Cat food puzzles are beneficial for cats for many reasons. We first learned how helpful they can be when one of our girls had a habit of scarfing and then barfing her food. We needed to find a way to slow down her eating so her body had a chance to keep it down.

Our very first DIY cat food puzzle was a rock. Seriously. We grabbed a river stone about the size of my fist from our backyard. Then we placed it in the middle of the food bowl – and vualá! Now our cat had to move around the bowl as she ate. Not only did she enjoy exercising some curiosity while she checked out the rock, this slowed her eating and solved the scarf and barf issue!

Since these very primitive days, we’ve learned that food puzzles are amazing for so many reasons. Yes, they help slow the eating of cats that may be food insecure, but even more then that, they are a great source of sensory enrichment!

How’s that, you ask?

Cats evolved to be amazing hunters. Sure, our indoor kitties might find a favorite toy they like to ‘hunt’… but not eat (ideally). Hunting requires a cat to think and move as the stealthy beasts they are – using their senses to find their next meal. It is sensory enrichment at it’s finest – so let’s let them exercise one of their most important instincts!

DIY Cat Food Puzzles

Moving past the rock in the bowl, you’ll find you already have some great food puzzles around your house!

The Muffin Pan – This is much more than a dusty pan in your cabinet. Fill the little tins with some of your cat’s favorite food or treats and watch as they find ways to get their prey!

Toilet Paper Rolls – and yes, paper towels rolls work too! These are some of our favorite options:

  1. Treat Balls – Just grab your cat’s favorite treats, a pair of scissors, and the toilet paper roll. Cut the roll into even circles. Place a few of the circle strips together into a ball form. Place the treat(s) in the ball and watch their inner hunter come out! If your cat makes it look too easy to get the treat out, try taping one side of the ball for added difficulty (see the video above).
  2. Hidey Hunting Rolls – This is an especially awesome cat food puzzle for cats that are home alone during the day. Grab tape, scissors and treats. Flatten each end of the roll and tape close. Use the scissors to cut a bunch of different sized holes in the tube. Fill with treats (we love freeze-dried food for this), and hide the rolls all over the house. Couch cushions, top of cat trees or shelves, under the corner of a dresser, even in a shoebox in your closet! You cat’s sense of smell will lead your little hunter to find each one, bat it around to knock out the ‘prey’ and enjoy the well-deserved spoils of a successful hunt!

While these are some of our cat’s favorite food puzzles, there are more and more engaging puzzles you can also purchase. Many have varying degrees of difficulty (which is exciting for our cats, and prices (which is not exciting for us), but these DIY puzzles don’t cost a dime and provide hours of sensory enrichment for our sweet little loves!



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