You know the routine: you’ve just sat down to dinner or opened a can of tuna for your lunch, and there’s your pet, staring up at you with sweet, loving (and begging) eyes, head cocked, and perhaps an inquisitive meow… Sometimes it’s hard to resist.
However, most of us realize that letting our pets have everything we eat is not suitable for them. Some “people” foods can be downright dangerous for pets. Still, allowing them to experiment with ways to make mealtime more interesting is fun. Our team at WVG shows you how.
Healthy and Delicious
When it comes to your pet’s food, adding a few things here and there can make their meals more exciting. These aren’t intended to replace your pet’s meal, but you can enhance the fun of mealtime by mixing in some healthy fruits and vegetables and giving them an extra boost of nutrition at the same time.
Fruits and vegetables should be plain, steamed, and salt-free. Ensure your pet doesn’t pack on unwanted pounds by keeping the quantity of food within your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Try adding a small amount of the following to your pet’s regular meal:
Vegetables: Many vegetables can be added to your pet’s meal or given as small treats between meals. Unsalted, unseasoned vegetables should be peeled and cut into small bites. Try steamed sweet potato or canned pumpkin, cooked or raw green beans, carrots, celery, peas, and broccoli.
Fruits: Fruit is a favorite for many pets and can be offered frozen for a cooling treat during warm weather. Fruit should be peeled, and seeds, cores, and stems should also be removed. Fruits that may be given to pets are kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, and cantaloupe. Like vegetables, fruits should be chopped into bite-sized pieces.
Peanut butter: Peanut butter is the hands-down favorite of many pets, and a small spoonful can be mixed in with pet food, placed in an interactive toy, or given right off the spoon! However, many peanut butter brands contain lots of salt, sugar, and even a toxic and potentially life-threatening sweetener, xylitol, also now referred to as birch bark). Keep servings small and aim for all-natural peanut butter free of additives.
Air-popped popcorn: Crunchy and tasty, popcorn is a healthy treat to give your pet as long as it doesn’t contain any flavoring, excess oil, or salt. Air-popped plain popcorn is the best alternative.
Meats: A small amount of lean, cooked, and unseasoned chicken, turkey, beef, or pork are good options as long as there are no bones or fat. It’s essential to avoid processed meat such as lunch meat or bacon, as they are high in salt.
Although adding delicious foods to your pet’s mealtime may be top of mind to make eating more fun, plenty of non-food options will entertain your pet and enrich their lives.
Interactive Feeders: Also called puzzle feeders, these interactive toys often elicit natural behaviors like hunting, digging, and searching. Many have compartments for small amounts of food that need to be searched out and opened with a paw.
Interactive feeders are also great for slowing your pet down if they tend to scarf down their meals in seconds flat. Aside from the more physical benefits, interactive feeders take mental energy, and getting some mental exercise dramatically enhances your pet’s quality of life. Keep your dog’s personality in mind when looking for an interactive feeder; some dogs like a challenge and others prefer a more straightforward method of finding their food.
Playing with Food: Speaking of finding food, games that involve searching for hidden food abound. For example, you can have your dog in another room while you hide small piles of food in another and then tell them to find it. Another popular way to make mealtime fun is using a food dispenser. For example, a Kong toy can be filled with peanut butter or wet dog food and then frozen to create a food puzzle for your dog. Cats love to hunt, so placing food high on a perch or cat tree or scattering dry food throughout the house can encourage their natural stalking, climbing, and pouncing behaviors.
Frozen Food: Another fun way to make mealtimes more interesting is to offer frozen food or ice cubes. Use ice trays to pack a mixture of wet and dry dog food or other fruits and veggies, and pop them in the freezer for a couple of hours. These frozen treats will be a new texture for your pet, keeping them entertained. Be aware that these can get messy, so offer them outside or with a mat or towel underneath.
Water Fountains: Drinking adequate water has myriad health benefits for pets and people. Consider investing in a pet water fountain to encourage drinking and make it more fun. The movement of the water and the sound the rush makes are enticing to pets and can make even drinking water more fun for them.
Training Rewards: Use your pet’s main meal as a reward for a training session. Teach your kitty a new trick, or work on your dog’s basic obedience training. Again, mental exercise is often just as important (and tiring) as physical exercise and can make mealtimes much more enjoyable for your pet.
Studies have shown that dogs and cats fed with puzzle feeders, slow feeders, or feeding enrichment are less likely to overeat since these methods give pets a way to work for their food, eliciting natural behaviors like scavenging and foraging. Your pet may feel more satisfied after “working” for their meal. So, not only are these forms of feeding and enrichment fun and interactive, they are an excellent way to keep your pet at a healthy weight.