Cats may not seem like the most active pets, but they need daily mental and physical activity to keep them well-behaved and happy. A bored or anxious cat can become very destructive, so we put together a list of the best cat puzzle toys to entertain your kitty.
Keeping your cat active and engaged can be challenging. Cats can be particular about how they play, so simply having a few cat toys available may not be enough to encourage your cat to participate.
There are many different styles of cat toys and while some cats are naturally playful and perfectly happy with a traditional catnip toy or teaser wand, some cats need something a little more exciting and interactive.
If you’ve never used a cat puzzle toy before, then you might be skeptical. Why would a cat puzzle toy be any more exciting than other cat toys? Will your cat even play with it?
5 Benefits of Cat Puzzles
Before we get into how to get your cat interested in a puzzle toy, let’s talk about the benefits of cat puzzle toys. Any type of positive playtime is good for your cat, but puzzle toys can offer some unique benefits that other cat toys are just not versatile enough for.
Having a variety of cat toys on hand can offer your cat a diverse range of exercises and games to play with throughout the day, but a good cat puzzle toy in the mix is a good way to help solve some common cat behavioural and health issues.
Check out some of the top benefits of choosing cat puzzle toys:
The signs of anxiety in cats are, more often than not, chalked up as bad behaviour. Scratching furniture, urinating outside the litter box, and loud meowing or whining are behaviours that we find annoying and can easily get frustrated by, but they are likely a sign that your cat is stressed or frustrated.
Cat puzzle toys can provide the mental stimulation to keep your kitty occupied and engaged during times of stress or anxiety. They are also a great way to prevent boredom in cats.
Aggressive cats are often aggressive out of fear or anxiety. Puzzle toys offer your cat a calming and fun activity to distract them from other pets and the hustle and bustle of your home that could trigger fearful or anxious responses.
Young kittens who bite are often mistaken for aggressive, but they actually just haven't learned boundaries yet. Learn how to teach better kitty behaviours in How to Stop a Kitten From Biting.
3. Slow Feeding
Some cats just love food so much that they will practically inhale it. This can lead to digestive issues and cause your cat to overeat and puke it back up. Cat puzzle feeder toys can slow your cat down and help her digest her food better.
4. Weight Loss
The low-impact exercise from cat puzzles can also help chunky, lazy cats slim down who just aren’t interested in typical exercise and games. Stick to puzzle toys that keep your cat moving regularly throughout the day to help her burn calories.
5. Learn to Play Solo
Some cats are needier than others, but we all know that we can’t spend all day playing with them. Puzzle toys are a great way to teach your cat to self-soothe and keep themselves entertained when we are not able to engage them.
Best Cat Puzzle Feeders
Cats are notoriously picky eaters. They may like food one day, and the next refuse to even look at it. Inconsistent eating habits can lead to weight problems, malnutrition, and other health issues, so it’s important to find ways to keep your cat excited about dinner time.
A great way to encourage better eating habits is to make mealtime fun. Simply tossing your cat's food in a bowl might not strike her fancy, but using a cat puzzle feeder can make every meal a mentally stimulating game.
Cat food puzzle toys are also great for cats that love food too much. If your cat eats too fast, then a food puzzle for cats is a great way to slow her down and give her body a chance to better digest the nutrients.
Cats who eat too fast often throw up their food shortly after eating, especially if you feed primarily dry cat food, which will start to expand in your cat's stomach as it absorbs liquid. Not only is this unpleasant to clean up, but it also means that your cat isn’t getting all of the nutrition they need from that meal.
Here’s are some of the best cat food puzzles to help your cat build better eating habits:
Catit Food Puzzles
Catit knows your cat is a smart cookie, which is why the Catit puzzle feeders are some of our most popular enrichment toys and tools for cats. Making mealtime more than just fun, these cat food puzzles are great for slowing down your cat and encouraging healthier and safer eating habits in your kitty.
Catit Senses 2.0 Digger
A great way to test out your cat’s foraging skills is to place her dry cat food or treats in the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger Toy. This simple toy teaches your cat to use her paws to pull out food, one little bit at a time.
Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree
Another fun cat food puzzle option is the Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree. This three-tiered tower has several large holes that your cat can reach her paw into to grab food or knock it down each level to the wide base below. The Food Tree easily holds full meals, so it’s ideal for leaving food out for your cat while you are at work.
