Things We Love: Food Dispensing Toys
February 13, 2015
One of the challenges of owning pets is keeping them busy, both mentally and physically. Weather, work schedules, and family commitments can conspire against us to make setting time aside for exercise, play, and training challenging.
One easy way to use mealtime as an opportunity for a stimulating, engaging experience is to utilize food dispensing toys. Available for both dogs and cats, these toys are designed to make our pets problem-solve and work for a meal instead of simply eating out of a bowl. Typically, they have a chamber that is filled with dry food and an opening that will allow just a few pieces of food at a time to fall out when the toy is manipulated into a certain position. This encourages pets to push, bat, and otherwise move the toy and engages them physically and mentally. It is also a good way to slow down a pet who bolts or gorges their food very quickly, as it can take 20-60 minutes for a pet to completely get their meal out of the toy. Puppies and kittens can burn off a lot of energy using them for meals, and are usually very enthusiastic about them.
My favorite dog food dispensing toy is the Kong Wobbler, pictured above. Available in two sizes, it has a weighted base that makes it difficult for a dog to simply tip it over and roll it around and is made of very durable plastic that has stood up to my worst toy-destroying dog, Squash. The less food in the chamber, the harder it is to get it out, so even dogs who quickly figure out how to use it generally stay engaged until it is completely empty.
Here is Squash working on getting a meal out of his Wobbler.
For cats, the Kong Active Treat Ball serves a similar purpose. This toy is not a smooth ball, making its movement somewhat irregular. This means it has to be batted around quite a bit in order to empty an entire meal from the ball.
As with any toy, supervise your pet when introducing any food dispensing toy. Some dogs and cats catch on to the game right away, while others may take some time to understand what they have to do. If your pet doesn’t seem to “get it,” roll the toy around for them a little bit so some food falls out. You may need to let them try it several times before some pets learn how to use it.
If you have multiple pets, use caution when using these toys as some pets may guard or fight over them. You can still use food dispensing toys with these pets but they should be physically separated (baby gates, closed doors) until they are done and the toys put away in an inaccessible place between meals.