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This Plush Carrot-Puzzle Toy Will Satiate Your Food-Motivated Cat

Finally, something engaging to distract them from...real food.

by Charles Manning
December 29, 2022
cat with interactive carrot puzzle toy
Courtesy of The Mellow Dog

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

Does your cat drive you up the wall in the hours leading up to feeding time? Do they whine and groan and paw at you like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver? As I write this, my own cat, Pumpkin, is doing everything he can to move his feeding time up 30 minutes — alternating between affection, ear-splitting screeches, and attempts to sit on my keyboard as I type. When those things inevitably fail, he will get in my eye line and swoon dramatically or climb under the table and start (gently) scratching at my legs. If he’s really desperate, he will eat dirt out of one of the nearby planters and then vomit it up next to me. If that scene I just painted didn’t make it clear, Pumpkin is very much a food-motivated cat, and the hours leading up to feeding time are always his most active.

This is also the best time of day to engage Pumpkin (or any cat) in play, because, for domestic cats, play is often analogous to hunting and tied intrinsically to hunger. “In the wild, feral cats spend up to 50 percent of their day hunting, and many of those same actions and behaviors are also seen during play,” says cat behaviorist and The Wildest Expert Collective member Cristin Tamburo, who recommends playing with your cat at least twice a day, for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Pumpkin loves a good play session with his wand toy, and Tamburo, for her part, encourages human interaction in play to help stimulate the bond between a cat and their person. But sometimes I just don’t have it in me. That’s when I turn to puzzle toys, which can occupy and stimulate Pumpkin without my involvement (at least beyond the initial set-up).

The Carrot Farm for cats is a great example. Place a little of your cat’s kibble or some of their favorite treats in the “soil,” and then cover them with the carrots. Your cat will smell the hidden treats and start rooting around, eventually realizing they have to remove the carrots to access their reward. You can hide a treat under every carrot or only under some to keep your cat guessing. It’s a great way to stave off boredom in cats, which can lead to behavioral issues, anxiety, and depression.

The “soil” is machine washable and zips off for easy cleaning. The whole thing is nice and soft, so it’s safe and won’t make a lot of noise as it gets pushed around on the floor by more active felines.

When introducing this or any new toy to your cat, remember to go slow. Unbox the toy, and set it in an open space for a few days so your cat can get used to it. If you try to force them to interact with it right away, you could end up accidentally turning them off of it completely. Let them familiarize themselves with it on their own terms first. Once they are comfortable, you can start hiding treats in the soil and watch them go nuts. They’ll love it.

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Charles Manning

Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.