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The Fat Cat and the Treat Ball

The following article is courtesy of our partner, Banfield Pet Hospital. Used with permission.

Heather Stratton, CVT

“What are you doing to help his weight?”

This was the question that my veterinarian asked last year when I went in to pick up my cat after surgery. It was a question I was totally unprepared for. At just over a year, Stanford was starting to develop the “fat pad” that most house cats get, but I hadn’t paid it much attention — until that moment. Having worked in a veterinary hospital for several years, I already knew the standard suggestions for increasing activity or changing to a lower-calorie diet, and being a cat owner, I was skeptical about getting Stanford to exercise more. I asked several of my peers and other veterinarians that I know for their ideas and what they do with their cats to help them maintain a healthy body weight.

The Fat Cat and the Treat Ball


One of the items suggested was to get him a treat ball. These balls are designed to hold kibble and have a small hole that when it is batted around, would drop out the food. The idea being that he would now have to start working for his food. It sounded like it might work, so I picked one up from the toy aisle and went home determined to help him get back to a healthy body weight.

As most cat owners are when bringing home a new toy, I was hopeful that it would last beyond the typical 5 minutes before he went back to playing with the paper bag or cardboard box. I put his normal portion of food into the ball, shook it around to try and get him excited, and set it on the ground. After batting it around a couple times, one kibble fell out and Stanford looked up at me with a face that said nothing but “You’ve got to be kidding me.” After more failed attempts over several weeks to get him to eat his food from the ball, I went back to putting his food in his dish and the treat ball was chased into obscurity somewhere under the couch.

A couple months ago, I heard him playing in the kitchen and looked up to see what he had, and low and behold, it was the ball! Although there was no food in it, he was happily chasing it around the kitchen. I quickly went to the cupboard and grabbed his bag of treats, grabbed the ball, and plopped a couple in. Once he resumed playing with the ball, the treats started to pop out and he continued to play until every last piece dropped!

Since he rediscovered the ball, I’ve started mixing in his normal food with some of his treats and putting this in the ball while I go to work and still measuring out the amount that he gets on a daily basis. I’m excited to come home and find the ball either empty, or nearly empty, and as it gets closer to his next vet appointment I’m looking forward to getting to answer the question “What are you doing to help his weight,” knowing that I truly am!

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