Why Shouldn't I Feed My Pet in a Bowl?

The “b” in bowl stands for boring! Stop feeding your pet in a bowl and instead use one of these quick and easy tricks that simultaneously feeds your pet and stimulates their brain.

Your pet is a living, breathing animal that relies on you for food, water, shelter, play time, potty breaks, and more! Taking care of your pet’s mental enrichment is another important part of being a pet guardian.

Dogs and cats that get enough mental and physical exercise are going to be happier, healthier, and less likely to have behavioral issues down the road.

Creative Feeding is Enrichment!

Enrichment is adding something to your pet’s life that makes it more interesting. The enrichment ideas below only take a few minutes on your end. Plus, they will get your pet’s brain juices flowing while completing an everyday task that is usually mindless—like eating!

Puzzle Feeders

You can buy puzzle feeders for dogs and cats at your local pet supply store or on Amazon. Puzzle feeders help your pet pace themselves while they eat by requiring them to navigate around grooves, dents, and maze-like features.

Don’t have a puzzle feeder? Not to worry! You can place a tennis ball or two in the middle of your dog’s food dish so he is forced to knock the ball around to get the food underneath. This quick trick spices up that boring bowl and works his brain!

Recyclable Enrichment Feeders

Another trick is reusing materials you can find in your own home! This includes cereal and snack boxes, egg cartons, a cutting board, or even an old rug. All these items can be repurposed to feed your pet and change up their boring old bowl.

Most cats are free feeders with dry food and only eat when they are hungry without engorging their food. However, when it comes to wet food, that can be a different story. SPCA of NN alumni Xena (pictured left) is a speed eater, so in an effort to slow her down her wet food was served in an old egg carton. This DIY puzzle feeder is a great alternative to it’s pricey counterpart and works like a charm all the same! 

An egg carton is great for dogs, too. Using dry or wet food, put a tennis ball on top and you’ve got another little added challenge as your dog has to knock the tennis ball around to get to the kibble underneath.

Rugs for Treats

Have a shaggy old bath rug? It is perfect for feeding your dog his dry food. He’ll have to explore all the nooks and crevices of the fabric to locate pieces of kibble. What may have taken him 30 seconds before may take him five minutes or longer! This can also be a great game for cats using yummy treats.

Don’t have a fluffy rug? Don’t fret! You can also feed your dog their dry food by scattering it across the floor of your garage, backyard, or kitchen. You can do the same for your cat with a few of his favorite treats.

To-Do Boxes

Your dog will love you forever if you make the a to-do box. You will need a cardboard box that could fit your dog. You can use an Amazon box, cereal box, snack box, or any other box you would otherwise toss out. Fill the box with peanut butter by smearing it on the insides, then throw in their dry food. You can also add some wet food, a hot dog or another meaty treat, and then toss it to your dog! 

It is best to feed this to your dog in the garage or in the backyard as it can get messy. It will take your dog time to work though the flaps on the box, eat everything inside, and then lick all the peanut butter off the sides. Not only is it yummy but it is like a “brain game” for them to figure out how to get to all the deliciousness, and much more fun than a boring old bowl. Some might tear the box up, others will knock it around until the food falls out, and some will just stick their muzzles inside and start licking away. 

Monitor them while they eat but don’t worry if they consume some cardboard, it can be digested.

Licki Mats

Licki mats can be purchased at your local pet supply store or on Amazon. Licki mats are great because they are designed to not only slow your pet down while eating but they have proven to be therapeutic as well!

For dogs, smear peanut butter on first and then stick small treats on top. For cats (and dogs), smear their wet food on first and then sprinkle treats or kibble on top. 

Cutting Boards as Licki Mats

If you don’t have a licki mat, use a plastic cutting board (not wood)! This can be used for a meal or a snack. Smear as much peanut butter as you would like all over one side of the board and then sprinkle their dry food or a few treats all over the peanut butter. Then, place the board on the floor and watch your dog enjoy! For an added challenge, hang the cutting board using the slit at the top on a wall or on a fence so that as your dog eats the cutting board moves and swings. 

With cats, instead of peanut butter, smear your cat’s wet food all over the cutting board and maybe add a treat or two so they will have to lick their way through it.

Frisbee Treats

For your dogs, smear peanut butter on the inside of an old frisbee and either add some delicious treats on top or your dog’s dry food. Why is a frisbee better than a bowl you ask? Put it down on tile or hardwood and it’ll slip and slide as they eat! For an added challenge punch a hole in the top of the frisbee and hang the frisbee from a wall or fence and watch your dog work to get every last lick of peanut butter as it swings.

For cats, smear their wet food all over the inside of the frisbee and place it on hardwood or tile. Sprinkle a few treats on top if you want! Watch them lick away and shift all over the floor as they try and lick every drop. 

If you don’t have a frisbee, try a Tupperware lid!

*Pro Tip: For the licki mats, cutting board, and frisbee tricks try putting them in the freezer for an hour or two after smearing them with yumminess and before giving them to your pet for an added time-consuming challenge.


Written by Nayla Garcia

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