Repurchase: Busy Buddy Jack & Bristle Bone

The Busy Buddy Bristle Bone was one of the first toys I purchased for my first dog, Allie. When we decided to add another canine to our crew, I took full advantage of the opportunity to buy another similar toy by the same company, the Busy Buddy Jack. Well, that was about 3-4 years ago and it was time for a repurchase! As you can see, although these toys are completely ruined, they were well loved. My motivation for repurchasing was primarily the rubber rings – the nubs were rapidly declining and I can only assume my dogs were ingesting them (and again, this is after 3-4 years of good chewing so I’m not thinking this is a defect).

These toys are predominantly a hard plastic (nylon) chew toy that unscrew apart to allow two rubber rings and an edible ring to be inserted and cost $5-20 (online), depending on the size (XS-L). Four edible rawhide rings come with the toy and refill packs – which come in a variety of flavored rawhide or cornstarch – containing 16 rings are $4-8 (online).

DIY Busy Buddy Toy Refills

I’m not crazy about giving my dogs a lot of rawhide or cornstarch so I generally make my own refills with sweet potatoes. Using the fattest sweet potatoes that I can find, I cut them into 1/4-1/2in slices and use a heavy duty apple corer to punch holes in the middle of the slices. Then I dehydrate the slices for about 8 hours and voila! Yummy, chewy, healthy Busy Buddy refills! (No dehydrator? You can accomplish the same thing in a low heat oven for a few hours!)

Journal Article: How to Not be a D#@% to Your Cat

IMG_2540Have you ever considered that cats, creatures that we commonly deem to call “owned”,  are a totally different species to ours?  Because cats are relatively common aspects of our households, the fact that their needs to totally unrelated to our own frequently goes overlooked. Dr. Meghan Herron and Dr. Tony Buffington published recommendations for cat owners to provide good health and welfare for their feline friends. Furthermore, ensuring good health and welfare can pre-empt or ameliorate many cat behavior problems! The authors divide their advice into five systems in a cat’s world: physical resources, nutrition, elimination, social, and behavior. My summary of these experts’ recommendations for each system is below!

  • Physical Resource System (Home!)
    • Indoor cats benefit from secure, seclusive “microenvironments”. These are spaces that a cat can go to be away from loud noises, other home inhabitants (both four- and two-legged), and removed from other things that may stress the cat.
    • Multi-cat households may experience a range of cat-on-cat sociality. Cats may prefer a social distant from other cats in the home of between 1 to 3 meters, which includes both horizontal as well as vertical distance!
    • Introducing something new to the cat – food, litter, etc. – should be offered near to the current whatever is being replaced so the cat can choose the preferred item.
  • Nutritional System (Nom noms)
    • Cats are solitary hunters of small prey, so offering food in puzzles that must be manipulated by the cat to release food away from other animals in the household may mimic cats’ natural feeding habits.
    • Cats that are “finicky” about their food may be responding to a perceived threat in their environment.
    • Offering multiple sources of water, including running water from a pet fountain, may benefit cats.
  • Elimination System (When you gotta go…)
    • Multi-cat households should have at least one litter box per cat, plus one additional, kept out of sight of other littler boxes.
    • Covered, self-cleaning, or too small litter boxes may disrupt a cat’s normal elimination behavior routine, which may cause inappropriate elimination (i.e., going outside the box)
    • Cats seem to prefer clumping litter, which should be scooped daily, the entire contents should be dumped weekly, and cleaned with mild soap and water monthly.
  • Social System (You talkin’ to me?)
    • Other living creatures in cats’ environments basically fall into three categories: threats (dogs, humans); competitors (other cats); and prey (birds, fish, pocket pets).
    • Having a perception of control can decrease stress for cats: let cats determine the timing and location of interactions with other species (as safety permits).
    • Multi-cat households may experience inter-cat aggression to due a multitude of reasons: health problems, inadequate resources/space, social status conflicts due to other animals inside or outside the home, etc.
    • Cats may prefer avoidance (silent conflict) to aggression (open conflict).
    • Cats that experience conflict may never be best friends but can usually learn to live together tolerably, sometimes with the help of a certified behaviorist.
  • Behavioral System (A cat’s gotta do…what a cat’s gotta do)
    • Cats must be permitted to display normal behavior to ensure adequate welfare but many normal cat behaviors can be “undesirable” to owners, including scratching, chewing and playing.
    • Directing otherwise “undesirable” towards desirable outlets provides an enriched environment, which can be accomplished by providing outlets that appeal to the cat’s natural behavior.
    • Cats prefer to scratch things after rest and that allow them to hook their claws into it. Poles covered in sisal rope or real wood logs may be good options, placed near common sleeping areas.
    • Cats can be enticed to chew on cat-designated plants (such as live catnip) by rubbing the plants with tuna or wet cat food, and likewise discouraged from chewing non-cat-designated plants by spraying them bitter sprays from pet stores. Pet toxic plants should be removed from cats’ access!
    • Providing a rotating variety of toys (wand toys, stuffed toys, battery-operated self-propelling toys, balls, cat-nip filled toys, laser toys, etc.) will encourage normal cat behaviors like pouncing, stalking, chasing, and biting of said toys (and discourage those same behaviors direct toward the owner’s hands/feet/etc!).

Sources Cited 

Herron ME, Buffington CAT. Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats.Compendium (Yardley, PA). 2010;32(12):E4.

