The Best Puzzles to Unleash Your Cat’s Inner Einstein

Genius takes many forms. Could your cat be one?

by Katherine Tolford
March 31, 2021
cat playing with puzzle toy

Sign up for The Wildest newsletter for updates

You’ve probably heard of dogs that can sniff out cancer and learn the alphabet. To which your cat might scoff Academia is beneath me! and resume self-preening and an air of general aloofness. But according to certified cat behaviorist Ingrid Johnson, your cat is constantly strategizing and — go figure — could be bored. “It’s hard to take the hunt out of them, she says. “It’s an innate need. They don’t even have to be hungry to hunt and we give them a big bowl of food, which provides no mental stimulation and no problem solving.”

Don’t feel bad — you’re about to splurge on a bunch of interactive cat toys and engaging cat food puzzles that even the softest-skilled kitty can master. In a research paper published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, Johnson wrote that foraging for food tames cat aggression and other roguish behavior. Cat food puzzles in particular can resolve litter box avoidance issues, cut down on overgrooming, curb anxiety, and keep their diet in check. “Their stomach is the size of a ping-pong ball,” she says. “Puzzle feeders are a happy medium between strict feeding and allowing your cat to gorge and be 22 pounds: they can turn a three-minute meal into a 30-minute meal.”

“People tend to buy what’s cute,” Johnson adds. Guilty! “It’s important to pay attention to the challenge level. Start with an easy toy and drive behavior by using novel food.” Some will pick it up faster than others, so if that means your cat needs a demo, don’t judge them. You probably didn’t set your Sudoku record on the first attempt.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

Related articles

Katherine Tolford

Katherine Tolford writes about the pet industry and veterinary medicine. Her work, which has appeared on PetMD, Chewy, and Floof, has helped pet parents better understand their pets’ health. She’s also a pet parent to Milo, a loud-mouthed tuxedo cat, who likes to attempt backwards somersaults on the couch.