How to Make a Puzzle Cat Feeder

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/13/20242-4 minutes
A cat is getting the food

The active pursuit of food is instinctive for cats. A great way to appeal to your cat’s desire for physical and mental stimulation during feeding is through the use of a puzzle feeder.

Some puzzle feeders are ball- or tube-shaped and release bits of kibble when rolled just the right way. Some have sliders that move to reveal hidden compartments where you stash the food. Others have silos of different heights to add complexity to the hunt.

While these feeders come in all shapes and sizes, they operate on a similar premise: each challenges your cat to work for her food.

Our Experts Explore Ideas

Cat behaviorists from our expert team, along Purina’s industrial design team, got together to see what they could build. They did this with a collection of common household items.

The criteria: the feeders had to be made from low-cost items, and easily adaptable in order to increase the level of challenge for your cat.

Here’s how you can make the team’s favorites.

Wheel Puzzle Cat Feeder

What You Need

  • A round food container, like for margarine or sour cream or cream cheese, or a similar sized plastic storage container—preferably with a screw-on lid. To be safe, don’t use PVC-based containers.
  • Strong, non-toxic glue
  • An X-ACTO® or utility knife (Please use under adult supervision.)

How to Make it

  1. Clean and sanitize your container.
  2. Use an X-ACTO® or utility knife to cut a few small holes in the sides of the container that are large enough for a piece of kibble to pass through.
  3. Next, glue an additional lid to the bottom of the container that’s slightly larger in diameter. This alters the way that the feeder rolls and adds variety to the experience for your cat.

Bottle Puzzle Cat Feeder

What You Need

  • A plastic water or soda bottle (8 to 24 ounces)
  • An X-ACTO® or utility knife (Please use under adult supervision.)

How to Make it

  1. Clean and sanitize the bottle.
  2. Use an X-ACTO® or utility knife to cut a few small holes in the sides of the container that are large enough for kibble to pass through.
  3. Place some kibble in the bottle, screw on the cap and let your cat get to work.

Egg Puzzle Cat Feeder

What You Need

  • A small- to medium-sized plastic holiday egg
  • An X-ACTO® or utility knife (Please use under adult supervision.)

How to Make it

  1. Clean and sanitize the egg.
  2. Cut a couple holes in the top and bottom section of the holiday egg using the X-ACTO® or utility knife.
  3. Next, trim away any remnant plastic so the opening is as free as can be.
  4. Place some kibble inside the holiday egg, reassemble it and give it a test before rolling it out for play. Widen the holes as needed to ensure kibble can pass through.

Reach Box Feeder

What You Need

  • A sturdy shoebox
  • Three or more plastic water or soda bottles (8 to 24 ounces)
  • An X-ACTO or utility knife (Please use under adult supervision.)
  • Duct tape or a non-toxic glue, just in case

How to Make it

  1. Clean and sanitize all bottles.
  2. Use your X-ACTO or utility knife to cleanly cut the tops off each of the bottles. Vary the height at which you make the cuts to make things more challenging for your cat—easy, medium or difficult.
  3. Next, trace around one of the water bottles on the top of the box. Repeat it in different locations on the box top—one for each bottle.
  4. Use the X-ACTO or utility knife to cut holes in the box top. If you cut the hole slightly smaller than the border you traced, the narrow bands in the plastic bottle will help hold it in place without having to glue or tape it.
  5. Set the box so the bottles open from the top and place some kibble inside each bottle.
    This way, your cat has to reach down and scoop the food out. Or, you can set it on its side so your cat has to reach in to pull the food toward her. Each provides a different experience.

Turtle Puzzle Cat Feeder

Try this one created by our friend Alexandre Tremblay at Aikiou, maker of the Stimulo feeding station and other smart interactive feeders for cats and dogs.

What You Need

  • An empty egg carton
  • Non-toxic white glue
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Crayons or non-toxic, water-based paint
  • Four binder clips

How to Make it

  1. Cut one egg cup from the bottom of the egg carton. This will form the shell of your turtle feeder.
  2. Place the egg cup adjacent to the spacer bump on the reverse side of the top of the egg carton. Trace around the perimeter and outline the contour of the spacer. This will form the head of the turtle as well as a base to keep the kibble inside the “shell.”
  3. Cut the lid following the outline you’ve made.
  4. Apply glue around the edge of the egg cup.
  5. Clamp the two pieces together using the four binder clips. Allow adequate time for the glue to set.
  6. Use the crayons or non-toxic water-based paint to decorate your turtle.
  7. Fill the turtle feeder with kibble and let your cat bat it about to get her reward.

Get Creative for Your Cat

A couple things to note before you get to building. First, puzzle feeders are meant to be supervised activities. You shouldn’t leave your cat unattended.

Second, it’s okay if your invention doesn’t hold up forever. Cats prefer variety, so it’s a success even if your cat uses the feeder for a week. If that’s the case, give it a break, try to devise a new iteration and add to the variety.

We challenge you to give these a try or put your own spin on a feeder for your cat. For more DIY and other enrichment ideas, check out articles from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.

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