Interactive Cat Feeders

Elizabeth and I attended a little seminar at the animal shelter about keeping indoor cats happy and active. Today I may or may not be considering buying FOOD PUZZLES for our cats. To satisfy their hunting/predator instincts and reduce their domestic ennui. (Do they make similar devices to reduce domestic ennui in at-home parents? “Not that I’m aware of,” says the animal-shelter employee. “Wine!,” whispers the middle-aged female attendee next to me. We snort. “MOM,” says Elizabeth.)

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Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder. This is one of the cheaper options, which puts it higher on my list. I am still cranky about the $45 cat watering fountain that the cats loved but was a TERRIBLE PAIN to clean.


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Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree. “I’m particularly drawn to this one,” I said to Elizabeth later, looking at options online after the seminar. “That’s because they used this picture in the PowerPoint,” said Elizabeth.


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Trixie Tunnel Feeder. Why am I doing this to you, you wonder. And yet you have not looked away.


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Catit Senses 2.0 Digger. This one gives them the sensation of digging for rodents, which makes them happy. Nature is kind of gross.


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Trixie 5-in-1 Activity Center. This reminds me of shopping for baby toys: special features to stimulate their little brains. Oh god. Is this my life now? *brief feeling of panic and distress* *soothing automatic psychological self-defense mechanisms kick in* *goes back to shopping for cat feeders*


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Pyrus Hide-and-Seek Puzzle Toy. I am virtually certain my cats are too stupid for this toy. It’s not their fault! They’re perfect the way they are! But too stupid for this toy.


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Profcenter IQ Toy. I believe the ferret could figure this out. I have faith in that dog, even though he does not appear to be a particularly bright representative of his species. I’d be willing to give the green checkmark a shot, just to see what it can do. But not my cats, unless all there is to this toy is moving the intelligent-looking circles out of the way so they can eat the food underneath. Then maybe.

35 thoughts on “Interactive Cat Feeders

  1. Susan

    Thanks, Swistle! We have two, well, actually, FOUR indoor cats and I think this is a great idea! If nothing else, it’s been fun checking out the links and reading the reviews of the various products, for example:

    “It’s worth $15 just to check your cats intelligence. One of my cat figured it out in 20 seconds and the other 2 just think I’m a jerk for putting treats where they can’t reach….they don’t make any effort..makes me feel bad for the brainy one for hanging out with idiots all day.”

    I put my husband on the case and I have no doubt we’ll be trying a couple of these in the near future. Thanks, Amazon!

    1. Giselle

      That review made me laugh out loud. I don’t have cats, but perhaps I will go look at those comments. Apparently I don’t like cats, but I DO like people that like cats…

  2. Alice

    Sooo… we’ve tried a number of “interactive” feeders for my cats, including one virtually identical to that rodent digger one. My cats HATED THEM. Absolutely REFUSED to use them. Could do it! Could figure it out! REFUSED TO. Would access the easiest-to-access food morsels to stay alive, then sat in front of the feeder and yelled. For days.

    What I’m saying is, might be worth starting with a cheap one and see if your cats are more interested in stimulating their natural predator instincts than mine are?

  3. shin ae

    I hear what the other commenter is saying about the cats hating the rodent digger thing, yet at the same time I love the look of it, which means I’d probably buy it, so yes, for me this is just like shopping for baby toys.

  4. Kara

    Our cat is rather dumb. She couldn’t find her food when we moved it from the top of the dryer to the floor next to the dryer and cried at us for hours until we put it back up there. Like panic cry and pacing RIGHT BY THE FOOD but she wouldn’t/couldn’t find it and eat it. This same cat got “stuck” under the couch, because she went in head first and got to the wall and panicked. She didn’t think to turn around. We had to pull her out after two hours. She’s rill dumb.

  5. Alexa

    My cats are already displeased with us for getting a puppy so I am not sure I would dare make them work for their food just now. BUT! We have a fountain that is the same brand as a couple of those toys and our cats LOVE it and it is great (as a bonus it is also adorable). I do not have a link handy but if you type “catit flower fountain” on Amazon you will see it.

    1. Swistle Post author

      It is the cutest thing I have ever seen. I have just one burning question: how is it to CLEAN?

      1. Alexa

        Easy!! We had another fountain that was the bane of my existence in that it was difficult to clean AND UGLY, which is just adding insult to injury. This one is basically just a bowl underneath, and a little filter sits on top, and you can get away with just cleaning the filter instead of replacing for a long time as well. It is the best thing I love it so much and every animal in our house adores it.

  6. Jenipurr

    I’ll chime in here as someone with six cats, who’s tried quite a few of these puzzle toys.

    Only one cat actually uses any of them, and we only started getting them for him anyway because he’s scary smart and when he gets bored, he gets a little destructive. Two of the other cats will let him fish the kibble out of the various hiding holes and then eat it, but that’s about it.

    Also your cat(s) may have preferences on which toys they do or do not like. For example, none of our cats was the slightest bit interested in the Northmate Catch (the purple one at the top that looks like an anemone), and while we were absolutely *sure* they would go for the Catit Tree, all they did with that one was knock it over (it looks really cool, but it wasn’t the sturdiest thing out there).

    The ones that have been most successful for us are the ones with little sliders to move and flaps to open. Rupert (the super smart one we’re constantly trying to keep distracted) regularly plays with those so we rotate them out and just keep one or two filled with kibble and it keeps him entertained for short periods of time (which is really all we can hope for with him).

