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Winter has hit in New York and New Jersey, and as we fight the urge to hibernate until we can feel our toes, we’re reminded that our beloved pets, while happy to cuddle up on a winter day, also need some activity to stay healthy.

House cats in particular can go stir crazy. Living indoors suppresses a feline’s natural hunting instinct, and the days can tick by slowly if they aren’t given a chance to exercise — both physically and mentally. In the wild, for example, cats are snackers, hunting small rodents and birds throughout the day. Often times, they won’t eat right away, but rather, keep their prey for brief entertainment, even tossing it around in the form of play. “The behavior pattern is written in the genes of the animal,” says Dr. Siracusa from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, “Which means that this is a behavioral need.” As you can imagine, having their food available in a bowl at all times is less than inspiring for the nimble and skilled felines, and the lack of stimulation can cause boredom or overeating.

One way to keep a cat entertained and in tip top shape when it comes to food is to make meal time more challenging. It may be a little extra work for you, but offering a “scavenger hunt” for your furry friend activates the inner hunter — and gets them off the couch (or out from under it). There are several feeding systems available — one being the “NoBowl” which has gotten great reviews. Of course, stuffing dry cat food into pouches and hiding them around the house is not for everyone, but luckily there are other ways to stimulate your four-legged pal around meal time. For example, try incorporating some play before dinner, or offer your kitty a strategy-based toy or puzzle. Cats are smart and quick to become bored of a predictable puzzle, so we like this list of 11 unique and challenging cat toys

Paying attention to your furry friend’s feeding behavior can be a fascinating window into their world. By offering a challenge during mealtime, your feline will not only be able to flex their hunting muscles, they’ll find more enjoyment in your home.