this thing's incredible

This Cardboard Treat Maze Stopped My Cat From Disrupting Zoom Calls

The author’s cat fishing for treats. Photo: Karen Adelson

When my husband and I started working from home back in March due to COVID, our cat, Lovey, didn’t seem to care. She went about her daily routine (mostly napping) without giving us much notice. However, as the weeks dragged on and she became accustomed to having her humans at home, she began expecting (and demanding) our attention at all hours, loudly meowing and walking across our laptop keyboards as we tried to work.

A few months into quarantine, in a desperate attempt to keep her from interrupting Zoom calls — and my own train of thought — I invented a very rudimentary and less-than-imaginatively named “game” called Treat Box. I’d put a few treats on the floor and then immediately cover them with an upside-down, open cardboard box from one of our many online orders. She loved it, pushing the box around with her nose and poking it with her paws until she uncovered the treats. But it never took her long to solve, and she was back to meowing in my face within minutes.

In search of something a little more complicated, I found the Cat Amazing Interactive Treat Maze on Chewy and asked for a sample to try out. At first glance, it didn’t seem like much more than a cardboard box split into three interior sections with some holes cut out. But as cat owners know, if you spend a significant amount of money on a cat toy, your cat will likely prefer playing with the cardboard box it came in, so making the box the actual toy is pretty ingenious.

It’s the different colored divisions that make the maze more challenging for Lovey. Drop a treat in the “beginner” green section and your cat can either fish it out from three large holes on top or knock it out of a big slot on the base. In the “intermediate” purple section, there are smaller openings higher up on the box so your cat has to drag treats along the side, and in the “top cat” yellow third section, the holes are even smaller. I immediately tossed a few treats in all three sections and let Lovey figure it out. (You can also use toys, like catnip mice or crinkly balls.)

Last summer, when I researched puzzle feeders and treat mazes for a different story, the veterinarians I spoke with all said that mazes offer mental stimulation for cats while also slowing down their eating. I can’t confirm the mental stimulation, but this definitely slows down Lovey’s eating. Because it takes her longer to fish the treats out, just adding four or five in the box each morning keeps her busy and satisfied for a few hours. I’ve even caught her just sleeping on top of it when there aren’t any treats inside. Which confirms another important point: The box is surprisingly durable. Along with holding her weight, it stands up well to being scratched at and bitten on. She’s already used it for weeks, and I’m sure it’ll last through quarantine and beyond.

These are the treats I use with the box. Lovey goes crazy for them and their crunchy surface helps clean her teeth.

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This Treat Maze Stops My Cat From Disrupting Zoom Calls