‘Cat food puzzle’ is a new, trending, sound bite in the indoor cat world. Keeping a cat indoors has many obvious benefits for cat and owner. The trouble is that domestic cats are a cat’s whisker away from a wild hunter. We know this. As responsible cat owners, we want to keep them safe but we also want to ensure that our cat has the opportunity to express what is hardwired in his DNA: the desire to hunt and control territory. There is also the desire to procreate but we can deal with that through spaying and neutering.
It is argued that we can deal with an indoor cat’s desire to hunt by providing cat food puzzles. These are cat food receptacles that are tricky to get into. The cat has to exercise his grey matter and to a certain extent his hunting skills.
The stress of not being able to express natural drives such as hunting can lead to cystitis for instance and arguably other health issues which perhaps do undiagnosed such as “dermatological and neurological ailments” (Abigail Tucker in her book The Lion in the Living Room).
If we can overcome the downside for a cat when living permanently indoors it is conceivable that many more people would consider keeping their cats indoors. I am particularly concerned about the British who almost pathologically refuse to keep their cats inside even when living near busy roads. It is just not right.
Cat food puzzles are one concept in trying to find the best compromise in looking after a domestic cat. It will always be about compromises and competing objectives: safety, stimulation, welfare, mental and physical health, emotional wellbeing etc..
In addition to cat puzzles what Jackson Galaxy calls “catification” is also becoming more popular although only a few dedicated cat owners really catify their homes. Catification means (as you have probably guessed) making a human home more suited to a cat by providing vertical spaces, for example. Cats are vertical moving creatures as well as ground dwellers.
You can see lots of cat food puzzles on Amazon and I am sure the local pet store has a lot of examples too.
P.S. There is one problem with cat food puzzles: they have to incorporate dry cat food. This is okay as part of a proper diet but a cat needs wet food primarily in order to prevent dehydration and, ironically, health issues such as cystitis!