Cat toys aren’t all fun and games for your cat; whether elaborate or simple, toys give your cat exercise, mental stimulation, a chance to act on hunting instincts, and a way to bond with you.
Cat toys can range from free homemade distractions to battery-powered devices but, regardless of the price tag, safety comes first. Cats should never have any toy that includes loose string or yarn. The papillae that give the cat’s tongue its rough texture act as tiny hooks to draw the string or yard into the cat’s throat; once ingested, it can lead to serious, even deadly, problems in the digestive tract.
You can find plenty of items around the house that make safe and fun toys for your cat, however, starting with a plain brown paper sack whose crinkly texture delights cats (especially if the sack is large enough to crawl inside). Empty boxes, from soda cases to cardboard boxes, are cat magnets. Boxes too small to hold your cat can contain small cat toys or treats; cut small holes in the boxes so cats will be challenged to fish out the goodies such as store-bought “mice” or small balls.
You can join in the fishing fun with a fishing rod or teaser style toy with a wand that lets you easily move the toy and keep it just out of your cat’s reach for interactive play. Toys like the SmartyKat ShakySnake wand toy or the KONG Swizzle Bird Teaser have an easy-to-hold wand for you with feathery temptations at the other end of the toy for your cat.
Another toy that lets you be part of the game is a laser pointer specially made for pets. Although they should never be pointed in a pet’s eyes and only used with adult supervision, these low-level laser toys delight cats as they chase the light. (And if your hands arefull, toys such as the FroliCat BOLT Laser Pet Toy have an automatic timer so you can set it for 15 minutes of play and exercise time for your cat.)
Toys can also provide fun and challenge for your cat when you’re away. Catnip-filled toys fascinate some cats (only about half of all cats are fans of catnip) while balls, whether crinkly, rattling, or fuzzy, delight others. For more interactivity, look for toys that challenge cats like the Cheese Chase from Petstages. A translucent track holds a ball and tempts felines to slap the ball in circles while a top compartment with holes tests cats with another ball contained inside.
And toys that contain treats—or your cat’s dry kibble—can make a meal last (and help your cat maintain a healthy weight at the same time.) Fill a toy like the PetSafe’s SlimCat™ then watch your cat have fun rolling the ball around the room, dispensing one piece at a time as it rolls.
Just as with children’s toys, one of the keys to success is to rotate cat toys, leaving a toy out just a few days then putting it away for a while for reintroduction later. And, just as with a two-legged child’s toy, don’t forget to save the box the toy came in…often that can be just as much fun!