  7. Cherie

    If I attempted to make my cat work for her food in this way she would exercise her hunting/predator instincts on my face. I have zero doubt that this is true.

  8. Alison

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read in awhile.

    I think at least one of our cats would like these, mostly because he works so hard to break into his automatic feeder that my husband had to reinforce the whole thing with brackets and plywood to keep him out. Our other cat would probably just look on helplessly.

    I think I know that water fountain. I finally threw it out because I couldn’t bear to break it down and clean it one more time and it seemed like it became slimey instantly.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Yes. YES. I had this clench-teethed commitment to take the whole thing apart every week and clean it, using this special kit of brushes made by the same company—and one week I was just like “NEVER AGAIN.” It was ALWAYS SLIMY.

  9. Cameron

    My friend has two indoor only cats and they love the puzzle feeder. The don’t use it to feed them their actual meals, but for treats to get them to pay attention to something else (basically to make them forget that my friend’s husband works nights and is actually hidden upstairs sleeping not to be bothered by the cats!)

    One of the cats is a pro and solves the puzzle immediately. The other couldn’t figure it out to save his life, but he IS smart enough to get really close while the other cat solves it so that he can steal the treat. I suppose that is something.

  10. Matti

    Holy Wonder Woman I laughed so hard at this whole post. Thanks, Swistle!

    Our cats refuse to eat food out of the bowl if the level gets too low, so yeah, they’re definitely getting beat by the green check mark.

  11. rbelle

    I was just researching all these same feeders because we recently adopted two kittens. Two kittens born into a feral colony. We were assured that they were rescued from said colony when they were something like four weeks old, but I am willing to bet a month’s worth of cat litter that they were older because every day is the drama of their impending starvation. We do not feed them enough. They have just eaten, but there is bread on the counter, and I am making a good smelling lunch for my daughter, so they must jump on surfaces or, literally, climb my leg to reach the yummies. Every waking hour is one of pain and deprivation. And when the food does come, they act like they are fighting for it with 20 other cats, scarf it down as fast as possible, and then look at me accusingly, as though it’s my fault there is no more. I though maybe if they had to actually work for it it would take them longer to eat it and they wouldn’t feel so deprived. But I am very nervous to spend money on something that they might not use or could get bored with.

    1. sff9

      One of our cats is like this, obsessed with food, and he eats way too fast. He’s also smart, so for example the Catit Food Tree did not work with him — he figured out in 20 seconds that he could just knock it over. (We still use it with our other cat: she never tried this very efficient strategy, probably because she’s not as smart as him… but she’s also smaller so it’s not as easy, and food is not such a big deal for her.)

      Anyway, for our glutton cat, we had success with the Pipolino ( It’s just a rolling device with holes; you put kibble in it, and the cat must make it roll for the kibble to go out, one piece at a time. It’s a simple, clever idea, but it’s also well-designed and well-built. It’s very funny how he makes it roll while watching it attentively, and how he handles it like a ball with his paws to make it change directions.

      It’s not cheap, but IMO it’s really worth it. Our cat has been using it for 7 or 8 months. I think it’s not as likely to get boring after a while as the other toys from the article, because it makes the cat more active.

  12. MelissaC

    “Why am I doing this to you, you wonder. And yet you have not looked away.”

    I don’t even own cats and I didn’t look away! Hilarious!

  13. Ruby

    Swistle, you are hilarious.

    I’ve heard that good low-budget way to keep cats entertained is to put small bowls of food throughout the house, instead of just in one place. It’s supposed to give them an opportunity to “hunt” for their food like they would in the wild. It’s good for older cats, or cats who…maybe aren’t bright enough to figure out something more complicated. The big downside: you have a bunch of small bowls of cat food all over your house.

    I recently got one of those cat water fountain things at a yard sale for $2. I figured that if it was difficult to clean or made an annoying noise, I wouldn’t be out much money. I’m happy with it so far, and so is my cat. It was sort of gross when I bought it, but I cycled some water through it with a little dish soap, and then some plain water to rinse it out, and that seemed to fix it.

  14. Stimey

    I want ALL of these. But I’m a little concerned that my smart cats would thrive and my dumb cats (they know who they are) would starve.

  15. Maggie

    This post was great and so are the comments! I’m a cat lover and all of this is right up my alley.

  16. melanie

    The Temptations Snacky Mouse is a good place to start. Small, cheap and (according to most of our cats) highly enjoyable.

  17. Catherine

    This post, and the comments, made me laugh and laugh and laugh. But am I the only one here who found it hilarious that the last one has letters and symbols printed on it, like a baby toy that’s subtly trying to teach kids pre-literacy skills? I don’t care how smart my cat is, he’s not going to learn to read, and I don’t feel like a bad cat mom for not teaching him.

    (“Learning to read” might be on his bucket list, though. Right after “develop opposable thumbs.”)

  18. Meredith

    This post made my day. “I’d be willing to give the green checkmark a shot, just to see what it can do.” LOL!

    I can’t decide if my elderly cat would be into these or if he’d just be more pissed off than usual.

    1. Erica

      But also I keep staring at that puzzle and wondering if I am also (perfect the way I am but) too stupid for it?

  19. Sarah!

    My boyfriend got the food tree (the green one you were drawn to) for Christmas last year. The cats don’t seem to play with it as intended… they mostly just knock it over so all the food falls out. It’s kind of top heavy.

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