Feeding Cats From Cat Food Bowls Can Actually Cause Behavioral Issues
Dr. Bales would come out of feline lectures at veterinary conferences armed with information on the link between feeding and behavior/medical issues. Like her peers, she felt frustrated as to how to use that knowledge to better the lives of indoor cats.
The No. 1 cause of death in cats is euthanasia, and the No. 1 cause of euthanasia is cats being surrendered to shelters, predominately because of behavior problems, she said. We now know about the need for environmental enrichment, and giving cats back their natural feeding behaviors in the home is a great start.
Dr. Bales is a key player in the growing catvocate movement committed to providing safe, healthy and engaging lives for indoor cats. She is educating pet parents, shelter groups and pet professionals about supporting a cats seeking circuit mentality to hunt for food, play with the food, kill it and then eat it. During this circuit, the brain releases dopamine, which heightens a cats arousal and triggers a feeling of happy anticipation rewarded by finding and eating the found food.
She points to a recent Norwegian study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery that concluded that cats want to be in charge of their feeding schedule.
Cats spend 60 to 80 percent of their waking hours looking for prey, she said. We are depriving our indoor cats of their innate need to hunt and catch their prey by feeding them in bowls.
Reason : Theyre Honing Their Skills
Even an indoor sheltered kitty with little to no experience with live prey loves hunting. As RSPCA points out cats have a natural predatory instinct so they enjoy toys that encourage them to chase and pounce.
This everyday play whether its done by an outside cat with rodents or birds or an indoor kitty with toys is partly for their entertainment, but its also a continuous training in order for them to stay alert and fit. In other words, cats never stop hunting, and so theyve developed different approaches depending on their prey.
According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, cats have different hunting preferences. While some enjoy the challenge of difficult prey, others will go for the easy kill. So, if you find your kitty catching prey and then letting it go only to catch it for the hundredth time its probably because theyre trying different approaches, or theyre not so sure about their skills so theyre trying to test their abilities.
Its also worth mentioning that while cats do experience pleasure when they hunt and play with their prey, its not appropriate to humanize that emotion. A cats hunting behavior doesnt come from a place of cruelty but survival. In order for them to repeat the hunting experience each time they see available prey, their brain has to see it as a positive mental stimulation, otherwise, they wouldnt get enough motivation to hunt.
Because Its Uncomfortable To Drink From Their Bowl Due To Whisker Fatigue
Cats who drink from their paws or find ways of spilling water to drink from the spillage even cats who lick bathtubs or showers after theyve become wet with use lots of cats seem to maybe want to drink in ways other than from their water bowls because of a disdain for their water bowls.
Cats can suffer from whisker fatigue, which makes sense because their whiskers are highly sensitive hairs.
If theyre bent for too long or at certain angles it can be uncomfortable enough for kitty to avoid a water bowl completely.
The simplest resolution to this issue if you think this is your cats dilemma? A whisker friendly cat bowl like the Dr. Catsby Food Bowl.
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What About Actual Prey
Cats dont just play with cat biscuits, of course. Many cat owners have had the disconcerting experience of finding a small, dead animal in their home. In the worst cases, the animal might not be dead yet.
Domestic cats also toy with animals they catch, and in fact, quite often, dont eat their prey at all. This is because there seems to be a disconnect between your cats hunger and its drive to hunt.
As weve established, the hunting behavior itself is not necessarily borne of hunger for domestic cats but is a product of boredom.
House cats will occasionally have the opportunity to actually hunt something rather than just play with their food. Obviously, this is great from a simulation point of view, but it doesnt change the fact that the cat is well-fed and does not need to look for alternative food sources.
Essentially, when your cat is playing with live pray that it has caught, it is doing the same thing that it does its biscuitsgetting that hunt-induced stimulation. Its unfortunate for the animal it catches, but go easy on your cat it literally doesnt know any better.
Getting Food Away From Water Is Important To Some Cats
In the wild, cats don’t like to eat near their water source. If it ends up there, they’ll often drag the food to another spot. That’s because evolution has taught them that their prey can contaminate their water. So, if you have the food and water bowls next to each other, some cats will drag the food to another spot to get it away from the water.
Move the food and water bowls to opposite sides of the room to see if this is the reason your cat engages in the behavior.
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With Love Cats Are More Like People Than Dogs
Cats do what pleases them and show affection to their owners on their own terms. Because of this, some say that cats are unattached, unaffectionate and unloving as evidence, they wont even come when called.
These people are comparing cats to dogs.
Think about one of the human relationships, where there is no question about love, such as between mother and child. When the child calls from another room, and mom is occupied, she may not even notice. If she does, shes most likely to call back, Just a minute! Unless she believes her child is in danger, shes not going to go bounding into the other room wildly excited to see what he wants. So coming when called is not a sign or test of love and devotion.
