Food puzzles have positive impacts on felines

Puzzles provide cats with stimulation and increased exercise.    

Games for cats have existed for some time. However, games in the form of food puzzles, that is, devices that release food when an animal interacts with them, offer added benefits, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Athens, Ga.; the University of California at Berkeley; and Ohio State University collaborated with cat behaviorists and concluded that food puzzles could positively impact feline health and behavioral issues. The final study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

In addition to reviewing existing empirical evidence of the physical and emotional benefits imparted by food puzzles, the authors collated details of over 30 cases from their own practices where food puzzles were introduced to aid with a specific health or behavioral concern.

Examples of positive results included an obese eight-year-old male domestic shorthair cat that lost 20% of his bodyweight within 12 months of puzzle implementation, and a three-year-old British shorthair male cat with owner-aggression issues that resolved completely within six months.

According to the study, food puzzles leverage a cat’s natural inclination to hunt for its food, and provide both mental stimulation and increased activity. Food puzzles are also easy to implement with few risks.

The study includes an overview of types of food puzzles, how to choose a starter puzzle, and implementation suggestions.   

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mikel Delga

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