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If you're a pet owner, you know that keeping your furry friend healthy and entertained is important. Unfortunately, our dogs and cats can't ask us for what they need, so it's up to us to figure it out and provide it! You wouldn't give up your daily artisan coffee or listening to your favorite music while shredding at the gym. Those things enrich your life and it wouldn't be quite the same without them, would it? Pets need enrichment as much as humans do.
Why is enrichment important?
An easy way to think about enrichment is that it is anything that makes a pet's life more enjoyable. The goal of enrichment is to encourage natural behaviors, provide physical and mental stimulation for your pet, help them stay active, and prevent boredom and the destructive behaviors that come with it. These activities can be tailored to your pet's individual needs and preferences.
Enrichment can take many different forms. Some common examples include providing toys, going for a walk, and playing fetch. Enrichment is important because it helps to keep pets mentally and physically active preventing boredom. One way we can make life a bit more interesting for our pets is by using food puzzles.
What are food puzzles?
Food puzzles are designed to make your pet work for their food, stimulating their mind and providing them with a sense of accomplishment. There are a variety of food puzzles on the market, from simple ball-shaped feeders to complex multi-level mazes. You can even find puzzle feeders that dispense treats as your pet plays. So why not put your pet's brain power to the test with a food puzzle? They'll love the challenge, and you'll get endless entertainment watching them.
What is a Lick Mat?
We are going to discuss one specific type of food puzzle today - the lick mat. While your pet might enjoy a bowl of kibble or wet food just fine, mealtime can also be an opportunity for enrichment. Lick mats can also help to slow down the eating process, which can be helpful for pets who eat too fast. With our cats, we use lick mats daily. They are a great way to keep your pet stimulated and help ward off boredom. And they are super easy to make!
Lick mats are usually made of silicone or rubber, and they have a textured surface that pets can lick and chew on. The licking motion helps to release endorphins in the brain, which can help to calm and relax the pet. In addition, lick mats provide a healthy outlet for chewing and licking behavior, which can help to prevent destructive habits.
Choosing a Lick Mat
If you're interested in introducing a lick mat to your pet, there are a few things you'll need to consider. First, choose a mat that is sized appropriately for your pet. You'll also want to make sure that the mat is made from durable, food-grade materials. Note whether or not it is dishwasher safe because it can melt and warp easily. Typically, our cats dive in the first time they see one, but your pet may be more nervous. Take it slow and don't force them to use it. It should be something they look forward to!
Make sure you have one lick mat per cat or you will end up with a situation like the next photo! You will create competition which can translate into anxiety and aggression. We want them to have fun, not worry about sharing their spoils with other cats.
What can I put on a lick mat?
You can place a huge variety of food items on a lick mat. The only limit is your imagination and your pet's preferences. Some common options include canned food, cottage cheese, peanut butter, plain Greek yogurt, vegetable puree, pumpkin puree, commercial treats, bone broth, banana, freeze-dried treats, etc. Double check that what you are using is pet safe if you aren't sure! For our cats, we use Temptations Purrrrees and a variety of commercial treats.
Lick mats can be a valuable tool for promoting oral health, reducing stress, and preventing obesity in pets. They are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your pet, and they can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. If you're looking for an inexpensive, fun, and enriching activity for your furry friend, a lick mat is definitely worth considering!
We use these lick mats for our kitties. They are dishwasher safe, have a variety of textures, and are easy to store.