Cat Food Ball Feeders
If your cat needs a little more motivation to get moving, then a cat treat ball is a great way to stimulate her both physically and mentally. It’s brilliantly simple. Just fill the ball with dry snacks or food and let your cat bat, nudge, push, and chase the toy around the room.
PetSafe SlimCat Interactive Feeder Ball
This cat feeder ball is a toy and a feeding tool all in one. The PetSafe SlimCat Interactive Feeder Ball holds up to approximately ⅔ cup of dry cat food and has adjustable sized holes to increase or decrease the difficultly for your cat. This ball can be used for treats or food, but we recommend it as a slow-feeding option for chunky kitties.
Catit Treat Ball
The Catit Treat Ball is a great slow-feeding option that makes your cat chase and bat the puzzle ball around to knock each piece of kibble loose. The spiral design adds a level of difficulty by forcing your cat to spin and wibble the ball to slide the pieces to the bottom holes.
Slow Feed Bowls
If your goal is to get your cat to eat slower and healthier, then a slow feed bowl is the best place to start. The designs can be as basic or as complex as you need to slow down cats who like to inhale their food.
Here are a food slow feed bowls for cats from Be One Breed:
Be One Breed Slow Feeder
This is a great option for cats that are new to cat food puzzle bowls. The Be One Breed Slow Feeder is a simple design that prevents your cat from eating fast or taking larger mouthfuls of food. She’ll have to follow the pieces through the tracks of the bowl or use her paws to dig out kibble one by one.
Be One Breed IntelliKatt Interactive Cat Feeder
For cats that are ready for a more advanced slow feed puzzle bowl, then check out the Be One Breed IntelliKatt Interactive Feeder. This deep puzzle has several layers and moveable pieces to give you endless combination possibilities. Start with a single layer and up the difficulty as your cat learns how to use the feeder.
DIY Cat Food Puzzle
A great way to test how your cat will react to a cat food puzzle is by using some common household products to make your own homemade cat food puzzles.
Ice Cube Tray
Try using an ice cube tray to feed your cat. It requires no extra work or construction. Just poor your cat's dinner into the tray and let her get to work.
If you want to try something a little more mobile, then save a toilet paper or paper towel roll from your recycling. Cut a small hole in the center of the tube, just big enough for a treat to fall out. Fill with food and fold in the ends to secure the snacks. Your cat will have to roll and spin the tube to dislodge the food one piece at a time.
Best Cat Treat Puzzles
Regular playtime is a great way to keep your cat occupied and active, but if your cat doesn’t seem to be interested in traditional cat toys, then a cat treat puzzle toy is just what you need to encourage your cat to play.
Look for toys that are specifically designed to dispense treat when your cat engages the toy. Look for toys that are small enough for your cat to easily bat, chase, or pick up to dislodge small treats. Once your cat figured out what the toy is holding, she’ll want to play with it.
Take a look at a few fun treat-dispensing cat puzzle toys:
Aikiou Cat Treat Mouse Toy
This little mouse cat toy is made from dishwasher-safe, food-safe plastic. Just stuff the Aikiou Mouse Toy with your cat's favourite crunchy or chewy treats and let your cat sniff out the goodies inside. Your cat will quickly learn to roll and toss the toy so wiggle out the rewards inside.
Petstages Firefly Treat Stuffer Cat Toy
A good way to introduce puzzles toys to your cat is to use the type of toys she’s already used to. The PetStages Firefly Treat Stuffer Toy is a familiar plush toy designed with a center compartment that can be stuffed with treats. It glows in the dark too, so it can be great for solo playtime at night or early mornings when your cat needs to entertain herself.
AFP Interactive Treat Dispenser
This cat treat-dispensing toy is ideal for teaching your cat to self-soothe and play solo. The AFP Interactive Treat Dispenser easily attaches to our wall and can be filled with your cat's favourite snacks. Teach your cat to bat or tug on the feathery cat toy hanging down to release a rewarding cat treat. This is perfect for cats who get bored when they are home alone.
Best Cat Puzzle Mats
Puzzle mats, often called foraging mats, are a type of cat puzzle feeder, but we put them in a class of their own. Designs can vary from simple foraging mats to full-on playmats, and they trigger your cat's natural foraging instincts. Cat puzzle mats can be used with treats or dry food, do they are technically both a puzzle feeder and a puzzle treater.
