Many animals can benefit from foraging, as it is a time consuming behavior practiced in the wild. In the laboratory, animals are presented with feed and water, in ample supply and easily accessible. From the research perspective, this is a good thing; from the animal’s perspective, however, they are deprived of this natural behavior. Cages, while providing a safe and clean environment are essentially barren of opportunities to perform most normal behaviors. According to one source, animals may spend 20 to 30% of the feeding time locating the appropriate feed supply. Once found, many animals may hoard a feed supply for future use or for sharing with young or others in the colony. Consumption is the final stage of foraging. Zoos were one of the first to address this behavior, and many natural habitat exhibits include foraging opportunities.
Feeding is a pleasurable activity, and creative feeding strategies that encourage foraging behavior are very desirable. Interval feeding, varying feed types by adding fresh foods, and mixing textures all add interest to the feeding activity, encouraging the animals to explore and choose. Support of such appetitive behaviors can come in many forms. Puzzle feeders, foraging boards, and complex bedding materials strewn with tasty morsels all prolong the feeding experience.