Product Review: Food Dispensing Cat Toys: Twist ‘n Treat, SlimCat Interactive Feeder, and Active Treat Ball Cat Toy

ProductTwist ‘n Treat and SlimCat Interactive Feeder by PetSafe and Active Treat Ball cat toy by KONG

Cost: $3-6 at online retailers like Chewy.com; $6-9 in most pet stores

Length of ownership: 1.5+ year

Review:

Let me start off by saying that I approve of all of these toys’ durability, inexpensiveness and effectiveness. They are all great ways to add activity to your cat(s)’s daily routine by getting Kitty to work for her food.

My favorite of this bunch is the SlimCat Interactive Feeder. It’s a spherical shape with that an swivel to make it harder or easier to dispense the food inside. That variable difficulty is why this toy is my favorite. With two different hole shapes (oblong and circular), it accommodates different kibble shapes and sizes. Additionally, you can choose to have the holes completely open or partially closed, which adds to the difficulty level. These toys are large enough to hold about a cup of food. A small complaint about this toy is that the lid to the toy is a tad small, which can make adding food from a measuring cup difficult. It’s easy enough to pour kibble in from your palm, so, as I said, it’s a small complaint.

My second favorite of this trio is the Active Treat Ball toy from KONG. This toy is egg shaped with an oblong hole at one end for the kibble to come out. The toy unscrews at the middle and can hold about 1/2 cup of a kibble. There is a cylinder in the middle of the toy so you can choose to put the kibble outside of the cylinder (easier to dispense) or inside the cylinder (more difficult to dispense) or both. This toy isn’t my favorite because it does hold significantly less food than the SlimCat toy and you can overload the cylinder so that the kibble gets jammed. I also didn’t see significant increases in the time it took my cats to get the kibble out when it was in the cylinder vs. the body of the toy, so this toy isn’t as adjustable as the SlimCat toy.

My least favorite toy is the Twist n’ Treat toy. This toy is an saucer-shaped toy that twists apart at the center and holds a scant 1/2 cup of a kibble. It is meant to be adjustable by screwing the two parts closer or farther apart but because it is made of hard plastic (instead of something with more grip, like rubber), as my cats batted around this toy, it either came apart or tightened up to the point that kibble couldn’t come out. It does essentially work – I’m not going to give it away (yet) – but the other toys in this post are way more effective.

Product Review: Busy Buddy food dispensing toys – Tug-A-Jug, Kibble Nibble and Magic Mushroom

Products: Tug-A-Jug, Kibble Nibble and Magic Mushroom by Busy Buddy (parent company PetSafe)

Cost: $7 – $13 at online retailers, $13 – $20 in most pet stores

Available: Chewy.com* and other online retailers; most pet stores

Length of ownership: 1+ year

Review:

I decided to lump all these food dispensing toys into one post because although they have different pros and cons, a lot of their attributes are very similar as they are made by the same company! On a whole, these toys are primarily hard plastic with rubber details (except for the Magic Mushroom, which is just hard plastic). All of these toys come apart so they make it easy load an entire meal – my dogs eat about a cup of kibble twice a day so I appreciate not having to load the toys kibble-by-kibble (I’m looking at you, Tricky Treat Ball).

My favorite of these three toys is the Kibble Nibble by quite a stretch. It is super basic – just an egg shape that unscrews around the middle with holes on either end. There are rubber fingers around the treat-dispensing holes that you trim so your dog’s kibble size fits through fairly easily. Your dog just has to roll the egg around until her meal falls out, which takes long enough that I can make coffee, eat breakfast, etc. while my dogs are getting their meal. When your dog gets good at the Kibble Nibble, there is plenty of room inside the egg to add a ball (or two!) to make it more difficult to get the food out. It is fantastically easy to clean because it’s just rubber and plastic. I liked this one so much that I bought one for both pups!

The Tug-A-Jug was a contender for quite a while. The dog has to work with the rope without pulling the rope too far, which blocks the treat-dispensing hole – it is super tricky! My lab developed a method of tipping the Tug-A-Jug and wiggling the rope to get the kibble out, while my cattle dog would pick up the Tug-A-Jug by the rope and throw it around until kibble came out. (Which was fine, except that she hit me in the head with it once because I was sitting on the floor – OUCH!) Unfortunately, because the rope is just a regular rope – a bundle of fabric strings – I never quite figured out how to properly clean this one. The rope was actually the demise of this toy for me because after leaving the Tug-A-Jug in our closet over the weekend, I discovered the rope had molded the following Monday. I couldn’t get it satisfactorily clean (even after running it through the dishwasher), so the Tug-A-Jug sadly went into the trash.

The Magic Mushroom – who in the world named this? – was the least satisfactory of these three Busy Buddy products. The pup is supposed to roll this toy end-for-end, making the treats fall out of the body of the toy and dispense under the mushroom cap. However, my pups weren’t able to roll this effectively on hardwood. The toy worked okay on carpet but I prefer to feed my dogs in rooms that just happen to have non-carpeted floors. But I didn’t want to change my entire feeding routine (trust me, it would have been an ordeal) just to use this toy the way it was meant! Because the toy didn’t work well in the rooms where I feed my dogs, my cattle dog started picking up the toy and tossing it, which worked okay for about a week until the cap of the mushroom broke off. I didn’t even try to fix it because I’m sure it would have broken again in another week.

These aren’t the only food dispensing toys on the market so look for more reviews on this type of product down the road. Have you tried any of these toys with your pups? What were your experiences with them like? Let me know in the comments below!

*I regularly use Chewy.com to order dog and cat food as well as other pet supplies. I’m not sponsored by this company in any way. I LOVE them because they are affordable, have great customer service and fast shipping.