Cat owners, prepare to be stunned: A new study suggests your cat isn't really a crabby jerk—he's just bored. And there may be a simple way to improve his mood, even his health: challenge him. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley say food puzzles—think mazes or other toys that make a cat work for its food—bring out a cat's instinct to hunt, making the animal more active, less needy, and less prone to stress—because, apparently, lying around the house all day can be pretty stressful for a born predator. In more than 30 cases, researchers say the puzzles were able to alleviate specific health or behavioral concerns in cats, reports Gizmodo.
For example, an 8-year-old obese cat lost 20% of its body weight after using food puzzles for one year, researchers say. The puzzles—initially created to entertain animals in labs and zoos, per a release—also appeared to solve one cat’s aggression issues and another cat’s fear of people. They might even work for cats who pee all over the house, per Nine.com.au. There are lots of food puzzles available for purchase, but you can also just throw food in a water bottle or paper bag and watch your cat paw it around. Experts suggest trying out a few puzzles to see what’s right for your cat and starting with the easiest ones first. (Your cat's attitude might depend on the color of its fur.)