This Plush Puzzle Toy Will Satisfy Your Food-Motivated Cat · The Wildest

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This Plush Carrot Puzzle Toy Will Satisfy Your Food-Motivated Cat

Finally, something engaging to distract them from real food

by Charles Manning
30 October 2023
cat with interactive carrot puzzle toy
Courtesy of The Mellow Dog

Does your cat drive you up the wall in the hours leading up to feeding time? As I write this, my own cat, Pumpkin, is doing everything he can to move his feeding time forwards 30 minutes – alternating between affection, ear-splitting screeches and attempts to sit on my keyboard as I type. When those things inevitably fail, he will get in my eye line and swoon dramatically or climb under the table and start (gently) scratching at my legs. If he’s really desperate, he will eat dirt out of one of the nearby planters and then vomit it up next to me. If that scene I just painted didn’t make it clear, Pumpkin is very much a food-motivated cat, and the hours leading up to feeding time are always his most active.

This is also the best time of day to engage Pumpkin (or any cat) in play, because, for domestic cats, play is often analogous to hunting and tied intrinsically to hunger. “In the wild, feral cats spend up to half their day hunting, and many of those same actions and behaviours are also seen during play,” says cat behaviourist Cristin Tamburo, who recommends playing with your cat at least twice a day, for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Pumpkin loves a good play session with his wand toy, and Cristin, for her part, encourages human interaction in play to help stimulate the bond between a cat and their person. But sometimes I just don’t have it in me. That’s when I turn to puzzle toys, which can occupy and stimulate Pumpkin without my involvement (at least beyond the initial setting up process).

The Carrot Farm for cats is a great example. Place a little of your cat’s dry food or some of their favourite treats in the soil and then cover them with the carrots. Your cat will smell the hidden treats and start rooting around, eventually realising they have to remove the carrots to access their reward. You can hide a treat under every carrot or only under some to keep your cat guessing. It’s a great way to stave off boredom in cats, which can lead to behavioural issues, anxiety and depression.

The soil is machine washable and zips off for easy cleaning. The whole thing is nice and soft, so it’s safe and won’t make a lot of noise as it gets pushed around on the floor by more active felines.

When introducing this or any new toy to your cat, remember to go slow. Unbox the toy, and set it in an open space for a few days so your cat can get used to it. If you try to force them to interact with it right away, you could end up accidentally turning them off it completely. Let them familiarise themselves with it on their own terms first. Once they’re comfortable, you can start hiding treats in the soil and watch them go wild. They’ll love it.

Charles Manning

Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.

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