From the time we are born, we have a relationship with toys. Toys help us hone our senses of sight, hearing, and touch; help us develop physical coordination; and become ways to express our interests. Toys entertain us, allow us to relieve stress and boredom, and burn off excess energy. Interestingly, toys function pretty much the same way for our cats. But there’s more to playtime with your cat than simply dropping a toy on the floor and letting your feline have at it. As a responsible cat parent, you must consider safety, moderation, variety, and other factors. What’s more, toys can contain harmful chemicals or plastics.
It’s important to learn about avoiding these dangers so your cat can have fun and be stimulated but won’t fall ill or be injured while doing so. Here are 10 safety tips for cat playtime.
Tips for Making Cat Playtime Fun and Safe
Here are some safety tips when it comes to playtime with your cat:
1. Variety Is Key
Cats need a variety of toys that relate to different aspects of their personalities, like stalking, chasing, and snuggling. Let your cat hunt and catch mouse-sized toys. (Your cat may even “gift” you with their catch!) Drag wand toys around to simulate the chase and give you and your cat some quality time together. (Just remember to let them “catch the prey,” otherwise the game may be frustrating.) Giving kitty a treat after the catch completes the hunt-catch-eat cycle.
2. Time the Playtime
Keep play sessions to 10 to 20 minutes, so as not to overtire your cat or make them bored. Your goal is to keep your cat interested and give them some exercise.
3. Remember That String Can Be Deadly
Contrary to the cute pictures of kittens with balls of yarn, string can be dangerous. Cats can’t really spit things out well; they can usually only throw things up or pass them. Strings or rubber bands caught in the intestines can kill a cat, so always store these things out of reach.
Many toys have strings dangling off of them, that, once ingested, can kill your cat. Please be very careful when picking toys. Always store toys with strings in a place where your cat can’t get them when you’re done playing.
4. Use Laser Pointers Safely
Laser pointers are fun, but use caution and never shine the beam directly in your cat’s eyes or bounce it off a reflective surface. Damage can occur in less than 10 seconds. Use only lasers made for cats that have 5 milliwatts or less strength. Lasers made for business presentations are too strong.
As an alternative, shine a lamp off a reflective surface, such as a shiny bracelet, watch, or pinwheel. And make sure the play area is free of anything your cat could fall on and hurt the feline. Remember, they’re chasing the red dot and not watching where they’re going.
5. Have a Ball With a Ball
Balls and crumpled pieces of paper are great fun to chase and bat around. A ping pong ball in a bathtub is even more fun because the “prey” cannot escape. Just remember to put the ball away before you go to bed, lest the game resume in the middle of the night.
6. Give Kitty a Scratching Post
Cats instinctively need to scratch, and scratching posts also allow them to stretch and release pent-up energy. No matter how torn up, abused, and aesthetically unpleasing a scratching post gets, think twice before you throw it away. If you do, your feline may get upset for discarding the trophy of their hard work. Only replace it if it becomes a safety hazard.
7. Inspect the Stuffed Toys
Make sure stuffed toys have safe stuffing and no small parts that could be swallowed. Toys made just for pets, or kids 3 years of age and younger, are generally safe. Replace stuffed toys when they get too torn up. You don’t want your cat swallowing anything they shouldn’t.
8. Keep an Eye Out With Catnip
Kittens under 6 months of age don’t usually respond to catnip, but older cats may love it. Some get aggressive with it, however, so if you have more than one cat, test their reactions separately at first. Otherwise, you may end up with a literal cat fight.
9. Rotate Toys
Switch out toys once in a while, except for the toy your cat plays with or snuggles with every day – don’t make that one disappear. Put some toys away for a while, then bring them back once your feline has had a fair go at their other toys. Rotating the toys out will keep things fresh for your cat and prevent boredom.
If your cat doesn’t have many toys, you can also make your own “custom” toys with things you have around the house. Crumpled paper, cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, paper bags (handles removed), and other seemingly ordinary household items can entertain your feline for hours.
10. Beware of Toxic Toys
You may think that if you buy a toy made for cats, it will be safe for your feline friend. However, you’d be surprised how often cats get injured or even killed by a toy that was sold specifically for cats.
If the toy smells of chemicals and you find it offensive to your own nose, don’t give it to your cat. Some cat toys are made of cheap and potentially toxic materials. If the toy is giving you a headache, don’t give it to your cat.
Also, check where the toy was manufactured. Some countries don’t have strict regulations about materials that can go into pet toys. Usually, a product made in the United States is a safer bet than a toy made overseas.
What does playtime with your cat look like? Do they have any favorite toys? Let us know in the comments below!