April 06, 2013

The True Nature of Cats, Part 2

(This is the second post in a four-post series about what I learned at Purina ONE headquarters about The True Nature of Cats. You can read Part 1 here.)

Last week, I wrote about feeding cats. Something I learned that is closely related to feeding them is playing with them.

What we consider "play" is probably more like "work" to a cat. In nature, they have to work for their food--stalking, pouncing, and killing prey. It's an instinct that cats have, so they can't control that urge to stalk, pounce, and kill. I learned that I was playing with my cats all wrong!

I used to get a toy (usually something dangling at the end of a string) and I would dangle it in front of my cats and they would bat at it. Cats may find this a little entertaining, but once I started playing with my cats the way I was taught at Purina ONE, they went crazy for it! Even Chandler, who is SUPER lazy; I've never seen him so active as I have this past week.

In nature, a cat's prey doesn't jump around right in front of the cat, or dangle itself right in front of the cat's face. The prey tries to run and hide to get away from the cat. Meanwhile, the cat is watching very closely, and sneaking up on it, and, eventually, pouncing on it for the kill.

So the best way to play with your cat is to imitate the prey. Instead of dangling the toy in front of the cat, we can slowly drag the toy across the floor, turn corners, make it "crawl" up onto a table, etc. All of my cats (well, except Paolo--I think he may have problems with his vision) are obsessed with a particular toy that was included in the box Purina ONE sent me. Here is what it looks like:

It's a long skinny pole (like a fishing rod) with this feather thing hooked to it. The feathers are unique because when you "fly" the thing through the air, it actually kind of spins and looks similar to a bird. Rather than just dangle it in front of them, I use the pole to make the "bird" fly all over the room. The cats watch it very carefully, and once in a while when it swoops down, they leap in the air and try to grab it. I don't make it easy for them, because then it's not as fun for them. It's important to let them catch it before you put the toy away, though, so they have the satisfaction of getting their "kill".

I learned that the best time to play with the cats is right before they eat. In nature, the cats hunt and then eat, so that is what we should try to imitate. Play (hunt), catch the "prey", and then eat.

Another way you can get your cat to work for their food is by using a puzzle feeder. I'd never heard of these until I went to Purina ONE headquarters. There are lots of different types, but basically, they make your cat have to work a little bit to get the food out. Here are a couple of pictures of the ones that were included in the box from Purina ONE:

In the first one, with the little green cups, you put a few pieces of kibble inside each cup, and the cat has to reach in and grab a the food and pull it out. Estelle has been using this one a lot, and she does really well with it. Paolo watches her, and then tries to get the food that Estelle has gotten out--sneaky cat! ;)

The second picture is a white ceramic puzzle feeder. You put the dry kibble in through the hole in the top, and it spreads out on the bottom. The cats have to reach in through the sides to pull out a few pieces of food at a time. Phoebe prefers this one.

The third picture is a wobbler puzzle feeder--you put food or treats inside, and there is a little hole (just big enough to dispense a couple of pieces at a time) on the side. When the cat swats at the toy, and it tips on its side, some food may fall out. My cats haven't gotten the hang of this one yet, but Estelle ripped the fuzzy tail off the top of it, and she adores that part!

I haven't had any luck getting Chandler or Paolo to use the puzzle feeders. Chandler is too lazy and set in his ways, and Paolo is just too finicky and dependent. If he had his way, we'd be setting a place for him with candlelight and a silver platter ;)

So anyway, your cat's instincts make them want to work for their food--whether it's the stalking and "killing" before eating, or by using their brain to come up with ways to get the food out of a puzzle feeder. My cats have absolutely loved that I've been playing with them the "right" way, and they've gotten into a good routine now (play, eat, groom, sleep). It took about four days of craziness to get them used to it, but it's gotten much easier now, and I know they are happier.

Next week, I'll write about the best "natural" environment at home for our cats.

Now, the winner of last week's photo contest for the cat food...

I got nearly a hundred photos, and they were all fantastic--I've loved going through them! But I left the decision up to my boys. Noah and Eli both agreed on the winner:

This adorable kitty is Kiwi! Congrats, Kiwi, and I hope you enjoy your food from Purina ONE!

I realized last week that I looked at my coupons incorrectly. One was for dry food, the others are for wet food. So for this week's contest, to win a coupon for cans of wet food (Purina ONE Healthy Metabolism variety), please e-mail me a "playful" photo of your cat. You can interpret "playful" however you'd like. My e-mail address is SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Important: Use the subject "Playful Cat", to make sure it doesn't go to spam or get buried in other e-mail. I'll accept photos until Thursday, 4/11/13 at 4:00 PM.

