GADGETS & ACCESSORIES

Cat Puzzle Feeder: Make Your Cats Smarter In a Rewarding Way

Cat paws at kibble in slow feeder puzzle toy.
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Cats are adorable because they are curious, independent, and willful. But as your cat gets older, the functions of their brain will deteriorate. Rather than excitedly exploring the world around them, they would prefer to sleep or lounge around all day. If you’d like to see your cat full of life once again, you’ll be glad to know that just like with humans, you can exercise their brain by giving them stimulation. One good idea that your cat will surely love is to have a cat puzzle feeder in your home.

Cats love a good challenge; they will keep on going for as long as they haven’t reached their goal. Since they also love to eat, you can offer them the best of both worlds in the form of cat puzzle feeders. These feeders will not only make your cat smarter but will also help control their appetite. They will have to work for their food, so they are less likely to overeat.

A cat playing with a Puzzle Feeder for cats

Cat puzzle feeders have been getting increasingly popular these days as people start to realize how useful they can be, which is why the market is currently flooded with them. In this article, we will explain how to choose between the many options so you will end up with the one that suits your cat best. If you’re all about DIY, then you’ll be glad to know that we also include a step-by-step guide on how to make a simple cat puzzle feeder yourself.

How to Pick the Right One

To make your purchase easier and your cat happier, here are some tips on how to pick a suitable commercial cat puzzle feeder for your cat:

Keep It Simple

You’d think that products that have found their way to the market wouldn’t be terrible at least, but there are commercial puzzles that you should avoid at all costs. They are not actually broken or defective, but they have exaggerated challenges for cats.

Cat playing with a Cat Activity Board Station

The complicated mechanism of these products might not be a good fit for your cat if they’re beginners. You should keep it simple at first, then proceed with more complicated puzzles to stimulate your pet’s mind even more. Puzzles like foraging cups are an excellent starter kit.

Match the Product Quality to Your Budget

You don’t have to go all extravagant when purchasing a puzzle feeder. There are puzzle feeders out there that cost less than $20. They don’t lose out to the expensive puzzle feeders when it comes to providing your pet with a challenging eating experience.

However, make sure to check the reviews first instead of immediately getting sold on the low price of these products. Reviews contain useful testimonials based on the customer’s real-life experience. Some may even contain photos of the product and the pet playing it.

Cat playing with a puzzle feeder

Naturally, it’s best to steer clear if the product got many negative reviews. Reviews can also be neutral. No product is perfect—there’s always some pros and cons to consider.  Products like foraging cups are generally a good option because they come in simple sets that are hard to go wrong with and they are usually quite affordable at the same time (the price ranges from $10 to $25).

If They Got Bored, Try Buying a New One

Cats tire of things quickly. If they haven’t cracked the puzzle, they will keep on trying, but if they have emptied the cat feeder plenty of times already, perhaps it’s time to give them something new. If you feel that the puzzle’s too easy for them, or if they’re just “fed up” (pun intended) with it, then it’s best to purchase or maybe even build a new one.

How to Build a DIY Cat Puzzle Feeder

If you have some time to spare and a love for all things DIY, then instead of purchasing a commercial cat puzzle feeder, you should consider building one yourself. Homemade puzzle feeders are a lot cheaper, yet they can give your cat the same dose of fun that commercial feeders have to offer. Below are some of the best types of DIY cat feeders that you can easily make in just a few minutes.

Tissue Roll Ball

This is an extremely easy cat feeder to make since the materials you need should be readily available at home. This type of dispenser ball is very enticing to cats. They will love it since it gives them a tasty treat every time they roll it around. The rewarding feature of this ball allows the cat to hone their skills in hunting as they figure out the mechanism that allows them to get food.

Cat playing with Tissue Roll Ball feeder for cats

The materials you need to prepare are:

  • A Tissue or Paper Towel Roll – The basic foundation of the ball.

  • Scissors – You will be making cutouts to shape the paper towel roll into a ball.

  • Tape – For binding the cutouts together to form a tough ball that won’t get loose and break into bits.

How to Make It

Here’s how you craft this very simple puzzle feeder for your cat:

  • Cut the Roll – Using your scissors, cut the roll into crosswise strips, forming little circles. Six to eight cutouts will be perfect.

