The price of a discarded plastic soft drink bottle could be the key to physical and mental well-being for cats, according to an expert in companion animal behaviour.

Plastic bottle
Old plastic soft drink bottles easily can be turned into puzzle feeders for cats. Image: yodean / fotolia.

John Bradshaw, visiting fellow at the University of Bristol, where he was formerly reader in companion animal behaviour and director of the Anthrozoology Institute, was responding to a report suggesting food puzzles could greatly enhance a cat’s physical and social environment – particularly house cats.

They can also relieve certain physical and emotional issues.

Improvement seen

Authors cited details of more than 30 cases from their own practices where food puzzles were introduced to aid with a specific health or behavioural concern. Examples included:

  • an obese eight-year-old male domestic shorthair cat that lost 20% of his bodyweight within 12 months of puzzle implementation
  • a three-year-old British shorthair male cat whose impulsive and frustration-based aggression towards his owner instantly improved and resolved completely within six months
  • a two-year-old domestic shorthair cat whose fear of people significantly improved following the addition of both mobile and stationary food puzzles, to the point it would come when called and was relaxed for cuddles

Positive feedback

Dr Bradshaw said: “The mental benefits [of puzzle feeders] are quite considerable. It is most beneficial to indoor cats that don’t have access to the same kind of mental stimulation that an outdoor cat gets.

“I would support the use of puzzles for any kind of cat simply because I’ve used them myself and have had lots of positive feedback. You can buy commercial versions, but we used to take old soft drink bottles, cut kibble-sized holes in them, add a few bits of dry food and screw the cap on.”

  • Read more of Dr Bradshaw’s comments in the 26 September issue of Veterinary Times.
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