Clever Ways to Keep Your Cat Active: Food Scavenger Hunts
Hiding treats around your home for a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your cat on her toes. She'll love searching for the surprise, and you'll have fun watching her "hunt". A scavenger hunt is also a cat activity that keeps your feline friend moving so she can maintain her mental and physical health.
Here are seven tips on how you can plan a fun cat scavenger hunt:
1. Her Mission
Choose what kind of hunt you want to do. You might consider dividing her normal food allotment into three or four bowls and setting them up in various places around the house. Another option is to design the scavenger hunt with individual pieces of food or treats, each given its own hiding place.
2. Start Simple
The idea of "hunting" for food can take your cat a while to call up in her arsenal of instincts. Start simple by placing treats in easy-to-see areas to help her associate the scent with the kibble she can already spot. This will give her the right idea.
3. Challenge Accepted
Once she seems like she's getting the concept, start making it a little more difficult. While she's watching, place the treat or small bowl of food in its hiding place. She may not be able to see it anymore, but she'll know you're up to something.
4. Set Her Up
Once she has the hang of the game, place her in another room while you hide her food or treats and then let her in to search. The real hunt begins!
5. Hide It Wisely
Try to be clever, but cautious, when hiding each prize. Some great places to consider: next to (or even inside) her toy, a higher shelf, in an empty box, or on her cat tree. Keep in mind you don't want to hide the treat or food somewhere you don't want her to be. For instance, it's wise to avoid a kitchen counter or a bookshelf with lots of breakable knick-knacks. And please never use a plastic bag, which can be a safety hazard.
6. There's a Time and a Place
Plan your hunt for your cat's regular mealtime or at a time of day when you know she's hungry. You should also make sure you're within sight of your furbaby during the hunt. Not only is it fun for you to watch her sniff out her dinner, but you want to stay close in case your cat gets frustrated, distracted, or picks something else up by accident.
It's also a good idea to document where you've hidden her kibble or treats. If she gets full or bored she may leave a few pieces of food uneaten. By remembering where you've placed each kibble you'll prevent finding them all of your house on your own spring cleaning scavenger hunt, as well as prevent her from eating old food that might have expired.
7. What to Hunt?
What kind of food should you use? Not every aspect of her meal should be left to playful discovery. You can use your cat's regular kibble, such as Hill's™ Science Diet™ cat food, but keep the things she takes because of a health condition to a basic serving routine. If you want to hide treats instead, make sure to keep them at a minimum to ensure you aren't spoiling her and causing her to put on a couple of extra pounds.
Don't Underestimate Her
Worried your cat won't be able to find the treats or kibble you put out for her? Don't be. A cat's nose contains about 200 million nerve cells, according to PAWS Chicago, which means her sense of smell is fourteen times more sensitive than your own.
If, however, your cat seems to be having a difficult time sniffing out her prizes, you can try a bowl of aromatic canned cat food such as Hill's Science Diet Adult Healthy Cuisine Roasted Chicken & Rice Medley, a product that combines the authentic flavors of roasted chicken and rice in a sauce her nose won't be able to ignore.
A scavenger hunt is a way to further build a bond with your cat. But it's also so much more; it's a cat activity that ensures your pet is staying active, smart, and curious about her surroundings.
Kara Murphy is a pet parent and freelance writer in Erie, Pa. She has an adorable cat named Olive.