What does your cat’s dish look like? Is it plastic, stainless steel, or maybe ceramic? No matter what you’re imagining, it's almost certainly one of these types of cat food dishes.
But is that about to change? What if the best answer to "how does my cat really want to be fed?" is, “not in a dish at all!”
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a collection of the best and brightest minds in feline medicine, just released a 2018 consensus statement on the feeding of cats.1 Contrary to the usual debate over cat food which centers on wet versus dry, this discussion focuses not on the ‘what’ of cat food, but the ‘how’.
Here in the States, we often encourage people to keep their cats indoors in order to keep them safe from predators, and from themselves having an adverse effect on native bird populations. While an indoor life is the safest option, this doesn’t provide them much opportunity to act like, well, cats. Outdoor cats routinely roam over ranges as far as two miles, so it’s no wonder their behavior changes when they are confined to a 2,000 square foot house.
As hunters, cats are hardwired to hunt small prey. Unlike a snake, which may go days or weeks in between feedings, a cat in the wild eats multiple small prey every day. The typical household practice of filling a food bowl twice a day doesn’t do a whole lot to fulfill this instinctive need. Without the job of hunting to keep cats occupied, they may become bored and overweight. It may also contribute to stress, particularly if the household contains multiple cats sharing a single food source.
Fortunately, there is a way to manage this issue without making all indoor cats become outdoor cats. The AAFP offers several suggestions to better approximate natural cat behavior in the home, including:
- Feeding multiple smaller meals a day versus one or two large ones. Automated feeders can do this on a timer.
- Ensuring multiple food sources for multi-cat households.
- Using puzzle feeders to encourage natural hunting behavior.
I love puzzle feeders and recommend them routinely for both dogs and, now, for cats. They are based on the very simple principle that companion animals need to work for their food. You can find elaborate feeders that require pets to remove pieces and move doors around, and others that are as simple as a ball with holes in it that drops food out as it rolls. However, puzzle feeders made specifically for felines encourage their natural pouncing and tossing behavior. You can buy feeders for both wet and dry food, so find one that works best with whichever Life’s Abundance premium cat food your sweet kitty prefers.
Although we’ve domesticated cats and dogs, there’s no reason that we can’t continue to adapt and accommodate their instinctual behaviors, especially as our understanding of their physical, mental and emotional needs continues to expand. I’ve spoken to multiple behaviorists who recommend puzzle feeders as a part of any treatment for behavioral issues in cats, from aggression to inappropriate elimination to over-grooming. It’s such a simple thing to do, so why not give it a try with your cat? We feel confident that your little hunter will be super pleased with the change.
Stay well, and happy hunting to your kitty!
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM