Inside every cat beats the heart of a hunter. We’re sure you’ve seen your kitty’s inner predator come out while chasing down toys or chattering at birds. Giving your feline the chance to express this side of himself is important, and using a cat puzzle feeder is just one of many ways that you can provide entertainment and enrichment. 

Your kitty might enjoy mealtime or playtime even more if you added a cat food puzzle to challenge him a bit. Because he’ll have to figure out how to get to the food on his own, once he accomplishes the task, he may experience the same sense of satisfaction that he’d get after taking down prey.

Our Top Cat Puzzle Feeders

What Are Cat Puzzle Feeders?

Food puzzles for cats are an excellent form of enrichment, potentially benefiting your cat mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

“The cat needs to figure out how to move the puzzle feeder in a way that will dole out the food. Providing your cat with this type of environmental enrichment plays a huge role in preventing boredom, stress, and anxiety,” says cat behaviorist Rachel Geller, Ed.D. “Your cat needs mental and physical stimulation. When a cat doesn’t have enough stimulating opportunities, he may just sit around, which can build tension. Puzzle feeders can help cats stay active, both physically and mentally,” 

Geller highly recommends these products, saying, “Puzzle feeders allow your cat to have the feeling of a satisfying capture, which is important. They can also be used for exercise and losing weight because the cat is more active and the eating is connected to their instinctive need to hunt.”

Types of Puzzle Feeders for Cats

“Some puzzle feeders are oddly shaped so that they move in unpredictable patterns and need to be positioned just right for the food to drop out,” explains Geller. “Others work by having the cat get the food out by using his paws. Some work by lining up moveable pieces in a particular way. Many cats enjoy variety, so you may want a few different types.” 

Let’s explore a few types of food puzzles for cats.

Treat Puzzle Toys or Cat Food Puzzles

You can find a range of puzzle feeders designed to make your cat think about how he’ll access the treats or food inside. Start with a basic puzzle toy, and once your kitty excels at it, you can introduce one that’s more advanced. “If your cat has never used a puzzle feeder, opt for a simple design. If you have a cat who loves to figure things out and is curious, he might need a more complex puzzle feeder that requires him to employ multiple methods and manipulations to overcome some type of challenge,” says Geller. 

Cat Puzzle Feeder Balls

Your kitty can learn how to move a cat puzzle feeder ball to dispense treats. Ideal for felines of all ages, it can entice them to stay active. Geller says that puzzle feeder balls are great if you’re focusing on exercise and weight loss with your cat. “This will provide a lot of opportunities for movement because the ball will roll easily when your cat touches it. Your cat will have to move and chase the ball to get to a piece of food.”

Cat Puzzle Feeding Bowls and Lick Mats

Puzzle bowls and lick mats are good options if you want to slow down a kitty who eats too quickly. You can select one for dry or wet food, and then use it during mealtime. “Most puzzle feeders work fine with treats or dry food,” explains Geller. “However, some cats only eat wet food, so in this case I would recommend selecting a puzzle feeder that is easy to clean because the wet food will be a little messier. A lick mat is a terrific alternative for cats who prefer wet food.”

Choosing Our Top Cat Puzzle Feeders

In addition to recommendations from Geller, we chose our top puzzle feeders based on several factors, including:

Materials/safety. We checked to make sure each puzzle feeder on the list was made of materials that are safe for your cat while also calling out those that may require added supervision.

Maintenance. Niche feeding tools can be great for your cat, but some can also become a pain for you to clean. We took a look at each feeder’s cleaning process, highlighting mostly dishwasher-safe options.

Ratings/reviews. Pet parents are an excellent resource when it comes to choosing items like feeder puzzles, so we checked out the review section for you and called out likes (or dislikes).

Price. Since the cost of pet accessories can add up quickly, we took price point into consideration, noting both great deals and higher-cost options.

8 Best Cat Puzzle Feeder Options to Consider

There’s a puzzle feeder for every kitty, whether you have a fast eater, a cat who loves toys, or a feline that needs some encouragement when it comes to staying active. 

Overall Best Cat Puzzle Feeder

Our pick: Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder 

This cat toy puzzle feeder set comes with three feeders shaped like mice that your cat can bat around until the food falls out. A trainer (which features several food holes) is included to help your cat learn how to use them. Once your kitty gets the hang of it, switch to the actual feeders and let the hunt begin! It also comes with a convenient scoop for easy pouring. Consider hiding the mice for your feline to find just like he would track down prey in the wild.    

