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Trends & Products: Pet Toys & Feeders Offer Valuable Mental Enrichment

By Pet Age Staff//April 30, 2024//

SodaPup Honey Pot image courtesy SodaPup / @fableoffloofs)

Trends & Products: Pet Toys & Feeders Offer Valuable Mental Enrichment

By: Pet Age Staff//April 30, 2024//

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Enrichment has gained momentum in recent years, helped in part by its role in the holistic development of pets. Providing a dog or cat with enrichment allows the companion animal to have a sense of control over its environment, which can help to reduce and avoid stress. Nutritional enrichment encourages dogs to use natural foraging and feeding behaviors to earn food. This can be accomplished by using puzzle feeders or slow feeders that have been shown to be a way to provide mental enrichment for dogs as they are required to use problem-solving skills to access the food.

Canine enrichment toys run the gamut from dog treat dispensers, treat puzzles for dogs, lick mats for dogs and slow feeder bowls. Meanwhile, interactive enrichment toys for cats can include food puzzles, imitation mice, roller balls and chasing toys.

The enrichment category has caught the attention of several leading pet brands, including Tall Tails, which was showcasing its Foraging Mats at Global Pet Expo this past March.

Crafted from premium food-grade silicone, the Tall Tails Foraging Mats feature three designs which can hold 1+ cups of kibble, raw food, treats, etc.: Clover Field, River Rock and Grassy Meadow. Each mat is durable, flexible and easy to clean, making them a convenient and practical addition to any pet owner’s arsenal to provide mental stimulation, slow down eating and reinforce positive behavior.

“Whether as a reward for training, a slow feeder for fast eaters, or simply to make mealtimes more enjoyable, these mats offer endless possibilities for enriching your dog’s dining experience,” noted George Barton, director of marketing for Tall Tails. “Equipped with suction cups on the back, each mat offers secure attachment to smooth surfaces, providing stability during use. What sets these mats apart is their ability to be interconnected to craft an engaging landscape for dogs to explore, sniff, and forage.”

Cleaning up is easy, he added, as pet parents simply simply place the product on the top rack of the dishwasher for easy cleanup. These mats are available July 2024 to retailers and pet parents.

Another popular pet brand, SodaPup specializes in the design and development of innovative American-made enrichment products. The Boulder, Colorado-based brand has seen a tremendous response to its enrichment products since the start of the pandemic, which has resulted in the pet brand working hard to keep innovating in this category. SodaPup has developed a growing collection of enrichment slow feeders such as those with a honeycomb, water frog, duck and mandala geometric design.

“Food based enrichment practices continue to gather momentum in the United States, largely because of influences coming from Australia and Western Europe spread through social media,” said Adam Baker, founder and CEO of SodaPup. “We still encounter independent pet retailers that don’t carry lick mats and slow feeder bowls, but that is quickly changing.”

Dog enrichment has been exploding on social media, most notably on TikTok and Instagram, where photos and videos praise enrichment activities as boredom-busters while being solutions for canine behavioral problems. In fact, the phrase “Ditch the Bowl” and the hashtag #ditchthebowl have become popular in the world of dog training and enrichment, with the idea to make mealtimes more fun and enriching for dogs. The concept encourages us to stop using a regular bowl to feed pets and instead replace it with snuffle mats, licki mats or food-dispensing toys that encourage the pets to work for their food.

“The impact of social media can’t be underestimated because thousands of people are creating fascinating content showing others how to use products like lick mats and slow feeder bowls,” noted Baker. “Every day, new consumer tutorials are created and posted for others to see. Some focus on healthy ingredients. Others focus on elaborate designs. The net effect of all this content is that pet owners are realizing that it’s not only important what you feed your pet, but also how you feed them. Giving your dog a feeding challenge will help prevent boredom and it will slow them down leading to better gut health.”

Another enrichment trend driven by social media is the artistic preparation of meals. There is a “performative” aspect to posting enrichment meals on social media.

“We noticed early on how consumers were creating elaborate, beautiful meals for their pets and then photographing and posting them,” said Baker. “We thought ‘What if we lean into this?’  Most of our designs are informed by this consumer behavior. We create new designs in a way that enables if not encourages this type of decorative behavior.  This is why we work so hard to elevate the design of our products.  It separates us from other brands, but more importantly, it inspires and fuels the creativity of our consumers, and it creates a special relationship with consumers which we love.  It’s a dance.”




