Does your cat gulp down its food in seconds? Or perhaps your senior cat’s arthritis makes it impossible to go for mentally and physically stimulating walks? Or, maybe you have a food-motivated cat with go-all-day stamina?
If you answered yes to some of these questions, you definitely need a snuffle mat. Yes, snuffle mats are not just for dogs.
A new study found that cats do not like to work for food and prefer getting free and easily accessible meals. However, despite this groundbreaking finding, most cats seem fascinated with the snuffle mat.
In this article, we will talk about snuffle mats for cats. We will explain what snuffle mats are, the benefits and considerations of using them, and finally give tips for making your own snuffle mat.
What is a Snuffle Mat?
The snuffle mat is popularly classified as an environmental enrichment toy. However, based on why you are using it, the snuffle mat can be an essential and practical item for slowing down a cat with a voracious appetite.
To be more accurate, the snuffle mat is a cat-friendly item made of a rubber or plastic mat base and fabric strands (usually fleece) that are either sewn or knotted to the mat base. The fabric strands are left long and loose in a way that imitates grass.
The concept behind the snuffle mat is to use it as a puzzle toy and hide small treats within the strands, thus providing your cat with an opportunity to sniff and search for food or, in other terms, offering mental stimulation.
As we have already mentioned, there is one more aspect to the snuffle mat – instead of treats, you can use it to spread your cat’s meal and ensure your pet actually chews the food and not simply gulp it down.
Are Snuffle Mats Safe for Cats?
Yes, snuffle mats designed or homemade specifically for cats are safe as long as they are appropriately used and maintained. What does this mean?
Well, when it comes to the safety of snuffle mats for cats, there are three basic considerations – choosing the right materials, regular cleaning, and replacing when it gets old. Let’s discuss these considerations in more detail.
Choose the Right Snuffle Mat
The right snuffle mat for your cat needs to be made from non-toxic materials. When purchasing a commercially available snuffle mat, there is no need to worry as the manufacturer will not use materials toxic to cats.
However, if making the snuffle mat at home, you should be extra attentive regarding the used materials.
Additionally, the right snuffle mat should also be sturdy enough to withstand your cat’s powerful jaws and claws. You do not want your cat accidentally pulling a strand and developing foreign body issues.swallowing it.
So, all in all, the right and by right we mean safe snuffle mat for cats needs to be non-toxic and sturdy.
Keep the Snuffle Mat Clean
The next thing you need to consider is the snuffle mat’s cleanliness. Most snuffle mats are machine washable for easy maintenance. Keep in mind that the snuffle mat will be exposed to dust, food, and your cat’s saliva.
However, washing the snuffle mat is something you will have to do bi-weekly or maybe even monthly. What is more critical is removing any uneaten chunks of food after each use.
This is because leaving food pieces for a more extended period can lead to spoiling, and you risk having your cat snack on food that has gone bad. To remove such food remnants, you can either dust the snuffle mat or use the vacuum cleaner.
Replace the Snuffle Mat when Old
The snuffle mat is not a one-time purchase. Depending on how frequently and how vigorously your cat uses it, the snuffle mat will eventually become worn down.
At this point, it is critical to discard the old snuffle mat and replace it with a new one.A snuffle mat that is falling apart poses a dual danger for your cat.
First, your cat can choke on a torn piece of the mat. Choking is a medical emergency, and being a responsible pet owner means knowing how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on cats.
The second hazard is ingestion of the torn snuffle mat piece, resulting in potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. If you suspect your cat swallowed a piece of the snuffle mat, it is advisable to seek veterinary attention.
Benefits of Snuffle Mats for Cats
Using a snuffle mat for your cat comes with various physical and mental perks. Let’s take a look at the top 5 benefits of snuffle mats for cats.
Fighting Off Boredom
Cats lacking quality sources of entertainment and stimulation develop boredom and bored cats are actually naughty cats. To make things more interesting, cats often resort to destructive behaviors – climbing on the curtains, scratching the floor, or chewing on the pillows.
Providing your cat with a snuffle mat will ensure your cat stays occupied and stimulated. Searching for food is both a physically and mentally stimulating activity. To prevent overeating, you can use low-calorie treats or use a more oversized snuffle mat.
Slower and Healthier Eating
Compared to dogs, cats are less likely to be voracious eaters. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and some cats are like vacuum cleaners – they will leave the food bowl empty in a matter of seconds.
Fast eating and skipping the chewing part affects the quality of the digestion and absorption processes. It can also result in tummy troubles manifesting with bloating, vomiting, regurgitation, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Serving the food on the snuffle mat instead of the food bowl can slow down your fast-eating cat.
Burning Excess Energy
While it is true that cats spend most of the day sleeping and napping, some cats can be hyper during their wake time or cat zoomies. Hyperactive cats are often borderline destructive – a trait many owners find frustrating.
The snuffle mat offers a solution for hyperactive behaviors. Namely, sniffing, foraging, and hunting food can serve as an efficient energy outlet. Plus, these activities stimulate the production of feel-good hormones, thus providing natural calmness and relaxation.
Managing Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a widespread issue with detrimental consequences for the cat’s overall physical and mental wellbeing. Cats with separation anxiety constantly fear being left alone and often seek comfort in repetitive and usually destructive activities.
The snuffle mat allows cats to focus on something that is not destructive – searching for tasty treats. In addition to being a distraction, the snuffle mat offers independent entertainment. Obviously, for more severe anxiety cases, the snuffle mat is not enough.
Preventing Cat Dementia
And just like senior people need to solve Sudoku puzzles to keep their minds sharp, cats need to work through the strips of the snuffle mat. The snuffle mat serves as powerful mental stimulation and will encourage cats to use their brains and keep them active.
How to Make Your Own Snuffle Mat
Depending on the brand, material, and size, snuffle mats can cost between $15 and $60. To avoid such costs, you can roll up your sleeves, get creative and make your cart your own snuffle mat. Plus, when making a DIY snuffle mat, you get to choose the exact size, color, and design of the mat.
Luckily, all you need to make a snuffle mat are:
- rubber sink mat – readily available in any larger store’s kitchen department
- fleece material – make sure it is not too thick as it will make the knotting challenging
- time & patience – the amount depends on the snuffle mat size you are going for.
Start by cutting the fleece into strips, and do not worry if they are not all the same size. Then, take one strip and push its end through the first hole in the mat.
Proceed by pushing the other end of the strip through the second hole on the mat. Flip the mat over and knot the two ends of the strips together.
Basically, this is it – repeat these steps until all holes are filled with fleece, and voila – you have the perfect DIY snuffle mat.
Our Final Thoughts
The snuffle mat is a fun and stimulating way of keeping your cat busy. Additionally, it supports the cat’s natural inclinations to sniff, hunt, and forage. Last but not least, if you have time and are willing to put in the effort, the snuffle mat can be used as a training tool.
To avoid spending money on toys your cat is not interested to even look at, we recommend making your own snuffle mat. If your cat finds it worthy of her attention, you can go and buy a commercially available pet store snuffle mat.