Slow feeders are pretty amazing. I know that I have written about their benefits before in other blogs, but since slow feeders have been a daily part of my life for several years now, not to mention my three dogs and two cats’ lives, I think that everyone should know how fun and helpful they really are and which common problems they can help to solve. Slow feeders are super simple, easy to use, and even attractive!
So, What is a Slow Feeder?
Some of us already know what slow feeders are, but others may be wondering what all of the fuss is about…so let me fill you in. Slow feeders are pet bowls and toys that allow our dogs and cats to slow down when they chow down. Slow feeders provide obstacles in the path of Spot getting to his food, and he must overcome those obstacles before he gets to eat. The obstacles slow down our pets’ progress, thus the name slow feeders.
Slow feeders also allow our dogs and cats to ‘hunt’ a little for their food, like they would in the wild. Not quite like they would in the wild, of course, but it helps them to be in touch with their natural hunting instinct instead of greedily chowing down two times a day when we place food in front of them.
There are different sizes and different styles of slow feeders we can get for our pets, depending on their size or in order to provide variety at feeding time. Let’s talk about two of my favorites, the Kong Wobbler and the Northmate “Green” and “Catch” Interactive Feeders:
The Kong Wobbler is so much fun! It is shaped like a Kong Classic, but it’s bigger. It unscrews into two separate pieces. The bottom is filled with sand to give a little stability and resistance. To fill it with our dog’s daily kibble or treats, we simply turn the top piece upside down and fill it with kibble and then screw the top and bottom back together. There is a small opening on the side, so when you set the Kong Wobbler down on the floor and your dog starts to push it around with his nose or paws, it wobbles from side to side and spins around, and the kibbles will slowly fall out of the small hole. Voila, dinner is served!
I also have three Northmate Interactive Feeders at my house. A big “Green” Interactive Feeder for Annie, a “Green Mini” Interactive Feeder for Fitz, and a purple “Catch” Interactive Feeder for my cats. Don’t forget that cats like slow feeders, too! The Northmate Interactive Feeders are even easier for me to use than the Kong Wobbler. Simply scoop your dog or cat’s allotted kibble from the bag and dump it in the feeder. That’s it! There are plastic spikes, or obstacles, throughout the bowl. Our pets must work and think harder in order to finish their meal!
Common Issues Solved!
Besides being an easy way to feed our pets, slow feeders are actually able to help with some common pet issues that may surface with dogs and cats.
First, they can be a great tool for dogs with separation anxiety. You can fill up a Kong Wobbler, or a Northmate Green Interactive Feeder and then you can leave for work, and your dog will be occupied. He will be thinking about getting that next kibble out of his bowl instead of why you left him at home alone. Then when he’s done eating, he may forget to wonder where you are and take a satisfied nap instead!
There are physical and medical concerns that slow feeders can help with as well. When dogs or cats eat their food too quickly, many problems can arise. Dogs can get gassy, dogs or cats may vomit their food back up and it can even lead to bloat, a potentially fatal issue in dogs. Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach expands because it is full of gas, food or liquid. This puts pressure on other organs, and can block air from easily getting to our dog’s lungs. A dog’s stomach can also twist when bloated, turning upside down and cutting off blood flow, which can cause a dog to go into shock. This is very serious and if you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat, go to the veterinarian immediately!
Bloat is pretty scary, and gas and vomiting are pretty gross. Slow feeders can help to prevent these issues by causing our pets to SLOW DOWN!
Benefits We May Not Expect
Besides helping with separation anxiety for some dogs, slow feeders can be used to occupy time and expend energy in pets when we need to concentrate on something else. It can also provide a fun indoor activity for dogs and cats when it’s raining or very cold outside. It is also fun for people! When our pets are first learning how to use the slow feeders, it can provide lots of entertainment for humans to watch. Read about more ways to keep your dog occupied indoors during the cold winter here.
Mental stimulation is also very important for young pups, senior dogs, and everyone in between! Having to work and think to get kibble out of a slow feeder is great stimulation for an aging brain, and may help prevent some of the disorientation and memory troubles associated with old age in pets. It is also great to keep young puppies’ minds growing and learning how to solve problems and interact with the world. At any age, slow feeders stimulate the brain! Here is more information about aging pets and ways to help them.
Slow feeders also provide a little physical activity for our dogs and cats! The Kong Wobbler causes my dogs to push it around the house, constantly moving and bending to get their kibble. More calories are burned in this longer, more active, mealtime than just standing still and eating out of a regular bowl. My cats actually have to reach their paws into the Catch Interactive Feeder for every bite they take and pull it out to their mouths. It must be good for their dexterity as well! Read more about ways to get your pet healthy and active in 2016 here.
Slow feeders provide many benefits for our dogs and cats, but what about us? Personally, I love how easy slow feeders are to use. We can just dump kibble or even canned food (probably not in the Kong Wobbler, but wet food is great in the Interactive Feeders) into the bowl and let your dog or cat go to town! I have put my slow feeders in the dishwasher multiple times for easy cleaning, and it works great!
Besides all of the great physical and mental health benefits that slow feeders provide, they are also attractive and interesting to look at in our homes and see every day. Most pet bowls can’t say that! They are also a great conversation starter when we have someone over to our house for dinner and they ask, “What is that green thing on the ground over there?”. With so many benefits, why don’t we all have slow feeders in our homes?!