Or, a mother hugs and kisses her child, and the kid happily hugs and kisses back, and then squirms out of her arms. That doesnt mean the child is unaffectionate and detached it just means shes had enough affection for now. Cats, like people, have their boundaries.
Your Food Obsessed Cat May Have A Medical Condition
An underlying medical condition such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, parasites, or worms could be the culprit behind your cats ravenous appetite.
While an increase in appetite may be a simple response to boredom or stress, there are accompanying symptoms to look for that signify a more serious medical issue, such as:
- Increased thirst
- Dramatic Weight Gain
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Do Not Give Your Cat Medication That’s Meant For Humans Or For Dogs
Medications that are safe for humans and dogs can do more harm than good when administered to cats.
“Never give your cat any medication without first checking with your veterinarian. Some medications may be safe for us or even your dog but could be deadly for your cat. And it’s not just prescription medication over the counter medications can be just as deadly,” said MacPete.
For example, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in many painkillers for humans, is highly toxic to cats.
Why Do You Think Its Important To Encourage Cats To Hunt For Their Food And Offer Them Other Interactive Opportunities
Outdoor cats get lots of mental stimulation. They have prey to hunt, and hunting is very mentally stimulating. Also, both territorially or behaviorally, there are a lot of opportunities for their brains to be engaged outdoors.
Indoors, when a cat is surrounded by the same daily environment, he can get really bored. And some cats will respond to that boredom by sleeping. Then they wont get much daily exercise, which can lead to obesity. So, giving your cat an opportunity to hunt for his food gives him an activity he can do.
Other cats, especially younger cats, will try to create their own stimulation if theyre bored. And thats where your cats can get into trouble. Many people with bored cats say their cats like to get into things, they chew things, and they just generally do things theyre not supposed to do. Sometimes bored cats may just start bothering other cats for something to do, which causes general upheaval and discord.
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Cat Hunting Why Do Our Cat’s Still Hunt
Cat Hunting skills have never really been lost throughout the whole process of their domestication. Your kitty will still feel the need to go out and hunt birds, mice, frogs, in fact anything that is small enough to catch.
This is a puzzle to most people as they cant understand why cats continue to hunt, especially as we provide plentiful food and water for them.
Funnily enough it was the hunting skills that first endeared the feline population to humans in the first place.
Thousands of years ago when humans began to grow their own crops, mice and rats began to become a problem in the storing of these foodstuffs.
The cats ability to kill rodents with ease and their apparent acceptance of humans meant that they were welcomed into peoples homes.
So cat hunting was admired, in fact cats which were prolific hunters became very valuable animals and their off spring could be bought and sold for large sums of money.
Diy Cat Enrichment Toys
Its amazing what you can find in your home that can either be used as a toy or be made into something interactive. Cats are curious by nature, so its not uncommon to see them playing with something small that has fallen to the floor. In most cases, it doesnt even need to be on the floor to be enticing.
“My cats LOVE packing paper! Just toss a crumpled length of paper on the ground and cats will dive into and under it, rip it up, and roll around in it ,” says Koski.
Here are some of our favorite DIY cat enrichment toys:
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Stuffed Cat Catnip Toys
Not all cats respond to catnip, but if they do, you need to have several of these fishes floundering around the house. This cat toy set from Youngever comes with five fish and two mice. There’s a zipper pouch on the underbelly of the fish, making it super easy to refill with catnip, and they’re made with non-toxic materials.
The Effects Of Ageing
With increasing age, there are many changes to a cats physiology, behaviour and vulnerability to particular illnesses. Physiological changes include reduced ability to smell and taste food, reduced ability to digest fat and protein, reduced hearing, immune function, skin elasticity and stress tolerance.
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Is Hunting Always Motivated By Hunger
When cats feel hungry, like us, they are motivated to eat food. The motivation to hunt prey, however, is only partly related to hunger. This is because as a species that hunts alone cats rely solely on themselves to provide enough food. If cats were to wait until they were hungry before hunting they would run a high risk of starving to death due to the difficult nature of hunting and capturing prey. It is estimated that there is less than a fifty percent chance of success at each hunting attempt. Similarly, there may simply not be any prey available when a cat becomes hungry. As a result, cats have learnt to be opportunistic in their feeding, meaning that they will change their activity patterns depending on food availability. Therefore, if the opportunity to hunt presents itself a cat will partake in predatory behaviour, regardless of whether they are hungry or not at the time.
There is one area of a cats hunting behaviour that is linked to hunger and that is whether a cat kills the prey they have captured. Cats are far more likely to kill and consume the prey they capture if they are hungry at the point of hunting compared to if they had eaten well prior to hunting. This explains why many cats participate in hunting behaviour but do not necessarily kill or consume the prey they catch, instead bringing it home and leaving it.