Here is a rare picture of Paolo being playful. That's about as lively as he gets!
 Finally, the photos that everyone sent were SO ridiculously cute and/or funny that I just had to put them together in a video. :)  Enjoy!

You can check out more about The True Nature of Cats movement on Facebook and on the Purina ONE website.

(Disclaimer: Purina ONE covered my travel costs and provided me with a box of cat toys and food in exchange for my thoughts on the True Nature of Cats movement. I was not required to give a favorable opinion.)


  1. i'm not a cat person. i'm a dog person so this doesn't really interest me to be honest. kind of skipped reading it, no offense. But glad you learned more about your pets that is always a good thing. and maybe can teach other cat owners too which also a good thing. :)

  2. Very cute kitty that won. It hits a sore spot, my grandparent's cat was hit by a car and killed 2 days ago, it was the sweetest kitten, so playful. :(

  3. Loved reading this! I felt liked the kitty in the bowl at the end was my reward.

  4. I loved looking at the pictures of all the kitties! I can't even be sad that my kitty didn't win because they're all so cute!

  5. The winning kitty is adorable!! Kittens fall asleep in the funniest places.

  6. P.S. Just watched the video of the cute cats and I Lol'd when the song came on. That is an awesomely appropriate choice!

  7. Again, not a cat person but this was interesting to me. Also happy to see my niece Sarah's cat, Ginger, made your video (she's at 2:57).

  8. I gave my dog a Kong when he was a puppy. One day I was in my room and I heard a couple of thumps and a thud. I didn't hear anything else so I ignored it. Then I heard it again. I crept over to the stairs and saw my dog carrying the kong up the stairs and then launching back down. He ran down looked around, found the treat that was knocked loose, ate it and took the kong back upstairs to repeat the process.

    I'm not sure if that's exactly what the kong people had in mind but he was getting a workout!

  9. so cute! I will need to see if I get get my cats active and get a picture

  10. If you think about it, your cats are behaving just like lions - the females work for the food (using the puzzle feeders), the males just sit around and expect to be served!

    Thanks for putting the slideshow together, love that my cats are blog famous :)

  11. Thank you for choosing our Kittie Kiwi as the winner. This was actually her food bowl, as you can see she played in it first and pushed all the food onto the floor and then took a nap in the bowl! So funny what kitties will do.
    All the cats were so cute!

  12. What a great video! I adore all animals, especially cats, and they seem to be a very misunderstood breed. Thanks for educating us further and keeping us entertained with your own stories, too. What I like about your blog is you speak from the heart and all your opinions are completely your own. I've been reading your blog for a couple years now and I'm not even a runner! But I am a woman who struggles with weight loss and your determination and sense of humor keep me reading daily. Keep up your awesomeness!!!

  13. We have that exact same toy that is in the top picture and our cat absolutely loves it! She would play with it all day if she could.

  14. I wonder if Pixie would like the puzzle feeder. I have one of those bird feather toys and she adores it! If I let her get it for too long, she will actually shred the feathers (without any front claws, too). She's a beast! I would have loved to go to this kitty event.

  15. Can you post the brand of the fishing rod toy and puzzle feeder?

    1. Oh yes, I meant to do that! The feather toy is called Da Bird. The feeder with the little green cups is called Stimulo Cat Feeding Center. Both of those can be found on Amazon. I can't find the ceramic one, but I will send an e-mail to Purina ONE to find out what that one is called!

    2. I think I found it! The Pioneer Pet Tiger Diner Ceramic Food Dish.

  16. Congrats to the super cute winner!! I loved the video too!!

  17. What a cute winner!!!!! Thanks for putting together the video...the music was perfect :-)

  18. Somehow we ended up watching this show called "the cat from hell" and it has a guy who goes in and helps people with their cats who have issues. He got them to do that play before eating thing a lot with a toy just like that.

  19. I love all the kitties, but that winner definitely deserved it!

    I'm really enjoying the cat posts. I have two, and my boys ADORE them, so it will be fun to try this new way to play with them to see if it gets them more interested. And I know my boys will love trying! :)

  20. love the winning photo!

    my black cat likes to chase a string. I like looping it around his tail and watching him spin around chasing it.

    We've also got a few ties hanging from stuff so they can grab them.


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