Pros

  • Three feeders designed look to look like mice and simulate a hunt 
  • Adjustable openings can challenge your cat as he progresses 
  • Feeder “skins” provide a lifelike feel
  • BPA-free, dishwasher-safe plastic; machine-washable fabric 
  • Includes a trainer and scoop for easy pouring

Cons

  • Some types of kibble or treats might not fit well in this puzzle toy
  • Strings may need to be cut off to prevent heavy chewers from biting them

Best Wet Cat Food Puzzle Feeder

Our pick: LickiMat Slomo 

A lick mat can be a good choice for cats who prefer wet food and/or eat too quickly. Designed for kitties of all sizes, the LickiMat Slomo can be used to feed dry food and wet food at the same time. Plus, if your feline tends to get whisker fatigue when he eats out of bowls, this flat mat may help. Geller recommends LickiMat, saying, “They are dishwasher safe and provide that challenge and reward for cats who only eat wet food.”

Pros

  • Ideal for wet food
  • Textured surface helps slow down fast eaters
  • Made from food-grade TPR; doesn’t contain any BPA, silicone, or PVA 
  • Dishwasher safe

Cons

  • Some cats may treat this as a chew toy; manufacturer recommends supervision while in use
  • Higher price point

Best Dry Cat Food Puzzle Feeder

Our pick: Trixie Brain Mover Strategy Game 

For pets who love a good challenge, this cat puzzle feeder for dry food is a great choice. You can hide food and treats in the various compartments, progressing from simple tasks to harder ones. There are multiple pieces that your kitty can learn to move in order to access the food hidden inside, as well as a lever that reveals a treat drawer when pushed.  

Pros

  • Features four modules for a variety of challenges
  • Suitable for dry food and treats
  • Non-slip rubber feet help keep it in place 
  • Ideal for cats of all ages

Cons

  • Some cats might find this type of puzzle toy too frustrating and lose interest 
  • Probably not the best choice for first-timers; start with a more basic option for cats new to puzzle feeders
  • Some customers said a bottle brush may be needed to access all areas when cleaning

Best Cat Treat Puzzle Toy

Our pick: Cat Amazing Classic 

This interactive cat feeder is another option that works well with dry food and treats. The holes all over the box allow your cat to access the inside with his paws, but the chambers within make it challenging to get to the treats. Once your kitty is able to retrieve his food, he’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Ideal for cats of all ages, this puzzle toy has varying levels of difficulty. Start at the beginner level, and as your pet becomes a pro, he can work his way to the advanced level. 

Pros

  • Made of durable, recyclable cardboard 
  • Three levels of difficulty, plus a “secret” fourth challenge 
  • Can be used by cats of all ages
  • Veterinarian recommended for mental stimulation, slowing down eating, and supporting healthy activity

Cons

  • Assembly required 
  • Some customers noted that the cardboard didn’t hold up as well with larger cats
  • Higher price point

Best Cat Puzzle Feeder Bowl

Our pick: Petstages Kitty Slow Feeder Cat Bowl 

This bowl is designed to slow your cat down at mealtime. Basically, the ridges hold the food so your kitty has to work harder to get to it. This helps increase the amount of time he spends eating, which helps support better digestion. For added convenience, it can be used with wet or dry food

Pros

  • Ideal for wet or dry food
  • Made of food-safe materials with no lead, PVC, phthalates, or BPA
  • Non-slip base helps keep it in place
  • Holds 3/4 cup of food
  • Dishwasher safe 
  • Great price point

Cons

  • May spill easily if pushed

Best Cat Puzzle Feeder Mat

Our pick: Pet Zone Boredom Busters Slow Feeder Licking Mat 

This feeder mat is designed to provide mental stimulation and help reduce boredom and stress. The textured surface works well with wet food or soft treats, and your cat is sure to enjoy getting all of the food out, little by little. It’s also divided into four sections, which can help with portion control if you want to be sure your pet is eating the right amount of food at each meal.   

Pros

  • Helps slow down fast eaters and support portion control
  • Made of non-toxic materials 
  • Dishwasher, freezer, and microwave safe
  • Great price point

Cons

  • Supervision is recommended to ensure your cat doesn’t chew on the mat  

Best Cat Slow Feeder Puzzle

Our pick: Catit Senses 2.0 Digger 

Another puzzle feeder that can help fast eaters slow down, Geller recommends this one in particular “because it is sturdy [and] easy to clean, and most cats enjoy pawing to get to their food.” Because he has to really work for the food, this puzzle feeder helps give your cat the sense that he’s hunting. Simply put some dry food in the tubes and let him discover how to scoop it out.  

