If you are reading this article then you are, like me, on the hunt for options to slow down or enrich the mealtime experience of your pets. Since converting to an exclusively raw diet for both our dogs and our cats, the search for suitable slow feeding devices has been a somewhat frustrating mission.
The majority of treat dispensers and slow feeders are designed for the kibble/dry food fed dog or cat. Because they form the bulk of the market there is little surprise about this. However, another confounding factor I am finding is that, because I have large dogs, the options are even further diminished.
I generally feed my pets twice per day, so the feeding device needs to be able to accommodate their ration for each meal. Sometimes their meals are a mince/mush type of meal and other times it has large chunks of all sorts of things that you might find in a normal, varied, whole, raw food diet for a dog or cat. My biggest dog eats about 300g at a meal. The smallest about 60g. The two cats share about 50-60g between them at each meal.
So what are my criteria when selecting a slow feeding device?
- It must slow them down (I know – seems obvious – but there are some slow feeders that my dogs simply note as a minor inconvenience and proceed to happily hoover away).
- It must accommodate the bulk of the meal (I have enough to do already without preparing and cleaning a zillion different containers). Note also that I am looking for meal time feeders, not treat/boredom buster activities.
- It must be easy to clean.
- It must be tough (this is more of an issue for one of my larger dogs who will resort to brute force on occasion).
- I want more than one type to provide a variety of challenges.
The scatter method can work well for all kinds of feeding (ie scatter their food all over the back yard and let them find it). However, it’s still pretty labour intensive on my part (when compared to broadcasting a handful of kibble) and in a 3 dog household, it would need long chains, large amounts of yard space, or individual feeding times.
So what have I found thus far?
By far my favourite to date is the Green Slow Feeder from Northmate. It also comes in a Mini version (which we use with the smallest dog) and a purple/pointier version which we use for our cats. It’s tough (although sadly we cracked a piece off one of the larger green bowls by dropping it). It’s easy to clean (the bigs ones fit easily in the laundry tub) and it slows them down. I just use a spoon to distribute their mixed up meal throughout the bowl. You can stash in the odd small fish, green lipped mussel, chicken wing etc in too. It has a slight depression towards the centre, so it will also hold a bit of bone broth and other runnier portions of the ration if need be.
My next favourite is probably the Busy Buddy Twist N Treat. We use the Large size for the bigger dogs (it comfortably holds around 250g raw food) and the Small size for the smallest (Jack Russell Terrier). The cats also use the Small size on occasion. Because this one isn’t a bowl as such, we use it to feed outside (it has holes and gaps that will allow runny stuff through and bits of meat to fall out). If you don’t mind cleaning up your floors then of course you could use it inside too (for our inside cats we just sit it on a plate). What I like about this one also is that you can alter the level of difficulty. When you are first starting out, some dogs might simply give up when faced with the challenge of having to lick and extract their food from inside the device. With the Twist N Treat you can simply unscrew it a little to make the main access point wider. After a few goes with it, you will find their level of “expertness” increases rapidly and you can increase the challenge (ie screw it down more).
Recently we have added the West Paw Toppl Treat Toy to the roster. This has also been well accepted (and met criteria), although sadly the largest size still really isn’t large enough for our biggest dog. The large size holds around 200g raw food, so for our largest dog we spread his ration across 2. The small size holds around 50 g. These can also be used for your cats.
We routinely use the Classic KONG toys for treat stuffing etc, but have found them a little too restrictive for mealtime feeding. Having said that, if your dog is a talented destuffer, then stuffing their meal into a classic shaped KONG might be a useful option for you.
The Chilly Penguin Freezer Toy recently popped up on my Instagram feed as a raw feeding alternative so it’s something new I am going to soon try with my crew.
Other options we have and use for the cats routinely include various types of Lickimat, KONG Quest Treat Dispensing Bone (large size), and the Scream Rubber Puzzle Pig. The Doc and Phoebe Indoor Hunting Feeder is so close to being suitable, but sadly the holes in it are just too small to be accessible for a wet raw diet (we use it for air dried raw rations such as Ziwi which it is perfect for). A favourite for the cats is actually an empty toilet roll. I simply pack their ration into the cardboard toilet roll and pop it on a plate on the floor.
I hope you find this info helpful and I’d love to hear of any other successes you have found!