Four American scientists have published a study of food puzzles — essentially toys that make cats work to access their food — and their benefits to cats in terms of both physical and mental well-being.
Published in The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, the study found that ‘food puzzles’ can help indoor cats take advantage of their instincts to fight the issues associated with captivity, from obesity and diabetes to aggression.
The technique has been used in zoos and sanctuaries to help large cats adapt to captivity, and has been shown to reduce pacing, improve body condition, and increase their exploratory behaviour, researchers explain.
The study points to the importance of environmental enrichment for indoor cats, which mitigates the potentially negative effects of an indoor lifestyle on cats. It outlines the different types of food puzzles, and explains how to introduce them to cats and how to troubleshoot challenges with their use.