Treat puzzles that activate your cat’s instincts

Food-motivated cats might just wake up for this.
Food-motivated cats might just wake up for this. ( Manja Vitolic via Unsplash/)

Cats big and small are predators, strategically napping to conserve their energy for stalking, pouncing, and brutally killing their dinner. Generations of domestic cats who’ve realized that all you need for a plate of tasty protein is a little plaintive mewling in the early dawn hours have kept up the napping, but lost the rigor of the hunt. That doesn’t mean you should start letting your murder floofs outside to decimate the bird population. Instead, try one of these clever treat puzzles to trigger their predatory instincts, encourage exercise, and minimize the epic destruction that arises from a case of feline ennui.

Boxes and treats, what’s not to like?
Boxes and treats, what’s not to like? (Amazon/)

The best cat toys are better than something you can make yourself, but still cater to a cat’s tendency to find everyday objects infinitely entertaining. This strong cardboard box is a little under a foot in length and width, with a height of nine inches. It has three sliding inner boxes distributed between two levels for you to fill with treats, toys or catnip. Watch grasping paws and poky arms use the various openings on the top and sides of the toy to push and pull the boxes until they claim a reward. Cute drawings in plant-based ink make it extra adorable for pet parents.

Fake mice are twice as nice.
Fake mice are twice as nice. (Amazon/)

These macabre yet cute toys are designed with mouse-shaped “feeder skins” for tactile mousiness but are hollow on the inside to protect you from the horror of your cat playing with their (still alive) food. Fill them with dry cat kibble and hide them around your house to make mealtime last longer and stimulate their tiny feline brains. This set of three comes with a BPA-free trainer body with extra dispensing holes, three machine-washable feeder skins, and three regular bodies. Plus, if they leave one of these in your bed it’s no biggie.

This time, you put the surprises in their drawer.
This time, you put the surprises in their drawer. (Amazon/)

Only you know whether your cat is so smart this toy will make them outright dangerous to your sense of inner peace. This set of dishwasher-safe plastic containers features four compartments which are all accessed by different methods. It’s easy enough for cats to open the lidded compartment with persistent nudging, but when Bartescue graduates to sliding knobs and tugging on a rope to open drawers, you might have to childproof your apartment.

Keep your cat on the ball.
Keep your cat on the ball. (Amazon/)

A simple treat ball is a low-stakes investment that will help you learn how hard they’ll work for something different than their daily canned pâté. This clear sphere features either blue or pink accents, with an inside spiral to make it a little more complex and interesting to roll treats out of the opening in the ball. If your cat would rather sit by the bowl mournfully than risk missing a nap by putting in a little extra effort, rest assured they can also use the ball as a rolly-thing when they have the zoomies. If you have wooden floors, they can—and will—do this at the stroke of midnight.