Puzzle the Cat

Does our cat get enough intellectual stimulation? Every cat needs something to puzzle over. For some cats, tiny changes in the daily routine offers enough mental contemplation. (Puffy, I'm looking at you.) But most cats require puzzles with more challenge to them. If we don't offer it, the cat will have to come up with ways to satisfy their need to think.

As always, a need we satisfy is probably going to fit into the household better than whatever the cat comes up with unassisted. The way to better behavior is to take care of the cat's needs in ways that make both of us happy.

RJ outwits the treatIn this picture, we see RJ getting his treats out of his puzzle box. To illustrate how much a cat enjoys thinking, we only have to know that RJ prefers getting his treats out of the puzzle box, to the point that he will let treats on the floor just sit there.

A treat outschemed is a tastier treat.

We often underestimate the cat's intellectual capacity because we're conditioned to see animal intelligence as an expression of what we can get them to do. A "smart" animal is one who knows what we want, and then gives it to us.

This is true. But the smart part is only the one where where the animal knows what we want. Whether they give it to us; that's a different capacity.

To get an idea of how much intelligence cats have, consider their status as solitary predators. They don't have anyone backing them up or teaming with them. They have to outwit their prey. There is considerable mental power being exercised when they catch something. They can run fast, but only for short distances. So they must figure out where their prey is going to be; and then be there.

Buddies in the huntIn the home, the opportunities to exercise their mental power must take different forms. A puzzle box, or any facsimile, even a cardboard box with holes cut in it, will simulate prey behavior.

As seen at left, even Puffy now enjoys searching for treats in the puzzle box, and RJ enjoys the camaraderie.

Sharing companionship, mental puzzles, and the joy of the hunt. For cats, it's as good as dinner and a movie.

We should exercise our own intelligence to come up with ways to puzzle the cats. Hiding treats or toys can draw on our own creativity. I often put a treat in my hand, put both behind my back, and see if the cat can guess which hand has the treat. Opening an empty hand makes them think.

That's the goal.

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