One thing we know for sure: felines thrive when they are stimulated, and often times, they don’t have enough opportunities to engage their inquisitive minds. Last week, a study came out in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery on the best feeding practices for cats. In the study, 3,192 cat owners were surveyed on how they feed their furry friends. 30% reported using food puzzles as a simple way to enrich their cat’s mental stimulation.

According to the survey, offering a challenge for your cat during meal time can encourage natural foraging behavior and exercise their hunting skills. In addition, the study referenced multiple case studies in the past that food puzzles can help with weight maintenance, anxiety and unwanted marking and urination around the house.

The key? If your furry feline isn’t familiar with eating around a puzzle, it’s important to start out with one that isn’t too hard, otherwise you risk your kitty becoming frustrated or losing interest. There are many food puzzles out there – the study recommends calling your four-legged friend over when you first fill it so he or she understands that the puzzle contains their food.

Most cats will quickly become hooked once they realize the challenge. This idea of putting your cat “to work” is based on the idea that due to domestication, we have “taken their jobs away from them”. Offering a food puzzle is a simple but effective way of giving these always-up-for-a-challenge creatures a way to “work” for their food. One caveat? Some cats (not pointing fingers but you know who you are), simply are not food driven, and a food puzzle wont peak their interest. For the cats that live for mealtime, however, this could be a fun way to infuse a little challenge into their day-to-day life.

Thoughts? Would you try giving your kitty a food puzzle? Let us know in the comment section below.