When people first explore the idea of a healthier diet for their pets, they often start with the food itself. However, HOW the food is fed can actually contribute to the health equation So when looking at improving your pet’s diet, make sure to consider the feeding tools to ensure your pet is comfortable and safe while eating.
This blog reviews some of the most common feeding vessels, i.e. bowls, and then explores other options you may not have thought of yet. If you’re not feeding raw right now, we still recommend reading through this easy post as there is lots of information that is valuable to pet owners whether feeding raw, kibble or other types of pet food.
Are Bowls The Best Option?
No. Although bowls are the most traditional way to feed domestic pets, they aren’t actually the greatest invention. When you think about how animals naturally eat, they aren’t eating from a bowl that has raised edges and can block their vision as well as making it uncomfortable to eat.
For cats especially, bowls can be uncomfortable because their whiskers are so sensitive and long. If they’re eating and their whiskers are touching the bowl’s sides, it can lead to picky eating behaviours.
Similarly, a dog’s nose is quite sensitive so bumping it on raised sides can be uncomfortable. This could often lead to what looks like pickiness to us, but is actually just frustration for your pet. Another thing to consider about dogs is that bowls can contribute to bad habits while eating, for example food guarding. Because the bowl can block their vision, they can feel uncomfortable and guarded, sometimes leading to bad behaviours.
The Social Media Favourite: Slow Feeders or Lick Mats
Recently we have seen a rise in popularity of slow feeding bowls or licking mats. Lots of dog and cat parents advertise these on their personal or “influencer” social media accounts as an essential tool for owners with pets who gulp or just eat way too quickly.
One of the most important things to consider when using conventional slow feeding tools is what they’re made from, especially when feeding raw food. If they’re made from low quality materials, this could have a negative impact on your pet’s overall health and could even cause serious digestive upset if bacteria builds up! If you are turning to these items to correct fast eating behaviours, there’s a better option…
Hand Feeding Dogs
A lot of people, especially those training their dogs, recommend hand feeding your dog. Our pet nutritionist Sarah G. says that this should be used on a case-by-case basis, because it is in fact a more dominant/controlling way of providing your pet with food! For instance, if your dog has true guarding behaviour (not stemming from anxiety), sometimes hand feeding reduces these instances. However, it is highly dependent on the dog. Other owners hand feed their pets because they might have a dog or cat that is so picky or hesitant about food that it is the most effective solution.
Basically, in certain situations hand feeding may be necessary, but when you are using this method, be aware that this is taking choice away from your dog. Furthermore, the results that some people see through hand feeding may not be the same that you see when you’re working with your pet!
The Best Option: Pet Platters!
Platters can slow dogs down, and they’re the more natural way for pets to eat. The founder of Mine Pet Platter, Carol, is a Zoologist that studied animal behaviour and focused on how they eat naturally. A lot of people focus on what they’re feeding their pet, but the how is equally important!
Dogs and cats instinctively navigate their food better on a flat surface and it’s more natural to be able to pick and choose what they want to eat first. Although some domestic animals are too picky for this method, feeding pets on flat feeding surfaces often leads to a more stimulated, happier, and less protective dog. Not only that, but this way of feeding also helps many dogs and cats slow down!
Ok Let’s talk materials
What Is The Best Feeding Accessory Material For Your Pet?
Remember when we mentioned that what materials are used in slow feeders are an important conversation? Well, that extends to all the feeding accessories you use with your pet and it’s important enough to write a whole section about. There are so many options out there so we discussed with Sarah G. about what she’s learned over the years of feeding many different dogs and cats.
One of the first things people switching to raw hear about is how plastic isn’t great with raw food. It’s true but not only specific to raw! Since plastic is a very porous material, bacteria will build up no matter what type of food you feed. Therefore, avoid plastic when possible and if using it remember to pick BPA-free plastic.
Stainless steel is often considered the best option; however, if the stainless is from an unknown source, there is a possibility of your animal ingesting numerous harmful chemicals. Don’t shop at the dollar store and get your stainless steel accessories from a trusted source!
Your Best Bet: Ceramic or Food Grade Rubber
Other options for pet feeding accessories include ceramic or food-grade rubber. If you consider getting plates or platters in these two materials, it’ll be easier to wash since you can throw them in the dishwasher and they’ll take up less space. Please throw any dishes out that have cracks in them as these can allow bacteria to grow very quickly.
Considerations About Pets’ Mealtime
When talking about how to feed your pet, we really think it should be about how animals naturally feel comfortable eating. If we consider this, animals like dogs consider mealtime a social activity that’s relaxing and stimulating at the same time. This is the sort of mealtime that we encourage you to mimic.
This sounds strange but it’d be great if you could feed your pet outside on the ground and in the dirt, because this is the most natural thing for them, and the environment helps to diversify their microbiome. Now, we know this isn’t a reality for many pet parents, so just take small steps to integrate some of these feeding methods into your household!