Sally Bahner on April 13, 2011
Thanks to Cat Writers’ Association colleague and Conscious Cat host Ingrid King, my cats have been indoctrinated into the muffin tin game. Ingrid picked up the idea from Liz Palika, another CWA member, who has used it for her dogs. For the canine version, treats are placed in the muffin tin, then covered over with tennis balls. For the feline version, the treats are covered by toys.
Ingrid filmed her kitty Allegra hard at work foraging for the treats.
Foraging toys are becoming increasingly popular for both cats and dogs. They’re intellectually stimulating and make the animal “work” for their food. For cats, it stimulates their prey drive, especially indoor cats who may be prone to boredom, which in turn can lead to undesirable behaviors.
For cats, you can used freeze-dried treats such as Halo Live-a-Littles, small crunchy dental treats, or dry food (probably, the only time I’d recommend feeding dry food). Since I have four cats, I used a 12-cup muffin tin, placed three or four small treats in the bottom, then rounded up a dozen toys scattered around the house. (Given the rattle of the package, the gang had to be locked out while I prepared for their Big Event).
The interest was intense and immediate. In the past I used a small plastic treat ball and a large Kong version, but they were almost too easy. This required some work.
Pulitzer is extremely food oriented and can be a bit of a klutz, but he quickly figured things out. Mollie, the baby of the family, was gung ho and, in her eagerness, even swatted Pully and Tekla. Dusty, our 16-year-old, jumped right in, and Tekla, who is a bit of a sensitive soul, also got in the mix though she was a little intimidated by all the activity. (I made sure she had first crack at Round Two.)
The best part of the game is that it uses materials already on hand – who doesn’t have half-a-dozen toys littering the living room, an unused muffin tin and some dry food or treats? (Other options for foraging toys include empty t-paper rolls or plastic bottles with holes punched in them.)
Needless to say the muffin tin game is a hit. I’m sure with the cats’ ability to train me, it will become part of their routine. Sally E. Bahner has been a writer and editor for more than 30 years and has spent the last 15 years specializing in cat-related issues. She is also a feline behavior and care consultant, and gives talks and classes on cat care. She is the cat expert and a contributor to Pets Press, a Connecticut-based pet newspaper; a columnist since 1997; and was the founding editor-in-chief of The Whole Cat Journal. She is also a contributor to the Branford Eagle, an online newspaper; Feline Wellness; and Koushka Kourant, a publication devoted to Russian Blue cats based in the Netherlands. Her web site is http://exclusivelycats.wordpress.com. Photo Credit: silgeo