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DIY interactive cat feeders and food dispensing toys for cats

3 June 2021


Studies on feline behaviour show that cats normally eat between 10 and 15 small meals a day! Surprising, isn’t it? That’s why when you give your cat a bowl of food, they may only eat a few bites, then come back to eat a bit more multiple times throughout the day.

If this isn’t the case and your cat tends to eat everything in their bowl, it’s likely an effect of domestication. By having cats live in our homes, we’ve modified their behaviour — cats that live in the wild eat many small meals a day.


The ethogram—a catalog of behaviours exhibited by different species—tells us that cats should spend nearly eight hours a day roaming and hunting. Hunting is also a completely separate activity from feeding. Owners of outdoor cats can attest to this—cats hunt for pleasure. It’s common for a cat to play with its prey or leave it on your doormat as a trophy. These hunting behaviours are normal and are what make cats, well, cats!


Interactive cat feeders and food dispensing toys are great tools for meeting your ferocious feline’s basic needs. They keep house cats busy for countless minutes every day as they expend both mental and physical energy by encouraging cats to use their hunting skills on appropriate objects, instead of attacking your hands and ankles!

What exactly is an interactive cat feeder? It’s an object you put food in that makes your cat work to get the food out. Where can you get one? There are a number of commercial models available for sale at clinics, but it’s also very easy to make your own. Here are some ideas for DIY feeders that we found online.


What you need:

  • A cardboard box
  • Small disposable plastic cups or containers
  • A marker
  • Scissors or an X-ACTO knife
  • Glue gun (optional)
  • Tape (optional)

What to do:

Find a box around your home, such as a shoe box. Take the plastic cups and trace the interior circumference on the top of the box. Use the scissors to make holes in the centre of the circles, then cut out the cardboard circles (you can also use an X-ACTO knife or box cutter to do this). Close the box and put the plastic cups into the holes. You can also glue the cups to the box to make them sturdier. If you want, use tape to hold the box shut. Put some dry food in the cups and let your kitty get to work trying to get the food out!

Here is a video that explains how to make this cat feeder.


What you need:

  • An empty plastic bottle with cap (water or softdrink bottle)
  • Scissors or an X-ACTO knife
  • String or feathers (optional)
  • Tape and a glue gun

What to do:

Grab an empty bottle from your recycling bin. Use a knife to cut a few holes in the plastic that are big enough for your cat’s dry food to pass through. To make the bottle more appealing to your cat, you can glue some feathers or string to the cap. To make it look nice, make a small hole in the centre of the cap, thread the string or feathers through, and add some glue to the inside of the cap to hold them in place.

Watch this video for more details.


What you need:

  • Two cardboard boxes
  • Scissors
  • Tape

What to do:

Find a box that isn’t too tall and take off the lid. Take a second box and cut out some long cardboard strips that are two to three inches wide. Tape these strips to the inside of the first cardboard box to divide it into different compartments.


What you need:

  • A cardboard box
  • Some empty toilet paper rolls
  • Glue

What to do:

Cut down the cardboard box so it’s the same height as a toilet paper roll. Stand the toilet paper rolls up in rows so they fill the entire box. Put some glue on the outside of each toilet paper roll before you stand it up in the box so they stick to one another and don’t fall out.

Want to gussy up your DIY cat feeder? Grab some paint and markers and turn it into a craft project for the whole family! You can glue on pieces of coloured cardboard, add bright stickers, or use wrapping paper. Be creative and have fun with it!


Now that you’ve made your interactive feeder, it’s time to see what your cat thinks! To get them interested in it, put some of your cat’s favourite treats in the box, fill up the compartments with kibble so that it’s easier to get it out, put a few pieces of dry food on the floor next to it, and let your cat investigate. Last but not least, put away your cat’s other food sources. Let your cat hunt for its food—it will greatly benefit their overall health. If your kitty still has easy access to other sources of food, like their bowl, they’ll be less interested in the interactive cat feeder.

Happy hunting, kitty!


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