I was captivated by a recent NPR interview with veterinarian Vint Virga, a specialist in animal behavior. Virga emphasizes that we should try to view the world from our companion animals’ senses. The Mission Statement on his website states,
“Through awareness and sensitivity towards our animal companions we can better understand ourselves, deepen our connections, and enrich our appreciation of life … To appreciate the world from the perspective of animals, we must first seek to perceive the world through their senses — their vision, hearing, sense of smell, sensitivity to touch — and recognize how these differ from ours. When we embrace animals’ perspectives, we can learn how to walk better attuned to those around us. As we recognize our similarities across species, we can bring greater awareness and sensitivity to our relationships with others.”
What does this have to do with whether Frisky wants to eat or not? Everything! Many people free feed their cats (and dogs). Free feeding makes food available in a bowl 24/7. Virga says this is the furthest thing away from living in nature. Cats enjoy hunting for their food. It is their natural instinct.
Since you probably aren’t up for bringing in mice and lizards for them to hunt in your house, think about what your cat would do if they were living in nature. Virga recommends making getting to their food more challenging. He suggests:
- make them hunt and forage for their cat food
- divide cat food into a number of portions throughout the day
- hide cat food throughout the house, i.e. behind bookshelves and cabinets, in closets, inside boxes that they open
- hide some of it up high where they need to climb up for it
- roll cat food into saved toilet paper tubes
Don’t worry, Frisky won’t starve. She’ll find the hunt interesting and enriching and it will help keep her active when she’s alone. Dr. Virga recommends this for all cats, not only those not eating from a bowl. And the next time Frisky tears up all the toilet paper, you’ll find a way to repurpose the toilet paper tube.
He also suggests that cat owners become aware of natural cat behavior in the wild. In the NPR interview, he says, ”Cats feel comfort and show their emotions very differently than people. It behooves us to learn what cats think and feel rather than superimposing what we think and feel upon them. Many cats don’t like to be hugged and held close in the way that people do.”
I can’t wait to read Dr. Virga’s new book, “The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human.” Although I am a pet parent to dogs and not cats, I create feline sound therapy to ease their anxiety issues and am always looking for ways to understand more about their behavior, along with other animals.
How do you make mealtime more interesting for your companion animals?
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