7 Benefits of Puzzle Feeders for Pets

Last Updated 23 August 2022

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski, BVSc (Hons)

Puzzle feeders are becoming increasingly popular among cat and dog owners in Australia. With an ever-growing number of different designs, brands, and difficulty levels, there's never been more options to choose from!

Many different types of feeding puzzles are available on the market. Some can be used with wet food, others with dry food or treats. Some puzzle feeders contain moveable parts, some are designed as intricate mats, and some have pockets made of fabric or rubber.

But what are the benefits of puzzle feeders? From mind-occupying to improved digestion, read on to find out why your pet can benefit from a puzzle feeder!

Skip to the bottom of this article for a complete comparison of the best puzzle feeders and mats on the market.

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Luigi loves forraging for goodies in his furbulous Paws for Life Rainbow Snuffle Mat.

1. Provides mental stimulation

Using a puzzle feeder encourages your pet to use their brain and problem-solving skills in order to get to their tasty food. Any toy that promotes the use of hunting and foraging instincts is great for your pet's mental exercise!

Cats and dogs are smarter than you might realise. Just like us, they can suffer from boredom which can lead to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, stereotypies and obsessive compulsive disorders. Remember that cats and dogs evolved from ancestors who were keen hunters and required to use their brains every day in order to obtain a meal. So, it's no wonder that a lazy domesticated lifestyle can drive them a little stir crazy!

Puzzle feeders encourage your dog or cat to use their brain and problem-solving ability - and even their paw dexterity - to get their reward.

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2. Helps to Slow Down Mealtime

Puzzle feeders can also help to slow down your pet's eating. This is particularly beneficial for cats and dogs who tend to 'inhale' their food too quickly!

If you're interested in a slow feeding bowl, there are special Anti Gulp Bowls designed specifically with grooves and raised bits to ensure a slower, more measured feed. However, any puzzle feeder that encourages a pet to forage and problem will also encourage slower eating and provide the same benefit.

Slowing down your pet's eating can have numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of bloat - which brings us to our next point...!

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3. Helps prevent Bloat and GDV

Dog breeds prone to bloat include deep-chested large dogs like German Shepherds, Dobermanns, Great Danes, and Greyhounds. Find out more here.

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus, also know as 'GDV' or bloat', refers to a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills up with gas, fluid, or food, and becomes enlarged and dilated.

Some breeds of dogs predisposed to developing bloat due to their deep chested anatomy. These breeds includes German Shepherds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs.

A slow feeder helps to reduce the incidence of GDV as it slows the ingestion of food and air. When less air is swallowed, there is less chance of bloating. There are plenty of Anti-Gulp bowls

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4. Helps Reduce Separation Anxiety and Problem Behaviours

Behavioural specialists often recommend puzzle feeders and mats to help treat problem behaviours in pets, particularly separation anxiety. Mental stimulation can help distract your pet when they are put in a situation they normally find stressful - such as when their owner leaves the house.

In fact, dog enrichment in the form of food puzzles has been shown to decrease barking, pacing, repetitive licking, and lip-smacking in shelter dogs.

The mental stimulation offered by puzzle feeders helps to reduce boredom and any resulting destructive behaviours like digging, chewing, and barking. When a pet is occupied and tired out, they're less likely to seek alternative methods of 'entertainment'.

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5. Helps maintain a healthy weight

There are a number of reasons why eating slowly can help 'budge the pudge' for your pet.

1. Satiety. Slow feeding can make your pet feel fuller and more satiated (full). Have you ever noticed that eating a meal slowly and in small bites can help you feel fuller quicker, meaning you might not feel that you need to finish a large plate of food? It's no different for our pets. Eating slowly will naturally help your pet feel full sooner, and reduce any begging once a meal has been consumed.

2. Exercise. The act of forraging and 'hunting' for a meal can actually be a form of exercise, depending on the puzzle feeder. This is particularly effective for cats, who can lose weight easily by increasing playtime. Puzzle feeders and forraging games are routinely recommended for pudgy kitty cats to help keep them active.

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6. May reduce 'doggy dementia' and promote brain health in senior pets

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or 'dog dementia' is a disease caused by age-related degenerative changes. CCD is similar to dementia in humans, and common symptoms include forgetfulness, repetitive behaviors, changes in sleeping patterns, and anxiety.

Food puzzles can help keep the brain active and working, which may help reduce the risk of CCD developing. Just like humans doing memory training, any toy that helps encourage problem solving helps to keep your pet's brain functioning well.

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7. Prevents fighting over food

If you have two pets or more, chances are that mealtimes may pose a challenge for you. Competition for food is very common, and fighting over food, theivery, and bullying can ensue.

While keeping your pets separated during mealtimes can offer a solution, a feeding mat can also help keep your pets occupied and away from each other's bowls - at least for a few minutes!

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What are the best puzzle feeders?

Now that we have established the benefits of puzzle feeders, we can look at the different types of puzzle feeders on the market. To keep things simple, we've divided them into brands. Please keep in mind that some brands produce multiple different types of puzzle feeders.

The Best Puzzle Feeders for Pets Compared

Brand Type of product/s Top selling items Description

All for Paws

Food puzzles

Interactive Treat Turbine
Cat Treat Maze

A range of problem-solving food puzzles specifically designed for cats.


Food puzzles Catit Senses Food Tree
Catit Play Treat Puzzle

Specifically designed for cats, Catit provides slow feeding options that also encourage paw dexterity.


Slow-release treat dispensers, wobble bowls, puzzles, snuffle mats, and paste-fill rubber tubes. Kong Cat Wobbler
Kong Classic
Kong Gyro
Kong Tiltz

With simple designs that use slow-release methods to test your pet's problem solving skills, Kong is one of the most trusted brands on the market.


Feeding mats Lickimat Slomo Turquoise
Lickimat Casper Fish

Perfect for use with wet food, Lickimats are specially designed to slow down mealtime.

Mimi and Munch

Feeding mats Mimi and Munch Paw Lick Mat

Available in 2 colours, these cute feeding mats come with their own spatula for easy cleaning.

Nina Ottosson

Food puzzles, Wobble bowls Tornado Puzzle
Hide n Seek Slide Puzzle
Dog Brick Puzzle
Cat 'Buggin Out' Puzzle

World-famous, top-of-the-range products in a huge number of styles, designs, and difficulty grades.

Paws for Life

Food puzzles, Snuffle Mats, Slow feed bowls, and Feeding Mats Snuffle Mat
White Slow Bowl
IQ Puzzle Feeder
4-in-1 Taste n Lick Mat

With one of the most diverse and varied ranges, Paws for Life creates highly 'Instagrammable' colourful puzzles, lick mats, slow-feed bowls, and interactive feeders.


Feeding Mats Hunt n Snack Treat Dispensing Mat
Fishie Fun Feed Mat

Combining treat dispensing and lick mat designs, these products are great for wet or dry food.


Food Puzzles, Interactive Tumbler Dispensers, Slow Feed Bowls Interactive Cat Tunnel Feeder
Brain Teaser Food Puzzle
Slow Feed Bowls
Scream Flip Puzzle Board

With a wide range of different products, Scream's range of interactive feeders engage your pet's problem-solving abilities and paw dexterity.


Food puzzles Smartypaws Dog Puzzler Feeder
Brain Zippypaws Donut Slider

Zippypaws provides a range of problem-solving food puzzles in fun colours and designs.

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Further Reading

New kitten guide

Premium Pet Food: Is It Worth It?

The Best Indoor Cat Toys

How to Make Pet Care Environmentally Sustainable

Risks and Benefits to Raw Feeding