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Food bowls are a convenient way to feed pets, but they may not be in every pet’s best interest.
The bowl may allow pets to eat too quickly, which can cause vomiting. Since it takes time for a meal to trigger “I’m full, stop eating” signals from the brain, it can also lead to obesity. Further, if the amount in the bowl isn’t controlled, it can become a 24-hour buffet, which can contribute to obesity and the health problems it can cause, such as decreased quality of life and reduced longevity.
While we’d all like our pets’ days to be full of fun activities and mental stimulation, the reality is that many of them spend their day simply waiting for us to come home from work. Making mealtimes longer and more interesting through the use of a food toy is one way to provide enrichment for pets waiting for their favorite people. You may think that since your pet has access to toys or a yard while you’re away, he may be thoroughly entertained without you. However, most pets don’t engage in much play on their own. A pet activity monitor can tell you for sure, but many pets appear to experience boredom and sleep the day away. While sleeping helps pass the time, it doesn’t burn many calories or provide mental stimulation. Some pets appear to experience anxiety without their people, and some can be destructive when left alone — whether as an expression of that anxiety or as simply a way to entertain themselves. Though a food toy may not be a good option for every pet — and a talk with your veterinarian can help you determine whether or not you should try one — many pets seem to find them highly entertaining.
Regardless of why you may consider an alternative to the bowl, there are multiple options. Food-dispensing toys come in many shapes, sizes, textures and degrees of difficulty (for both you and your pet). Pet preferences and the ability of your pet to “solve” the puzzle and access food, along with the toy’s safety, cleanliness and ability to maintain interest, are all important to consider when choosing a food-dispensing toy. Here are the main types:
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