Courtesy of Abbie Harrison Millie enjoys hunting for her food in this DIY snuffle mat made by her mom, who's a Daily Paws editor.
My dog is a snarfer. She eats her meals fast and furious, as if she'll win a prize if she's the first member of the clean plate (er … dish) club. But fast eating isn't always healthy for pets. It's even considered one of the potential factors for bloat, a condition that can be life-threatening for dogs.
Eating slowly can be healthier, and it can be more fun. A dog or cat who has to hunt around for their food gets to work their brain and their senses with the reward of favorite yummies. There are a lot of interesting dog puzzle feeders you can buy to encourage slower eating. Or, you can make your own-like an easy-to-create snuffle mat.
What Is a Snuffle Mat Exactly?
A DIY snuffle mat is essentially a pad with lots of little fabric flaps or tags that hide kibble. When you work dry dog or cat food down between the flaps, it hides the bits so your pet gets to nose around searching for the goodies. It's called a snuffle mat because dogs "snuffle" with their noses to find the food. (Cats tend to be a little quieter when they eat.)
Although you can buy snuffle mats, you can also create one with just a few simple materials and an hour or two of your time. Making a DIY snuffle mat lets you create it in your favorite colors match it to your pet's other accessories, or just be assured you know exactly what materials are touching your pet's food. Here are simple step-by-step instructions for making a DIY snuffle mat for your dog or cat.
Materials Needed for a DIY Snuffle Mat
Fleece fabric, approximately 2/3 yard total of 44-inch-wide fabric (You'll probably want at least two different colors.)
Here's How to Make a DIY Snuffle Mat for Dogs or Cats
If your mat material is larger than 12x12 inches, cut the mat to about that size. A utility knife might be the best tool for this.
Cut the fleece into strips that are about 7 inches long and 1 to 1.5 inches wide. The pieces don't have to be exactly the same size; a little variation will make your mat more interesting. If you have access to a rotary cutter, ruler, and self-healing mat, that's a quick way to cut the strips. Otherwise, you can certainly cut the fleece with any sharp, long-bladed scissors.
Count the number of holes in your rubber mat. Multiply this by two. That's about how many 7-inch strips of fleece you'll need.
Starting in one corner of your mat, thread one strip of fleece through two adjacent holes. Work from the back and push the ends of the strip to the front/top. Tie the ends into a knot on the front of the mat.
Move to the next hole and tie another strip. Continue tying strips in the holes along that row. Then move to the next row. When you've filled the mat, turn it 90 degrees and begin tying knots in the other direction, to cover the parts of the mat that are still showing.
Tip: As the mat gets fuller, it's easier to work from the back, poking the ends through to the front; add several strips, then turn the mat over and tie all the loose ends.
When you've filled the mat, you're done!
How to Feed Your Pet Using a Homemade Snuffle Mat
Lay the mat on the floor. Use kibble or treats that are on the smallish side, so they are more easily hidden among the fleece flaps. Working with a few pieces of kibble at a time, lay them on the fleece and rub the ties around so that the kibble pieces get hidden among the flaps. The total amount of food should be based on whether you're using the mat to serve a meal or just a snack.
Let your pet go nuts, sniffing around to find their food.