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A survey of feeding practices and use of food puzzles in owners of domestic cats


OBJECTIVES:Food puzzles may provide enrichment to domestic cats. The purpose of our survey was to determine: (1) how respondents fed their cat (type[s] of food, amount and mode of delivery); (2) how many people used food puzzles to provide food for their cats; and (3) owner attitudes about food puzzles. METHODS:We conducted an online survey from January to April of 2018 to ask cat owners (n = 3192) questions related to their cat feeding practices and use of food puzzles. RESULTS:Most cat owners fed their cats dry food, with half of those owners offering it ad libitum. Thirty percent of participants offered food puzzles to their cats; another 18% had tried food puzzles but were no longer using them. The remaining participants had never used a food puzzle with their cat. Reasons for not using food puzzles included perceptions about the cat (eg, being too lazy), multiple pets in the home, pets fed different diets, health issues and feeding an exclusively wet food diet. Many participants did not know how to choose or introduce a food puzzle to their cat, and many non-users saw no need or benefit to their cat. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:This survey provided information about the feeding habits of cat owners and why they do and do not use food puzzles with their cats. Because of the scarcity of empirical evidence about the effects of food puzzles on pet cat welfare, more research is needed to determine the role of food puzzles as part of an overall enrichment plan.

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