Clever Ways to Keep Your Cat Active: Food Scavenger Hunts

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Find food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs

Hiding treats around your home for a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your cat on their toes. Your cat will love searching for the surprise, and you'll have fun watching. A scavenger hunt is also a cat activity that keeps your feline friend moving so they can maintain their mental and physical health.

Here are seven tips on how you can plan a fun cat scavenger hunt:

1. The Mission

Choose what kind of hunt you want. You might consider dividing your cat’s normal food allowance into three or four bowls and setting them up in various places around the house. Another option is to design the scavenger hunt with individual pieces of food or treats, each given its own hiding place.

2. Start Simple

The notion of "hunting" for food can take your cat a while to call up within their arsenal of instincts. Start simple by placing treats in easy-to-see areas to help them associate the scent with the kibble they can see. This will give your cat the right idea.

3. Challenge Accepted

Gray cat licking something off human hand.

Once it seems that your cat is getting the concept, start making it a little more difficult. While they are watching, place the treat or small bowl of food in its hiding place. Your cat may not be able to see it anymore, but will know you're up to something.

4. Set Them Up

Once your cat has the hang of the game, place them in another room while you hide the food or treats and then let them in to search. The real hunt begins!

5. Hide It Wisely

Try to be clever, but cautious, when hiding each prize. Some great places to consider: next to (or even inside) a toy, a higher shelf, in an empty box, or on a cat tree. Keep in mind you don't want to hide the treat or food somewhere you don't want them to be. For instance, it's wise to avoid a kitchen counters or a bookshelves with lots of breakable objects. And please never use a plastic bag, which can be a safety hazard.

6. There's a Time and a Place

Plan the hunt at your cat's regular meal time or at a time of day when you know they are hungry. You should also make sure you're within sight of your cat during the hunt. Not only is it fun for you to watch, but you want to stay close in case your cat gets frustrated, distracted, or picks something else up by accident.

It's also a good idea to keep a note of where you've hidden the kibble or treats. If your cat gets full or bored they may leave a few pieces of food uneaten. Remembering where you've placed it will stop you from finding old food them around your house and prevent your cat from eating old food or food that may have passed its expiry date.

7. What to Hunt?

What kind of food should you use? Not every aspect of the meal should be left to playful discovery. You can use your cat's regular kibble, such as Hill's Science Plan cat food, but if the food is for a specific health condition, keep to a serving routine. If you want to hide treats instead, keep them to a minimum to ensure your cat doesn’t become overweight.

Don't Underestimate Her

Worried your cat won't be able to find the treats or kibble you put out? Don't be. A cat's nose contains about 200 million nerve cells, according to PAWS Chicago, which means their sense of smell is fourteen times more sensitive than your own.

A scavenger hunt is a way to further build a bond with your cat. But it's also so much more; it's a cat activity that ensures your pet is staying active, smart, and curious about their surroundings.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy


Kara Murphy is a pet parent and freelance writer in Erie, Pa. She has an adorable cat named Olive.