  • Form the Ball – Stack the cutouts together to form a ball. If there aren’t enough cutouts, add some more.

  • Tape Them Together – Tape the ball together using a tape, and tape it in all directions but leave a hole to act as the entrance and exit for the cat treats.

Cats love round things, so they will naturally be attracted to this ball. Even if they aren’t interested initially, the interest will build once they notice the prize that awaits them inside of it.

Foraging Cups

Perhaps you’re already aware of foraging cups since there are commercial versions of this. If you don’t know what a foraging cup is, it’s basically a puzzle that’s shaped like a cup and has a lid to close it with. Somewhere around the cup, there’s a hole where the food can come out, and cats only need to roll the cup around to get their tasty treat.

Cats playing with a Foraging Cups feeder

You can purchase them easily since they are widely available but if you’re on a budget or you’d like to put in the effort for your cat, you can also create your own foraging cup. It’s fairly easy and cheap to make. Here are the materials that you need:

  • Market and Cutter – A cutter is much better to use than scissors when making cardboard cutouts. You can still use scissors though—just make sure to use sharper ones.

  • Small Cups – Smaller cups allow you to place the right amount of food as well as make the hole smaller. The smaller the hole is, the more challenging it will be for your cat.

  • Round Cardboard – Just a round cardboard cutout to serve as the cover for your foraging cup.

How to Make It

This is fun and very easy to do. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes to make one. Here are the steps:

  • Build the Round Cutout – Mark a circle on the cardboard. Use the top of the cup to measure the circle since you’re going to create its “lid.”

  • Cut a Small Circle – Smaller holes will make sure that the puzzle will be quite a challenge for the cat. Just cut a small circle that’s around the same size as one piece of cat treat. Don’t make a big hole or the puzzle will get quite boring.

  • Prepare and Seal – Place as many cat treats as you want, as long as the cup has space inside it. Seal the cup afterwards with the round cutout. You can use a tape or a non-toxic glue to seal the cup, so then the food won’t spill.

This toy is very easy to make, and the mechanisms are excellent for beginners. It’s capable of helping you limit your cat’s food and nutrition intake to avoid health issues.

Foraging Box

This is quite similar to the foraging cup since it gives you the option of limiting your cat’s nutrient intake. However, instead of just enticing your cat to roll the toy around, the mechanism of a foraging box is meant to help the cat track where the food can be reached.

Kitty playing with a Foraging Box feeder for cats

They would have to move the box around to move the treats closer to the holes where they can reach it. Here are the materials that you need.

  • Cardboard Box – You don’t need to choose a large box. You just need a shallow and small one so that the food will be reachable inside the box. A perfect example of this is a box of your old board game or a pizza box.

  • Small Cup – This will only be used to measure the hole that you should cut into the cover of the feeder.

  • Marker and Cutter – To cut holes in the box with.

  • Tape – To seal the box fully so the feeder won’t get ruined once the cat starts playing around with it.

How to Make It

This foraging feeder may be a step up in terms of difficulty level for your cat, but for you, it’s even easier to make than the foraging ball. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Tape the Box – Tape the cover and the base of the cardboard box to bind them together. This is a very important step.

  • Mark Some Circles – Place the cup upside down on top of the cardboard box, and then mark a circle around the edge of the cup.

  • Cut the Marks – Use the cutter to make holes by cutting along the marked areas.

  • Place Some Food – Lastly, place some food in the foraging box and tell your cat to play with it to get a nice treat.

The cat will definitely love to sniff around and look for food inside this foraging box. This is also great for a group of cats if you want them to play together.

Wine Box Puzzle

This type of puzzle is very easy to solve. In fact, the foraging cup and the tissue paper roll puzzle are a little bit harder than the wine box puzzle. Once you’ve gotten a hold of how to get this crafted, you will be surprised at how easy it is to build as well.

Cat playing with Wine Box Puzzle

This is excellent for kittens since it’s a simple way to help train their hunting instincts. It’s also a great option for a group of cats since the mechanism makes it so that they won’t fight over one spot on the puzzle.

Here are the materials you need:

  • Wine Box – You can use any type of wine box. In fact, you can also use other types of boxes, as long as it’s easy for the cat to reach the food that’s inside the box.

  • Cardboard – A thin cardboard is preferred.