If You Do Feed Wet Food Or Raw Food Are There Ways You Can Make Your Cat Hunt For Their Food
Cats have a natural daily cycle, where they instinctually hunt, eat, groom and sleep. For cats, its very straightforward. A cat catches a mouse, he eats the mouse, he cleans himself after eating, and then hell sleep. Once hes regained his energy, hell want to reproduce that cycle again. And a normal cat will follow this cycle several times each day.
An indoor cat is not going to have an opportunity to hunt a mouse. But play or any other physical activity triggers the same hunting mental response. Activity can stimulate appetite. Playing with your cat right before you feed him helps him believe that hes hunting his food. Then, when hes eating, its as if hes caught his meal.
Overweight or older cats may not like to play. So, try doing just five minutes of interactive play right before you feed them. Ideally, youd work up to ten minutes of play, and help encourage a routine of exercise before eating. And following that routine before every meal will trigger more engagement from your cat.
Cats like predictability, so your cat will come to expect playtime before meals once you start the habit. Its also a good way to try to curb a cats impulse to play when you dont want to play. If your cat is waking you up in the middle of the night to play, you can try to shift playtimes, so they take place before meals. If you want your cat to sleep all night, you play with him, and then you feed him. And that routine triggers his instinct to groom and go to sleep.
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Unless Your Veterinarian Has Given You A Medical Reason For Doing So Do Not Shave Your Cat
Although cats with lion-like haircuts are oftentimes pretty cute, Richter said shaving a cat isn’t exactly healthy.
“Cats’ hair helps them self-regulate their body temperature to remain warm in the winter and cool in the summer, so there is no reason to shave your cat. Shaving actually lessens their ability to regulate their own body temperature,” Richter told Insider.
There may be instances where your vet advises you to shave some or all of your cat’s fur for medical reasons, but it isn’t advisable to give your cat a closely cropped hairdo purely for aesthetics.
Gocat Da Bird Pull 2 Piece Pull Apart Rod & Bird
“When it comes to toys, my all-time favorite toy is the Da Bird wand toy!” says Dr. Koski. “Lures are easy to change so that you can keep things from getting boring, or find what type of prey your cat responds to best.”
Da Bird Feather Teaser simulates the motion of a bird. Set on a swivel, its feathers look, sound, and feel like real bird wings and will drive your cat nuts. This toy encourages instinctual behaviors and exercise to keep your cat healthy and alert.
Pro Tip: Play bird sounds on your phone while using this toy, or other similar ones. It’s great for cats to engage their sense of hearing while playing with toys that simulate birds. Click here for a great YouTube video of birds.
Turboscratcher Cat Toy
This 2-in-1 toy is great to put in different places around the house. Whether you have a cat that loves to play, just needs to scratch or both! Depending on your cat’s preferences, these can replace regular scratchpads .
Out of all of the toys, the Turboscratcher might not occupy your cat’s attention all day, but I feel it’s a great addition to enrich your cat’s home. It’s also a great enrichment option for senior kitties and cats with arthritis or other mobility issues.
Providing your cat with an appropriate scratching place can help prevent unwanted scratching on furniture around your home. Read more about how to stop unwanted scratching. Check out PV cat Rajah give a couple swipes on the Turboscratcher below:
Rajah loves catnip sprinkled on top
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How And Why Do Cats Catch Mice
Every cat is different. They instinctively stalk, hunt and catch mice because theyre easy, theyre the most nutritious and a mouses movements seem to trigger a cats hunting instincts.
Much like how we humans will put our hands under a blanket moving in quick jerky motions to get our cats attention.
So, it seems that cats innately have the hunting instinct to catch.
Now after the catch will they play or kill it?
Thats the question.
Below is a 10 minute video of an outdoor cat catching, playing then eating a mouse whole:
There are several reasons why cats will hunt and kill, but not always eat mice:
- In the wild, momma cats teach their kittens how to hunt for their food. Maybe your cats trying to teach you how to kill food.
- Cats seem to chase almost anything and sometimes playtime gets too rough where they kill.
- If your cat leaves little presents, it may be an offering or a sign of love.
Is it instinctual behaviors or lessons learned that our cats eat, catch or kill mice?
Researchers from Sciencing are studying saying these instinctual versus learned behaviors in cats are easily explained. But identified differently in nature.
Innate behaviors are ones the animal is born with theyre essentially hard-wired into the animals DNA. Learned behaviors are just that learned and animals will acquire them throughout life.
Much like when a kitten is born, they seek out momma to nurse. They seem to know what to do, theyre born knowing this is needed for survival.