Visit any pet store and you’ll be faced with hundeds of toys for cats and kittens. From simple fur mice to elaborate cat trees adorned with bobbers, danglers, catnip and carpet, these products are designed to satisfy the natural predatory and sensory desires every cat has. Cats are also curious and athletic by nature, and choosing toys to keep them stimulated and active can prevent problem behaviors and keep your pet happy and healthy, especially when they are confined in your home. Let’s get to know cat toys so you can pick the best variety for your favorite feline.
If you have cats, you already know that they are experts in keeping themselves entertained (when they’re not sleeping). Whether they’re exploring the area above your cupboards or playing with a bottle cap you dropped on the floor, these resourceful animals are always looking for something new and interesting to pique their interest. Manufactured cat toys utilize a variety of materials that add to the appeal and sensory experience of the toy overall. The “feel” of a toy (including size and texture), the way it moves, the way it smells or tastes, and the sounds it makes all contribute to it’s appeal. That being said, cats all have their own preferences in what they like.
Types of Toys
There are several categories of cat toys. The largest group is the “active” toy group. These are the fur mice, jingly balls, krinkle toys and similar items that move and/or make noise when your cat bats, rolls or pounces them. There is a great variety of these toys, and while simple, they tend to be favored by many cats. These toys keep your cat moving and can be easily retrieved and carried. Many of these are composed of multiple materials including burlap, mylar, feathers, foam and more, increasing sensory stimulation and tendency for random direction when tossed.
Interactive toys include those that require your attention or stationary toys that provide prolonged entertainment but tend to be stationary. Automated toys, danglers, lasers, puzzle toys and play stations are popular toys in this category. These toys provide more mental stimulation and allow for increased bursts of intense activity much like stalking and capturing live prey.
Some cats are more lovers than hunters, and prefer toys where they can hide and cuddle. Tunnels, plush toys, blankets and cat caves provide security, warmth and comfort. For the best experience, try toys from all categories so your cat can decide what he prefers and has options if he wants to try something new.
A Word on Catnip
You may look for catnip infused toys or add your own dried catnip to toys and scratchers to further entice your pet. You may even grow fresh catnip in the garden or on a sunny windowsill as a green treat. Be aware that catnip doesn’t have an effect on all cats. The attraction to catnip is a hereditary trait, and only about half of cats go crazy for the stuff. Kittens and older cats also tend to be unphased by catnip’s biochemical draw. It should be noted that cats that are into catnip may show either calm, relaxed behavior or erratic, wildly playful behavior, so be warned!
Make Your Own
Some of the best toys can actually be found at home. A discarded box or open paper bag may attract your cat like a magnet. Small items like shower curtain rings, milk caps, clothes pins or ping pong balls can be just as effective as store bought products. Hang a dangler from a door knob or toss a few balls in the bathtub for instant interactive fun. You can even fill a bottle with hot water to create a thermo-cuddler that your pet can sleep next to while you’re out.
Whether you make your own toys or purchase them there are a few simple cautions to keep in mind. Avoid items that may break, be swallowed, or harm your pet. Paper clips, rubber bands, tinsel and floss. are some examples of potentially hazardous items to avoid. Toys that show signs of heavy wear or parts that may fall off of them should be discarded. Plastic bags should also be kept out of your cat’s paws as they can be chewed and also pose a suffocation hazard. When introducing any new toy, be sure ot observe your pet while they investigate and play for the first few minutes to see how they react to the toy.
To keep your pet coming back for more, keep a stash of toys that you can change out once a week or so. Remember to add some interactive toys to the mix like a laser toy or dangler wand so you can share playtime with your pet. Just a few minutes each day allows you to bond with your cat and admire their grace and prowess.
Kitten Playing image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Stephn Czuratis
Black Cat Playing image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Egban