“The thrill of the chase” comes to mind when thinking about cats. It’s the excitement they feel trying to find something, like a toy mouse (or a real rodent) scampering about the floor. Cats thrive on the thrill of the chase and when they don’t have that, they can get bored, lethargic, and overweight.
We have to remember that even though pet cats seem gentle and tame, many centuries ago they ran wild and they still have some of that wild nature in their blood.
Give a cat a mouse to chase and they couldn’t be happier. It’s quite healthy for a cat to chase and catch a mouse. If and when they do, they’ll present it to their owner as a present. They feel accomplished. It’s good for their sense of emotional well-being and physical accomplishment.
Perhaps we pet owners have made life too easy for today’s cats. They don’t have to hunt and catch their food. It’s put out in bowls for them on a daily basis. It’s plentiful. They can eat as much as they want. It’s no wonder, then, that some pet cats today are overweight.
Interestingly, some people are using “food puzzles” to challenge cats to get their food. This helps get them moving and thinking, so they have to do some work to eat. This is a good thing. Simple food puzzles can involve cups, tunnels and other shaped objects whereas a cat has to, for instance, move the puzzle around in order to get food to fall out through small holes. This challenge gives them a thrill and research published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms it: cats are happier and healthier if you make them work for their food.
Remember, cats were/are naturally predatory. In the old days they needed to hunt daily just to survive. Their instinct is to hunt, so human owners should afford them every chance to do just that.