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Pet Puzzles: Keeping Your Cat or Dog Mentally Stimulated

written by Ellie Walker

Our pets are happiest when their minds are kept active throughout the day. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to keep your pet mentally stimulated, look no further than pet puzzles. The benefits of puzzle toys are endless, but one of the biggest reasons why they’re so popular is that they allow our furry friends to engage their problem-solving skills and prevent boredom.

What are the benefits of pet puzzles?

Interactive puzzles not only help to keep your pet mentally stimulated, but they can also help to strengthen the bond the two of you share:

  • Cognitive stimulation: Interactive toys often require pets to figure out how to solve a puzzle to access treats. This engages their problem-solving skills as well as stimulates their sense of sight, smell, and touch

  • Physical activity: Puzzles also require pets to move, paw, or manipulate objects to access tasty treats. This promotes physical activity and keeps pets physically engaged while solving the puzzle.

  • Slow feeding: Interactive puzzle feeders are also great for actively slowing down speedy eaters. Making them work to access their meals not only keeps their mind active but it also prevents rapid eating and aids in digestion.

  • Bonding and social interaction: Interactive toys can be used as a tool for bonding and strengthening the relationship you have with your fur baby. After watching you hide treats inside the puzzle, your pet must figure out how to access the treats. This cooperative play strengthens the bond you share and provides an activity you can enjoy together.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits of incorporating puzzle toys into your pet’s daily routine.

Our favorite pet puzzles for dogs

With so many pet puzzle toys available, it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve put together a short list of popular options that will help you start to narrow down which sorts of puzzles your dog finds most engaging.

  • West Paw Toppl® Treat Dispensing Toy: This customizable puzzle toy is designed to be filled with your pup’s favorite treats, such as Dognation® Chicken Treats. The toy’s soft, rounded inner 'teeth' hold treats in place until your dog nudges them out and for an extra challenge, you can also connect different sizes of the toy together to create a new design.

  • Frisco Flying Saucer Hide & Seek Puzzle: The majority of puzzle toys are made out of hard plastic, but if your pup prefers soft toys then this flying saucer hide and seek toy is a great option. After you hide the treats inside the saucer, the six plush aliens – each of which contains a squeaker – can be used to fill the holes. Your pup then has to work out how to remove the aliens to access the treats.

  • TRIXIE Turn Around Strategy Game: This chemistry-lab inspired puzzle toy requires dogs to flip and balance beakers to release treats through holes in the lid. You can mix and match six different lids to increase or decrease the levels of difficulty, so you don’t have to worry about your pup mastering it too quickly.

Our favorite pet puzzles for cats

Cats enjoy puzzle toys as much as dogs, although the reason why may differ slightly. Cats have a strong prey drive, and puzzle toys can mimic the hunting experience they would get in the wild.

  • ALL FOR PAWS AFP Interactive Cat Treat Dispenser: To access the treats inside this toy, your cat needs to learn how to pull on the feather and ball attached to the container’s cover. This interactive treat dispenser can be attached to any table, making it easy to move from location to location to keep things interesting for your cat.

  • Doc & Phoebe's Interactive Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder: This award-winning feeding system contains five individual ‘mice’ which you can fill with food and hide around your house. It puts your cat’s mind to work, as they need to use all of their senses to locate the treat-filled ‘mice’. The best part about this puzzle feeder is that it sticks to your cat’s natural rhythm of hunting, catching, then eating their food.

  • Catit Senses 2.0 Digger Interactive Cat Toy: This digger puzzle toy is developed to activate your cat’s senses, encouraging them to use sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing to stimulate their instincts indoors. While it’s designed primarily for treats, you can also place small toys inside the tubes for your cat to fish out.

  • AWOOF Cat Mat: This mat may just look like a cozy place for your cat to curl up, but it actually has multiple functions. On one side of the mat is soft faux fur, but on the back is a durable cotton featuring seven individual pockets that are perfect for hiding food. Your cat will have a blast trying to figure out how to open the pockets and fish out the treats!

We hope that you now have a better idea of how to keep your pet mentally stimulated by using puzzle toys. If your cat or dog has a favorite puzzle toy we didn’t include in our list, share it in the comments for other pet parents to see!

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