Pros

  • Wide base and rubber mat for stability
  • Made from BPA-free materials
  • Multiple difficulty levels keep cats entertained
  • Can be used with other Catit Senses 2.0 products

Cons

  • Might become too easy for some cats
  • Hand wash only
  • Higher price point

Best Puzzle Feeder Ball for Cats

Our pick: PetSafe Egg-Cersizer 

This well-priced puzzle feeder can be a good choice for cats who are new to the idea. “I recommend this for beginners because it is clear with many holes so the cat can see and smell the food,” says Geller. “It’s easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of complex moves to get the food.” Fill this puzzle feeder toy with dry food or treats, then let your kitty roll it around to figure out how to get the food to fall out of the holes. You can also make it more challenging as your cat gets better at the game. 

Pros

  • Adjustable for difficulty level and size of your treats/dry food 
  • Egg-shaped design rolls and wobbles
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Good price point

Cons

  • Some kibble or treats might come out too easily, depending on the size
  • A few customer reviews stated the metal parts in this toy rusted after washing, so care may need to be taken to ensure it’s dried thoroughly  

Cat Puzzle Feeder Buyer’s Guide

When shopping for puzzle feeders for cats, it’s important to keep a few key things in mind.

Your cat’s preferences and age. Aim to find a cat feeder puzzle that your feline will enjoy using. “If your cat mostly uses his paws when he plays, choose a puzzle feeder that allows him to poke his paws into the openings. For an older or timid cat, you might want to try a puzzle feeder that is more stationary,” Geller recommends.

Safety and durability. When buying a cat food puzzle, confirm that it’s durable and safe. “As with any cat toy, make sure the puzzle feeder is sturdy enough to withstand a cat pushing, pulling, biting, and pawing it,” advises Geller. “Look for something that is durable and be sure there aren’t little pieces that can break off. For most cats, plastic puzzle feeders are fine, but if you have a cat who plays roughly, rubber may be a better choice.” 

Ease of cleaning. Because you’ll be using food in the puzzle feeder, it’s wise to go with a product that will be simple to clean. “Check the instructions for washing. Something that can simply be thrown into the dishwasher will make it easier for you to keep it clean,” Geller says.

Cat Food Puzzle Feeder FAQs

Why do cats like puzzle feeders?

According to Geller, “Cats love puzzle feeders because they simulate a successful hunt, including being able to eat the ‘prey.’ With puzzle feeders, cats are using their brains in a way that focuses on accomplishing the challenge of manipulating the toy in different ways to release the food. Then they are rewarded with that food, which serves as a signal to the natural end of the game. This feels very good to a cat and satisfies his natural hunting instincts.”

Can kittens play with puzzle feeders? 

Yep! According to Geller,  “All cats can use puzzle feeders, including kittens and older cats.”

Can I make a DIY cat puzzle feeder?

Whether you want to save money or create something customized for your pet, a cat puzzle feeder DIY project is absolutely an option. Geller agrees, saying, “I think DIY puzzle feeders are great! Some examples are putting treats in a tissue box, egg carton, or ice cube tray.”

Cat Puzzle Feeders: Tips for Success

If a cat is new to puzzle feeders, it might take him some time to figure it out. “The main consideration is to start off easy. If your cat has never used a puzzle feeder, start off with one that is transparent and has many holes,” says Geller. “This way, the cat can see and smell the food, and won’t be too frustrated trying to get it out.” 

Geller also advises starting with a small amount of food. “At the beginning, don’t put your cat’s entire daily amount of food in the puzzle feeder. Wait until your cat figures it out so he won’t be hungry and stressed. To further entice your cat, you can sprinkle a little bit of dry food or treats around the puzzle feeder to get him to come closer and investigate.”

Set up a food puzzle for cats whenever you think your kitty will be interested in using it, or to help keep him calm in potentially stressful situations. “Mental stimulation decreases stress and anxiety in cats, including separation anxiety, so I always leave out a few puzzle feeders when I am not home,” Geller shares. “I use puzzle feeders when I am sleeping since a cat’s sleep cycle is generally shorter than a human’s sleep patterns.” 

Just bear in mind that some feeders should only be used when you can be there to supervise, so make sure to always read the instructions beforehand.