  • Hot Glue – needed to build a divider for your wine box puzzle.

  • Cutter – You will be making quite a bit of cutouts, and a cutter is better for cardboard.

How to Make It

Rest assured that you won’t feel like this project is too complicated to handle. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Make Cutouts – Make cutouts first for the wine box puzzle. Prepare your extra cardboard and divide it into three lengthwise cuts for the vertical dividers. Prepare another cardboard and prepare eight pieces of smaller cutouts to serve as the horizontal dividers.

  • Remove Cover – Remove the wine box cover since you won’t need to cover your wine box puzzle.

  • Place the Dividers – First, put the three lengthwise cardboard cutouts in place: one near the edge, one at the middle, and the last one on the other end. To create row dividers, place the eight smaller cutouts so that you will end up with a 4 x 4 puzzle.

  • Place Food Randomly – The challenge for your cat is that they will have to search for food in the puzzle. Thus, you should place some food randomly in the divided sections but leave a few empty areas.

The bigger the box is, the more challenging the puzzle will be for your cat. If your cat starts to get bored of a simple 4 x 4 structure, you can place some more dividers or glue extra cardboard along the sides to add to the number of sections.

Bottle Feeder

This is quite easy to make as well but will require quite a lot of items to prepare. This cat feeder is known to have a very simple mechanism so your cat won’t get frustrated about not being able to reach their food, yet it will help them sharpen their problem-solving skills.

Image showing a Bottle Feeder on a wooden floor

Here are the materials you need to prepare:

  • Coke Bottle – The bottle feeder has to be large, so it would be able to contain as much food as you want.

  • Scissor and Cutter – So you can cut the bottle in half with ease.

  • Rubber Band – Just one would do. Or maybe prepare some extras since this plays a vital part in the project.

  • Small Sticks – Two of these are enough to craft the puzzle successfully.

  • Plastic Ball – This is the main challenge that your cat needs to conquer to get their reward.

How to Make It

The steps below are not complicated at all. This project should not take more than 30 minutes to complete. Here’s how you make it:

  • Cut the Bottle – Cut the bottom 1/6 part of the bottle. Leave the bottom part for later use. The bottle should be cut straight.

  • Do a Cross Cut – Do a cross cut on both sides of the bottle’s larger half for later preparations. Do the cutout near the end of the bottle.

  • Combine Ball and Rubber – Combine the rubber band and the plastic ball by placing the rubber band inside the plastic ball to form a necklace-like material, with the ball as the pendant.

  • Prepare the Mechanism – Place the ball on top of the bottle, where the mouthpiece is, but with the rubber hanging upside down. Using a stick pull to stretch the rubber, and place the rubber in the middle of the skewer. Place the skewer on the bottom part of the bottle so the rubber won’t go back. Be sure to position the skewer on the opposite side of the two cross cuts.

  • Second Part – Insert the other skewer into the cross cut that you made earlier, and insert the other end of the skewer to the other crosscut. The two circles should form a cross once you stare at them from the bottom hole of the bottle.

  • Place the Cat Food and Hang the Bottle – Place some food inside and hang the bottle from a place that the cat can reach easily.

This is the most challenging of all the five types of puzzles that we have devised just for you. The challenge here is that the cat will attempt to pull the ball so then the food will fall from the bottle’s mouthpiece. The ball will retract back to the bottle, so the cat will have to make another attempt to open it. Place it in a higher location to help your cat exercise their jumping skills.

Wrap Up

A puzzle feeder is not just excellent for polishing your cat’s hunting skills and to help stimulate their brain, but it also makes you feel accomplished since you have made an effort to give your cat a dose of fun while eating.

Cats always love a good challenge, and they will like you even more if you let them play with these puzzles since they dispense food and cats are huge food lovers, too! Some studies also show that foraging has the added effect of limiting your pet’s access to excess amounts of calories and carbohydrates. Thus, you can also consider using puzzle feeders as a form of dieting for your cat.

Image showing a cat playing with Domino-Foraging-Board-by-Trixie-Pet

Would you prefer to purchase a commercial puzzle feeder, or would you like to try your hand at making one at home? If you’d like to go DIY, which type of puzzle feeder do you think will suit your cat’s needs the most? If you have any opinions or suggestions, let us know by placing a comment in the section below!

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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