Cat puzzle mats are less common than they should be because they are a versatile toy and activity puzzle all in one.
DIY Cat Foraging Mat
A really fun foraging puzzle option is a snuffle mat. There are many kinds of playmats and puzzle mats for cats, but snuffle mats are one of the easiest and most versatile options to make at home.
A snuffle mat is a small play mat with strips of fabric bunched together that you can hide treats or food in. Your cat will have to use her nose to find the treats and dig them out of the mat.
The materials you use can be flexible, based on what you have on hand. Fleece is a popular fabric for a snuffle mat, but tougher materials like denim can be used to make a more durable snuffle mat.
Check out this easy DIY Snuffle Mat from The Honest Kitchen to learn how to make your own.
Best Cat Puzzle Toys
Cats love to play, but they are often picky about how. Fetch and other well-known dog games are unlikely to keep your cats attention, and even though many cat toys are laced with catnip to encourage your cat to play, for some cats it’s simply not enough.
You can buy all the cat's toys you want, but if your cat doesn’t know how to play with them, or isn’t interested in playing with them, then you are just wasting your money.
Cat puzzle toys are a great way to encourage your kitty to play in a way that is mentally stimulating, which can reduce anxiety, boredom, and even aggressive behaviours. They are especially helpful for cats that need to learn to entertain themselves when they are alone or when you are not able to give them one-on-one attention.
Check out of few of the best cat puzzles:
Catit Play Treat Puzzle
This popular puzzle allows you to treat or feed your cat in a way that makes her paw, nudge and lick the different surfaces of the tray. Each area of the Catit Play Treat Puzzle is different and your cat will have to learn how to forage from the different sections. You can practice on one area at a time or spread food across the whole mat to really engage your cat.
The Flipo Bat-A-Ball is a simple way to introduce your kitty to puzzle toys. This beginner puzzle toy is great for young kittens and senior pets to build their problem-solving skills. Put small, high-value treats in the tray and cover them up with the wooden balls. Your cat can use her paws or nose to move the balls and uncover the tasty snacks.
PetStages Puzzle & Play Cat Games
A good cat puzzle game will have a bit of a learning curve. The point is to encourage your cat to learn new skills and engage their natural foraging instincts. PetStages Puzzle & Play Cat games offer varying degrees of difficulty to keep your cat engaged and mentally stimulated.
All three Puzzle & Play Cat Games hold up to ¼ cup of dry cat food, so they can be used as a fun slow feeder tool or can be filled with your cat’s favourite high-value treats. They have two levels of difficulty depending on where you hide the treats to keep your cat learning as she plays.
Take a look at the different games you can choose from:
DIY Cat Puzzle Toys
Before you spend a bunch of money on puzzle toys for your cat, why not try out a simple DIY cat puzzle toy to test the waters? This toy won’t be as sturdy or cute as the store-bought recommendations above, but it can help you teach your cat how to use puzzle toys and discover what kind of puzzles your cat likes best.
DIY Cat Puzzle Box
Looking for another fun and budget-friendly option to keep your cat busy and stimulated? You'll need a shallow cardboard box with a lid.
Cut several 2 inch wide holes in the top of the box. You want the holes to be large enough for your cat to insert their paws, but not large enough for them to put their head in the hole.
This option is great for cats that love toys because you can toss in several small cat toys and a little sprinkle of catnip. Show your kitty the box and make sure she sees the toys inside. Encourage her to dig in the holes to try to reach the toys. Stick to toys that make have a bell or make crinkly noises to keep your cats attention.
Keep Your Cat Guessing
Mental stimulation is an important part of your cat's daily routine. Whether your cat is already a puzzle toy aficionado or just a beginner, offering a variety of puzzle and brain games will prevent her from getting bored and losing interest in daily activities.
Having more than one type of cat puzzle toy allows you to switch up your cat's activities. Try different rewards if you find your cat losing interest. In place of food, you can mix in a high-value treat or two. If your cat is a toy-aholic, then include small cat toys or some catnip to your puzzles to increase the excitement of the game.
Does your cat like cat puzzle toys and feeders? Share your cat's favourite puzzle games in the comments below!