitty on is safe and healthy.

If you have other ideas for helping cats slim down, please add them in the comments. I would love to see a discussion about this.