The Fat Cat and the Treat Ball

by catfood

The Treat Ball

“How do you help him with his weight? My veterinarian asked me this question last year when I went in to pick up my cat after surgery. The question caught me completely off guard. Stanford was just over a year old when he started developing the “fat pad” that most house cats get, but I hadn’t given it much thought – until that moment.

I had previously worked for several years in a veterinary hospital and was familiar with the standard recommendations for increasing activity or switching to a lower-calorie diet, and as a cat owner, I was skeptical about getting Stanford to exercise more. I asked several of my colleagues and other veterinarians I know for advice and what they do to help their cats maintain a healthy body weight.


One suggestion was to get him a treat ball.

These balls are made to hold kibble and have a small hole in the center that allows food to fall out when batted around. He will now have to work for food, according to the plan. It sounded promising, so I grabbed one from the toy aisle and went home determined to help him regain control of his body weight.

I was hoping that it would last longer than the usual 5 minutes before he went back to playing with the paper bag or cardboard box, as most cat owners do when they bring home a new toy. I stuffed his usual portion of food into the ball, shook it around to get him excited, and placed it on the table. After a few times of batting it around, one kibble fell out, and Stanford looked up at me, saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” After several weeks of unsuccessful attempts to get him to eat his food from the ball, I resorted to putting his food in his dish, and the treat ball was chased under the couch.

A few months ago, I heard him playing in the kitchen and looked up to see what he was holding, and lo and behold, it was the ball! He was having a good time chasing it around the kitchen despite the fact that there was no food in it. I dashed to the cupboard, grabbed his treat bag and the ball, and tossed a few in. When he resumed playing with the golf ball, the treats started to fall out, and he kept playing until the last piece fell!

Since he rediscovered the ball, I’ve started combining his regular food with some of his treats and putting it in the ball while I go to work, while still measuring out the amount he receives daily. I’m looking forward to coming home and finding the ball empty or nearly empty, and as his next vet appointment approaches, I’m looking forward to knowing that I truly am answering the question “What are you doing to help his weight?”

Wondering about Transitioning an Outdoor Cat to Indoors or more information about cats? Check it out on our latest post!


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