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Satisfying Your Cat's Natural Born Instinct to Hunt!

- saying no to the bowl

by Burns Team Writer

Cats are born with a natural chasing instinct- hunger is not a driving force for a cat to go out and kill. Some cats will chase, play and hunt mice but will not eat them and will not have a desire to eat them.

Kittens are born as natural chasers and through playing with their siblings they skilfully fine tune this instinct to become first class hunters. This instinct is often lost in the domesticated cat especially those who are purely raised as indoor cats. Many cats are kept indoors for a variety of reasons like safety, health and avoidance of wildlife predation. Although this is not a natural environment for cats, there are ways that we can help them keep some of their instincts.

It is important as owners we allow our precious felines to express their natural behaviour and provide them with great mental stimulation to help avoid build-up of stress and frustration which can often lead to behaviour problems.

A 2017 survey from the PDSA* states 25% of households own a cat and within the UK there are approximately 10.3 million cats. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that animals have 5 welfare needs which each owner should provide for their pet.

  1. Health– protection from pain, injury, suffering and disease and treated if they become unwell or injured.
  2. Behaviour– the ability to behave naturally for their species e.g. Play, run, dig, jump, fly.
  3. Companionship– to be housed with or apart from other animals as appropriate for the species i.e. company for their own kind for sociable species like rabbits or guinea pigs, or to be housed alone for solitary species like hamsters.
  4. Diet- a suitable diet. This can include feeding appropriately for the pet’s life stage and feeding a suitable amount to prevent obesity or malnourishment, as well as access to fresh clean water.
  5. Environment– a suitable environment. This should include the right type of home with a comfortable place to rest and hide as well as space to exercise and explore.

Obesity is a rising issue in our cat population with suggestions that around 40% of the cat population are overweight or have obesity. Lack of exercise and overfeeding (both food and treats) are the two most common reasons for rise in cat obesity. In the PDSA survey many cat owners stated that they offered their cats extra food and treats because it made their cats happy. The age old saying of killing them with kindness comes into mind here so we really need to look at other ways of making our cats happy.

Using their instinct to hunt and the owners want to offer food and treats as rewards why not use their daily food portion to satisfy both…it’s a win win for both cat and owner!

Say no to the bowl…cats don’t need to be fed from a bowl

There are plenty of cat toys that help to stimulate and satisfy your cat, these days there are more and more on the market – plenty to choose from, all of which provide perfect environmental enrichment. Feeding puzzles are brilliant for providing mental stimulation and help to reduce boredom, frustration and environmental stress, contributing factors to behavioural problems and a grumpy cat.

Getting your cat to move around and track down their food will also get them burning more calories and reduce the chances of them becoming overweight.

Feeding puzzles come in two forms – stationary and rolling.

These don’t always have to be purchased…homemade ones do the trick just as well.

Ideas for homemade puzzles

Stationary, egg cartons, muffin pans and ice cube trays are all ideal. Start with very simple puzzles where your cat can see and smell the food, gradually as they learn to forage for their food. Begin to make the puzzle more challenging by concealing the food with something light and movable such as a ping pong ball resting onto of an open egg carton…sit back and watch how your cat engages their brain and figures out how to get to their tasty delights underneath.

Rolling… recycling the inner tube of a tissue roll is a fantastic start for a rolling foraging toy. Fold off one end, fill with some food and partially fold off the second end…sit back and watch your cat in amusement as they try to paw out the tasty delights inside, each time they paw and roll the tube over small bits of food will fall out…

How long will it take them to figure out moving the tube gets greatest results?

To make the puzzle more challenging, tape together several cardboard tubes and only fill a couple. Your cat will have to work out which tubes contain the delights.

By meeting and addressing these needs for our cats we are ensuring as owners we are providing 4 of the 5 welfare needs as outlined by the Animal Welfare Act- health, behaviour, diet and environment.

*PDSA Wellbeing Report 2017