GURU’s Chew Perfect line is the perfect combination of a chew toy and enrichment toy for long-lasting challenging play. The Spin & Treat, BusyBall and Adjust-A-Chew make up this all-star line of toys that address natural instincts (foraging, digging and chewing) and help with behavioral issues including boredom, separation anxiety and destructive chewing. The line features Chew Perfect, GURU’s own nylon wood chew material specifically designed for a dog’s safety and satisfaction. 





Neglecting daily dog teeth brushing allows tartar and plaque to accumulate, causing issues like bleeding gums, bad breath and potential heart disease. Pet dental disease is globally widespread, inflicting pain and expenses but preventable with proper oral care. The challenge is dogs’ aversion to teeth brushing. Introducing Treatbrush, the self-brushing dog toothbrush with patented “Floss Slots,” designed to effortlessly clean your dog’s teeth, gums and tongue with every chew, addressing the challenge of oral hygiene in dogs. 




WAUDOG Silicone Series

Ukrainian manufacturer COLLAR Company releases new products within the WAUDOG Silicone series. Namely, licking and slow feeding mat and snuffle mat for dogs and cats. Pet supplies are manufactured from food-grade silicone, the main advantages of which are their safety and that they can be easily washed in the dishwasher. Functional and practical design allows pet parents to use pet supplies during any travels and walks.




Bone Broth Butter 

Nugget’s Healthy Eats offers its line of Bone Broth Butter, the world’s first spreadable bone broth. This enrichment spread is great as a topper for your dog’s meal, stuffed into a chew toy or spread onto lick mats. The No. 1 ingredient is Nugget’s signature bone brow, which is simmered for days with organ meat. It also features a proprietary premium blend of organic raw, fermented turmeric with ginger and kefir.




Funkitty Egg-Cersizer

The PetSafe Funkitty Egg-Cersizer Cat Toy makes playtime more fun and helps your cat lose weight. Fill it with treats or your cat’s entire meal. Open one, two or three of the dispensing holes to customize how fast the treats or dry food come out. Decrease the number of openings to increase the challenge over time. The food pops out of the openings as your cat plays with the toy. It’s a great way to slow down cats who eat too fast, encourage your cat to work for each meal, and reward your cat for exercising.




Tall Tails Foraging Mats

Crafted from premium food-grade silicone, the Tall Tails Foraging Mats feature three designs; Clover Field, River Rock, and Grassy Meadow. Each mat is durable, flexible and easy to clean. Equipped with suction cups on the back, each mat offers secure attachment to smooth surfaces, providing stability during use. What sets these mats apart is their ability to be interconnected to craft an engaging landscape for dogs to explore, sniff and forage.




Project Hive Scents

Taking its Hive Chew Toys, Hive Discs and Hive Fetch Sticks to a new level of engagement for dogs, Project Hive Pet Company offers its enrichment toys in five scents that humans love almost as much as dogs do: Calming Lavender (purple), Soothing Vanilla (blue), Sweet Mango (orange), Tropical Coconut (green) and Wild Berry (bright pink). Bee inspired.




West Paw Feast Mat 

Feast Mat, a revolutionary, multi-purpose lick mat and slow feeder designed for dogs, is thoughtfully designed with durability, versatility and enrichment in mind. Like all West Paw products, the new Feast Mat is crafted from safe, sustainable materials. This non-slip, easy to clean (top rack dishwasher safe), durable and flexible mat will stay securely in place when in use and is offered in the perfect size that is great for any dog.




Wave Slow Feeder

Research shows that most slow feeder bowls are ineffective at slowing down your dog’s eating. SodaPup’s Wave eBowl is designed to increase the challenge for your dog. The segmented design is more difficult than other slow feeder bowls and promotes healthy slower eating. This design also features segments of different sizes allowing you to put different food types in different chambers.





Discover Patches, from the Thinker Line by Patchwork Pet. These cleverly crafted toys are designed to engage your pet’s mind, offering a variety of interactive activities. Patches provide mental stimulation and endless entertainment, ensuring your furry friend’s curiosity is always piqued.




Sneaky Snacker

The Sneaky Snacker Chew & Treat Toy combines a long-lasting chewing challenge with dogs’ favorite treats. This patent-pending treat toy opens so pet parents can insert any treat or spread inside. The treat toy is thoughtfully designed with a flexible center and small openings that allow dogs to smell the deliciousness hidden inside. As dogs chew, small bits of the treat and its scent slowly release to extend chew time and keep dogs occupied longer.