Feline Environmental Enrichment Part 2: The Hunting Instinct is How Cats Feed their Body and Spirit.
OK, guys. This one is my favorite topic.
At the heart and soul of every cat is a hunter. Nature made cats that way. It is as simple as that.
Acknowledging this does not mean that your beautiful, sweet cat is going to become a vicious attack cat. Quite the contrary: if you provide an outlet for your cat to fulfill his or her natural instincts, your cat will be healthier both mentally and physically. When cats lack an outlet for this normal behavior, they can redirect this pent up energy into less desirable behaviors.
We keep our cats inside, because it means our cats will live longer and suffer from fewer diseases. An indoor cat has an average lifespan of 12 to 20 years, whereas an outdoor cat has a lifespan of 1 to 5 years. That’s a huge difference.
Keeping your cat inside means he or she will be safe from many diseases, predators, fights and man-made hazards like cars. In addition, it’s safer for the neighborhood wildlife—you won’t find that pretty robin lifeless on your front porch. But by bringing cats inside, we have denied them their very reason for being--hunting.
I get pretty passionate about this, because when you understand how important hunting is to the essence of our cats, you will realize that removing the possibility for them to hunt causes lots of problems. Not every cat can express this loss, but make no mistake; your cat—even one who has spent his or her entire life indoors—misses it. With some cats, this loss is obvious. You may see outwardly destructive behavior such as excessive clawing of furniture, over-grooming, “scarf and barf” or urinating outside of the litter box.
We give our cats a big bowl of food because we love them and are trying to make them happy. Without knowing it, we are making a big mistake. For the answers on how to best feed our cats, I always look to nature.
So, let's talk about the natural life of the cat.
In the wild, cats will hunt between 9 and 20 times a DAY! They hunt day and night. These meals are typically the edible contents of a bird or mouse, which is about 1-2 tablespoons. This ingrained behavior is why many cat owners find their cats want to be feed several times a day, and wake them up to eat in the night.
The natural cycle of an outdoor cat’s day is hunting, eating, grooming and then resting over and over, 24 hours a day. We change this natural activity when we bring our cats indoors. We remove their natural state of being. It stands to reason that this causes problems.
Make no mistake. I am not advocating putting your cat back outside. I am in complete agreement with the AAFP (American Association Feline Practitioners) recommendation that suburban and urban cats should live indoors only. But the story does not end here. We must recognize that indoor cats still have the instinct to hunt.
When you think about it, all cat lovers already know this and are trying to do our best with what is currently available. We replace this hunting need with toys, like fishing pole and laser toys. While these things help, they miss the mark.
Cats need to get exercise by moving around and hunting. When they "capture" their prey, they want to play with it and, to complete the cycle, they need the food reward of a small meal (about 1-2 tablespoons.) Cats need to repeat this cycle many times a day.
Veterinarians and behaviorists have known this for decades. Until now, there has been no way to create a safe, clean portion controlled home hunting system that would stimulate and fulfill your cat. With the help of feline behaviorists, and nutritionists I have created the The NoBowl Feeding System, the only indoor hunting system for cats.
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