The Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder (formerly The No Bowl Feeding System) is a revolutionary method of feeding indoor cats, designed by Dr. Liz Bales from Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Co. The feeding system proves that how you eat is just as important as what you eat. This product design and the idea behind the product are all about incorporating what we know about cat behavior, nutrition, and keeping cats happy.
A big part of this research is based on the seeking circuit of felines, which tells us that the cat goes through an endless loop of stalking, trapping, playing, eating, grooming, and then sleeping. This circuit is also referred to as the natural hunting cycle for the cat, which seems fitting. The cat will start at the stalking stage when she wakes up and hunger strikes, so she goes through the same circuit as detailed below.
I use the Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder to keep the cats I care for in my cat rescue and my own cats both physically fit and mentally stimulated all day. This is important to me since I run the rescue and do consultation work, which does not leave me much time to spend with some of the rescue cats. The financial situation for the rescue also does not allow me to feed only wet food.
Small And Frequent Meals Are Best
This fantastic feeding product is the result of extensive research conducted by Dr. Bales and other experts in the field of feline nutrition and feline behavior, who found that smaller and more frequent meals are better than larger portions of food 2-3 times per day. The research also found that a cat’s stomach is only about the size of a ping pong ball, which is equivalent to only 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons. (The video below shows my shelter cats playing with the feeders.)
The average domestic cat is more likely to eat 12 to 20 small meals per day if you leave out dry food than the 2 to 3 times per day most people provide. About 80% of a cat’s waking hours is spent hunting and eating food. The other part is spent sleeping, of course. When a cat is not sleeping, he is usually hunting for food.
The Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder was designed with this preferred lifestyle in mind. Allowing the cat the opportunity to hunt, catch, play with, and eat her food results in fewer behavior problems and a significant increase in good behavior. Dopamine is released when a cat is allowed to express the normal hunting/eating patterns he would display in the wild.
Prevent Obesity & Behavior Problems
Behavior problems which can be prevented by allowing your cat to forage for her food include, but are not limited to, being extremely vocal during the night, inappropriate urination, and destructive activities due to boredom. All you need to do is add food to the mouse dispensers, hide them well, let the kitty hunt out her food, and refill the dispensers once they are empty.
I do about 30 behavior consultations per month for several no-kill cat rescues, including running my own. Many cats with excess energy that were once biting, scratching, and causing trouble are no longer exhibiting those behaviors. One of the cats I helped the most by using the feeders was an F2 Bengal cat who was tearing up the house due to having improper environmental enrichment and lack of mental stimulation.
Each cat will need three mice, twice per day, with his entire meals portioned out between them. The portion is calculated following the bag instructions or your veterinarian’s recommendation. So you need one pack of mice for each cat if you want to do things correctly. You can get a purchase discount by clicking this link.
Feeding with three mice, twice per day, is recommended so that your cat has to hunt out multiple prey and not feel like she has to eat near other cats. It is less stressful for a cat to eat away from other cats rather than alongside other cats in the household. Forcing your cats to eat together can actually be a stressful experience for them, unless you are using that method specifically for new cat introductions or they are truly best friends.
There are a myriad of benefits to allowing your cat to forage food, in addition to improving good behavior and eliminating bad behavior. I have used the foraging system for overweight cats and for cats who are just not as active as they should be for their age.
I had a cat come in at 20 pounds (10-pounds overweight) and adopted him out at 18 by using the feeders. Cats that are allowed to free feed are typically lazier and suffer from a lack of portion control and mental and physical stimulation. Recent statistics on the body condition scale system, developed by Purina and used by veterinary professionals, show 58% of cats are obese.
The other type of cat I like to use the Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder for exclusively is the scarf and barf cat who will eat until she throws up over and over. I see this problem with multi-cat households where one cat is likely to hog the food bowls or does not like to eat around other cats.
The feeders’ product design is perfect for curbing scarf and barf or situations where cats do not get along. I do advise that owners weigh their cat every week, just to see whether she is getting the hang of the idea, especially if they want their cat to lose weight. All you need to do is weigh yourself, then weigh again, holding the cat.
Easy To Implement
The Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder is extremely easy to implement if you follow the instructions provided. You should first start with the training version, which is included, then transition to the harder version with only two holes. The training version has multiple holes, so the cat basically learns that slapping or knocking the mouse around will release food. Only transition to the harder version after the cat seems to be getting the idea of how to forage for her food.
