Feline Environmental Enrichment Part 2: Hunting Is How Cats Feed Their Body and Spirit

OK, guys. This is my favorite topic.

At the heart and soul of every cat is a hunter. Nature made cats that way. Keeping cats as our pets doesn’t change their nature. It is as simple as that.

Acknowledging this does not mean that your beautiful, sweet cat is going to become a vicious attack cat. When cats lack an outlet for their normal hunting behavior, they can redirect their pent up need into undesirable behaviors, often with unhealthy consequences. As I will explain, the fix is surprisingly easy. If you provide an outlet for your cat to fulfill his or her natural hunting instincts that respect your cat’s natural hunting and eating cycle, your cat will be healthier both mentally and physically.

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 and it reason enough to keep them indoors.

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 am 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 them 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.

Every day we give our cats a big bowl of food because we love them and are trying to make them happy. That doesn’t happen in nature. Cats don’t encounter a single pile of healthy mice or birds just asking to be eaten at one time every day. So, by dumping food in a bowl once a day, without realizing it, we are making a big mistake that is harmful to a cat’s health and happiness.

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! Not every hunt is successful, but the meals are typically the edible contents of a bird or mouse, which is about 1-2 tablespoons. That is what cats want and and need to be happy and healthy. 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. Even if a cat cannot hunt, its nature is to hunt and eat several small meals throughout the day. The gorging of an entire bowl of food is quite common, but not healthy or normal for cats.

Let’s break down what nature intended. 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.

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. 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 poles and laser toys. While these things help and can be a good supplement, they don’t solve the nature problem. Not the least of which is that interactive cat toys depend on the owner to be available and willing and none end with a small meal that is necessary to complete the cat’s natural cycle.

Cats need to get exercise by moving around and hunting. When they "capture" their prey, they want to play with it with their claws and teeth 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.

Surprising as this may be to most cat owners, Veterinarians and behaviorists have known this for decades. Until now, there has been no 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 only indoor hunting system for cats. Here is what the Director of the Behavior Department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has to say about this.

Veterinary behaviorists know that feeding has a dual purpose for cats. It is not only a way to satisfy their energy need, but it also represents the main opportunity to satisfy their primary behavioral need to act as predators. Not having the possibility to satisfy this need may be physically and psychologically detrimental to a cat. Dr. Liz Bales (a Penn Vet grad!) has finally heard our cat’s’ voice and has created a feeding-system that, for the first time, considers their point of view on what a good meal is!
— Carlo Siracusa, DVM, MS, PhD, Dip. ACVB, Dip. ECAWBM

I have teamed up with people who can bring this to market and we are currently seeking support through Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding site for inventors and entrepreneurs. I know that you recognise the hardwired need to hunt in your cats and we will soon have better options available to enable them to satisfy this basic need.

The link to my Kickstarter Project is below if you would like to learn more about the project and support it coming to market.