Food puzzles for cats: Feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing

J Feline Med Surg. 2016 Sep;18(9):723-32. doi: 10.1177/1098612X16643753. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


Practical relevance: Many pet cats are kept indoors for a variety of reasons (eg, safety, health, avoidance of wildlife predation) in conditions that are perhaps the least natural to them. Indoor housing has been associated with health issues, such as chronic lower urinary tract signs, and development of problem behaviors, which can cause weakening of the human-animal bond and lead to euthanasia of the cat. Environmental enrichment may mitigate the effects of these problems and one approach is to take advantage of cats' natural instinct to work for their food.

Aim: In this article we aim to equip veterinary professionals with the tools to assist clients in the use of food puzzles for their cats as a way to support feline physical health and emotional wellbeing. We outline different types of food puzzles, and explain how to introduce them to cats and how to troubleshoot challenges with their use.

Evidence base: The effect of food puzzles on cats is a relatively new area of study, so as well as reviewing the existing empirical evidence, we provide case studies from our veterinary and behavioral practices showing health and behavioral benefits resulting from their use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Cats / physiology*
  • Cats / psychology
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans
  • Play and Playthings*