While looking online or in pet stores for goodies for your furry children, you’ve probably come across some really, really weird things. Like that cat bed that looks like an over-sized fur-lined Croc shoe and the dog muzzle that looks like a duckbill. But let’s be real – it’s just a bed and it’s just a muzzle. Your pet doesn’t get more enjoyment out of it because of how it looks (that’s just for us because c’mon, those duckbill muzzles are hilarious).
Believe it or not, some of these goofy looking pet products have an actual purpose and benefits that your pet will actually be able to pick up on.
Dog owners are already familiar with treat dispensing toys. How many different types of KONGs are out there? Fill ’em up with treats, peanut butter, or even doggie toothpaste and let your pup have at it! Depending on the dog and the contents, this could mean hours of entertainment for your pup! KONGs aren’t the only ones, either. A quick search for “dog treat toys” brings up pages and pages of results. We even have some here in clinic from Planet Dog that our boarders love to use. Toys likes these are important for your pup. Not only can they help with separation anxiety when you’re away, but they offer mental stimulation and environmental enrichment as well.
That’s great for treats, but what about full meals?
Slow Down Bowls and other slow down feeders take this same idea and apply to it meal time. How often does your dog inhale their dinner without even chewing it? Or maybe they eat it too fast and throw it up a few minutes later? Does one dog inhale their food and then try to take food from the other dog?
Making your dog take their time with their food is important for numerous reasons. They can choke or aspirate on the food, have other GI issues such as gas or vomiting, or they can bloat (which is an extremely dangerous condition and can be fatal). Going through their food too quickly can also leave them feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. And we all know how hard it is to ignore a pet that is begging for more food – just look at the statistics for obese animals in the United States.
Eating too fast can also keep them from receiving the full benefits of their diets. For example, the Royal Canin Dental Diet (for cats and dogs) is designed to be chewed multiple times before breaking, therefore “brushing” their teeth while they eat. Swallowing the food whole completely negates that benefit.
Wet food, dry food, raw diet, homemade… it doesn’t matter! Slow down bowls and feeders work for every kind of pet food. Of course, some may work better for wet food than others. With so many different shapes and sizes out there, you should be able to find one that works for you and your pet.
When looking for a slow down feeder for your pup – you need to consider a few things.
1) How large of a bowl do you need? – Pay attention to your pup’s portions and make sure you get a bowl that’s appropriately sized. One that’s too small isn’t going to help your dog much because the food will just cover the prongs or spill out and one that’s too big won’t be much of a challenge. Bowl size is also based off of what kind of dog you have. For example, a Pug wouldn’t use the same size bowl as a Boxer.
2) Does this shape work with my dog’s snout? – Dogs with longer snouts are going to need feeders with larger prongs for them to navigate. On the other hand, smooshed face dogs would need shorter prongs, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get the food out.
3) Can my dog flip it over and spill the food everywhere? – Most slow down bowls have non-slip bases. Be sure to get one if your pup likes to throw their bowls around!
4) Is it easy to clean? – With all of the nooks and crannies of these bowls and feeders, you need to be sure that you’re able to keep it clean. There are dishwasher safe ones, but be sure to check it afterwards for any leftovers. Especially if you’re feeding a wet diet – that stuff can be pretty stubborn when it dries! Clean them on a regular basis as well – leftover food can attract bugs and gives mold a place to hangout.
What about our feline friends?
Cats need to have the environmental enrichment with their toys, bedding, and scratching posts. Cats are also hunters. That is what they’re wired to do. You know that bobcats and mountain lions hunt, but our indoor cats have that instinct to hunt, too. Yes, even the lazy cats. We’ve all seen it – your cat is crouched down and doing that goofy butt wiggle, ready to get that mosquito hawk that made a grave mistake by coming into your cat’s domain. Maybe you’ve even received a “gift” from your cat in the form of a half-eaten lizard. Yes, it’s gross, but that just means that your cat loves you and doesn’t want you to starve because you’re terrible hunter.
There’s no shortage of interactive cat toys to help fulfill their need to hunt (seriously, just look up “automatic cat toys” online and you’ll have enough content to browse through to last for hours). But treat toys hit that need differently because they contain food. The hunt isn’t simply for fun now, they’re going to actually get something to eat out of it. There are so many different kinds out there, you should have no issue finding one that works for your cat. Depending on the size of the treat toy, you may be able to use it for full meals. Using this method can help your indoor kitty get some additional exercise, which is especially great for overweight cats.
However, if your house is prone to having ants or other bugs, moving treat toys may not be the best option since they can leave crumbs and small pieces of food all over your floors. Otherwise you need to be sure to sweep up after using them. Most moving treat toys work gets on hard floors, like wood or tile. They can work on carpet, but it depends on how thick it is. You would definitely need to vacuum afterwards if used in carpeted areas.
But what about with their real food?
Maybe your cat is fine with having food simply presented to them in a bowl, or left out in an automatic feeder. Or maybe your cat is a complete pig and eats their food waaaaay to fast, only to throw it up a few minutes later. There are all sorts of ways to make meal time fun time for your feline friends.
Puzzle Feeders are meant for full meal portions and they provide a different kind of challenge for your cat. Your cat can’t just sick their head in the bowl and inhale the food (which can lead to vomiting or aspiration). Your cat will have to actually stop and think about how to get the food out. Some puzzle feeders have covered holes that the food goes in and your cat has to uncover the food before eating. Others have food that’s released when part of the puzzle is rotated from them pawing at it.
Know that your cat will refuse to do a puzzle to get to their food? Not to worry! There are smaller sized slow down bowls and feeders for cats, too. Similar to the dog ones, these have raised ridges or shapes to space the food out. You’ll find that some are better for wet food than others as well. The same tips above apply to finding the right bowl or feeder for your cat. For example, smooshy faced Persians would need a bowl or feeder with shorter prongs.
Not sure where to start? That’s fine! Ask your veterinarian or their staff for suggestions! Here at TLC, several staff members have used these methods with their own pets at home. We’ve even used some for our own Clinic Cats!
By: Ashley Elliott & Mariah Lamb