Lick mats slow fast-eating pets

Lick mats, the flat silicone or rubber mats with small food compartments made of textured surfaces, have become increasingly popular with pet parents.

Manufactures and pet experts cite benefits to using these mats, including mental stimulation, stress reduction and/or slowing down eating during meal or snack time.

My family’s decision to use a lick mat was based on that last benefit. Our 5-year-old cat, Pip, is highly food motivated and needs to slow down. Teddy, our 10-year-old dog, is the opposite. Pip reminds us when it’s meal time, but we need to remind Teddy. The normal dog food bowl seen in stores works well for the black Lab.

For the last four years, Pip’s food has been served on a lick mat and in a food ball. We feed our sassy feline three times a day. At breakfast he gets a quarter cup of chicken kibble and at lunch and dinner he gets an eighth of a cup. The lick mat is a seven-inch-sided square with a combination of compartments and textured surfaces.

We place one piece of kibble in each compartment and spread more evenly across the surface. We save about 10 pieces for Pip’s food ball, a plastic structure with evenly spaced holes. With a tap from the cat, the ball rolls and the kibble tumbles.

When we give Pip his mat, we tell him to come find us and we will give him his food ball. When he finishes eating, he goes in search of who has fed him. Usually, it only takes a minute or two. When Pip sees us, he immediately starts squawking and doesn’t let up until the ball is on the ground. He taps the ball and watches it roll. As soon as kibble tumbles out, he scoops it up like a steam shovel and taps the ball again.

Before we used these two feeding devices, Pip would practically inhale his dry kibble. At times, this would cause him to gag. With the mat and ball, Pip can’t gulp down multiple pieces of kibble at the same time. The mat limits him to one piece at a time. The ball offers similar results. Pip doesn’t get to eat until he makes it roll.

“Lick mats slow down super‑fast eaters,” Crystal Uys at explains. “Cats that enjoy dry food often gobble meals at unhealthy speeds, sometimes resulting in gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting. Lick mats encourage cats to spend more time eating meals.”

Or, as Elizabeth Holbrook at puts it, “Some pet parents use lick mats as an alternative to a feeding bowl, since they encourage slower eating habits, help promote better digestion and reduce the chances of a speed‑eater losing their dinner as quickly as they ate it.”

Fortunately, we’ve never had a problem with Teddy’s eating habits. The pooch is not a fast eater. For breakfast and dinner he gets a half scoop of kibble and a quarter cup of fresh food. He likes to smell his food thoroughly to make sure we opened a new bag of his favorite kibble and aren’t trying to pass off the last of the old bag. And he likes to move his food around to make sure we haven’t stuck a pill or other foul item in his bowl. More importantly, we’ve never seen Teddy gag or have other digestive issues after eating.

As for a food ball, Teddy’s not having any of that, either. Even when it’s filled with his favorite kibble, the lovable rescue isn’t going to embarrass himself by using his sniffer or a paw to move a ball around for a few pieces as he flashes one of his famous “aren’t I the most adorable doggy you’ve ever seen” looks.

That look invariably gets him a treat.

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry animals who inspire her. She can be reached at

Where to purchase lick mats

1. LickiMat Classic, Ulmpp dog licking mat, amazon

2. Frisco Silicone Treat Lick Mat, Hyper Pet IQ Dog Lick Mat,

3. Boredom Busterz Engage Licking Mat for Pets,‑exercise‑play/dog‑lick‑mat

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