The process of hunting can even be enhanced by purchasing the additional package of skins, which come in a beautiful array of colors. I have each mouse in a different skin, so they are more eye-catching to volunteers and people who visit the rescue. I simply enjoy educating people on how to properly feed their cat, along with how to prevent common behavior problems from forming. I did receive notice today that the skins are no longer being offered in additional colors, but keep an eye out in case they may be available in the future.
I was sent several five-pack sets of the interactive Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder for review with cats at my rescue and with my own cats. The plastic is extremely durable, which complements the tactile fabric skin. I find that the skin is highly appealing because it can simulate what it feels like for the cat to grab and claw prey before killing/eating it.
Currently, the company is offering five mice for $29.99 through this link. Later this month, the company is launching a 3-mouse kit for $19.99, which should be within budget for most people. The three mouse kit is ideal for individuals new to the concept of puzzle feeding. A one pack set contains the actual mouse puzzle feeder, the training feeder with multiple holes, one feeder skin, and a 1.6 tablespoon feeder scoop, which I just love. The scoop is estimated to be 1/5 the daily ration for a 10-pound cat.
The Common Issue That People Have
Most people complain–with good reason–that dry food is not the proper diet for a domestic cat, but the reality is there is–and will always be–a place for dry food to be used. I generally recommend a grain-free and high protein dry food with few carbs. Some people do not have the time or money to feed exclusively wet food, and shelters/rescues cannot afford to feed wet food only.
The main reason dry food can pale in comparison to canned food is that dry food is often too high in carbohydrates, which can lead to obesity. Canned food does cause more dental disease, but aids the kidney in remaining healthy. The second biggest reason for dry food’s losing favor in the community is that the average cat is not a natural water drinker since his ancestors were desert dwellers.
Dry food can make concentrated urine, which can result in crystals or urinary tract disease. Natural prey contains 75% moisture, just like canned food, while dry food has only 3% to 6% moisture, so it is quite easy to see how issues with cats’ health could become a problem.
My first recommendation on the matter of moisture is to supplement your cat with canned food as a daily treat in addition to dry food feeding, taking into account the portion of food she should receive. I have several canned food puzzle feeders that I use for this purpose since all of the rescue cats get canned food in the morning and at night. My second recommendation is to use a water fountain so that the water is more enticing to your cat.
My Final Thoughts
The Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder by Dr. Bales is unlike any other puzzle feeder available because of its unique texture, paired with its ability to be hidden. The unit replaces the bowl with the hunt, and the mice have the fabric skin, which allows the cat to interact with it as if it were natural prey.
Dr. Bales has done an exquisite job of making a safe and effective toy. I hide my mice on top of cat towers, behind couches, underneath the cats’ favorite scratching posts, and so on. It is a game they have grown to love over time.
The fabric is made of a Nylon blend for easy washing and is BPA free. The material can be washed in a standard washing machine, then air-dried, and the plastic can be cleaned in a dishwasher if desired.
Some of the best benefits of this system:
- Prevent digestion issues
- Get your cat to lose weight
- Good for feral kitten taming
- Cut down problem behavior
- Cut down anxiety & stress
- Get more sleep at night
- Bring out the wild side
- Cuts cat relinquishment in half
- Curbs Cat aggression
- Keep your cat stimulated & active
Your cat will likely ignore the mice at first because he will expect you to put out his daily meal in a bowl, as you have done religiously. It will also take some time for you to re-awaken your cat’s hunting spirit and for him to learn that he is expected to work for his prey rather than meowing at you for it.
The good thing is that the food does not fall out too easily, which some people have asked about and a few people have left comments on Amazon. If food does fall out too easily, you may be using tiny kibble and should switch to slightly bigger kibble. Or you can use tape to cover a little bit of the hole.
The food does take some work to get out, but not so much that the cat would give up or leave. I think a high level of consideration was given to making it just the ideal level of difficulty.
I recommend that you do not give up if the feeders do not seem to be working out right away. Stick to the training version until your cat seems to get the hang of the foraging technique. Your cat will not likely starve. It took my ten cats only a few days to start foraging, and it takes an average of 4 days for one of my rescue cats to start foraging from these mice.
This product is especially well-suited for cat rescues and animal shelters since cats can get quite bored when there are no people around. Shelters not yet using the Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder need to jump aboard, as it is my opinion it is the right thing to do for the cats. I have fixed many cat behavior problems stemming from boredom by using puzzle feeders.
I received this product for my cat rescue at no cost to me in exchange for writing this review. The free product did not persuade my opinion and my views on this product does not necessarily reflect the opinion of other writers on this website. All of the opinions listed are my own after extensively testing this product with over 20 cats from a range of different backgrounds and personalities.