Enrichment: What are Licking Mats?

Updated: Mar 13

Compiled by Maddie Messner (@winnie_and_remy)


What are licking mats?


Silicone or rubber mats that come in various designs with shapes and grooves that soft treats can be spread into. The built-in grooves extend your pet’s feeding time and provide other enrichment benefits to pets of all shapes and sizes!


Unlike a regular bowl, a licking mat will challenge your pet and urge them to slow down their food consumption as they work to lick every bit of food from the mat. This enrichment promotes saliva production and mental stimulation while your pet enjoys a tasty treat!


Are there benefits to using a licking mat?


There are multiple benefits of licking mats for your pet's health.

  • Soothing: Repetitive licking can be soothing for an anxious or energetic dog or cat and releases the hormone cortisol which promotes relaxation.

  • Salivation: Your pet will produce more saliva as their feeding time is extended, increased salivation helps with digestion! Saliva production also helps keep your pet’s tongue and mouth clean, promoting healthy teeth and reducing bad breath.

  • Slow feeder: When our pets eat too fast this can cause many digestive issues including vomiting, choking, and indigestion. Licking mats help pets slow down which reduces upset stomachs.

  • Mental stimulation: The challenge of cleaning every bit of food out of the grooves is very exciting and stimulating to your pet’s brain!


When should I use a licking mat?

  • Your pet needs to be distracted or occupied while the humans are busy!

  • Bath time/grooming: some licking mats can stick to walls and floors and add a great distraction while the humans are trying to groom a wiggly pet.

  • Anxiety: A licking mat may help to soothe a stressed pet during a thunderstorm or separation anxiety by helping to take their mind off of those fears.

  • Reward! Licking mats are great treats for when our pups deserve something fun and tasty (isn’t that all the time?!)

What to put on licking mats (dogs)?

  • Ground up kibble or wet dog food

  • Soft fruits/veggies: Pumpkin (plain), banana, blueberries, sweet potato (no skin), carrots, apple (no seeds/core)

  • Dog safe spread: peanut butter (must not contain xylitol), plain Greek yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese

  • Dehydrated extras: green beef tripe, liver bites, green-lipped mussel powder, vet-approved vitamins/supplements (joints, arthritis, prescribed medication)

  • Raw meats/fish that your pet is familiar with

  • Grains: oatmeal, brown rice, flaxseed, barley, millet, quinoa

  • Herbs/Spices/Extras: cinnamon (anti-inflammatory, joint health), ginger (anti-nausea, digestion aid), turmeric (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), coconut oil (digestive aid, mental function), raw egg (skin and coat, vitamins)

  • Tip: Place licking mat into freezer to extend the consumption time for your pets

Important Safety Notes:

  • Do not leave licking mats out unattended or your pup may think it’s their new chew toy!

  • Wash licking mats between uses to avoid bacteria growth

  • Consult your vet or other reputable source before you give your pet any type of new food or treat. There are many amazing foods that benefit both pets and humans but please make sure you do your research first when it comes to your pets and how much to give them.

  • Fruits can be great for pets but they contain more sugars than vegetables and should not be given in large quantities.

  • Most of the ingredients above were listed with dogs in mind…licking mats are great for cats and other pets that might enjoy licking and ‘working’ for their food – start with something you already know your pet enjoys eating like wet food for cats.

  • Licking mats are an extra form of enrichment and fun for your pet but should not be used to ‘cure’ more serious forms of anxiety or stress…consult your vet and/or trainer for help!

Now that you are familiar with what a licking mat is, it's benefits, different uses, and safety precautions, what are you going to put on yours? Check out Winnie and Remy's favorite recipe below.

Winnie & Remy’s Favorite Licking Mat Recipe

Makes enough for three medium-sized licking mats, use any extra to make frozen treats or save in fridge and add a spoonful to dog’s normal meal.


Ingredients:

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (skins removed) – high dietary fiber + essential vitamins

  • 2 large carrots – low calorie, beta-carotene, Vitamin A

  • ½ cup frozen blueberries – antioxidants, immune health

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

  • Dehydrated Honest Kitchen mix (Can skip this or add some other protein like green tripe, ground up kibble, raw egg, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc)

Instructions:

  1. Add sweet potatoes and carrots to pot of boiling water and boil/steam until soft. I use our instant pot/pressure cooker to pressure cook for 10-15 mins then release steam.

  2. Remove skins from sweet potatoes and mash or blend with carrots until mixture is smooth

  3. Add coconut oil, turmeric, ginger and dehydrated mix (or other protein) to sweet potato & carrot mixture. Stir ingredients together until everything is combined.

  4. Use a fork or butter knife to smear mixture onto licking mat making sure to get the mash into all the little grooves.

  5. Once the whole mat is covered, top with a few blueberries or other small treats you may have around (I use Zuke’s minis a lot!)

  6. Place licking mats in the freezer to solidify mixture onto the mats.

  7. Remove from freezer when you’re ready to serve to your pup!




Sources:

https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/top-10-healing-herbs-for-dogs/

https://naturaldogowner.com/the-3-best-licking-mats-for-your-dog/

https://www.industripet.com/product-category/lickimats/


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