Cats are not supposed to be couch potatoes. They enjoy being challenged with toys that keep them both mentally and physically alert. Besides, this kind of play helps them to hone their innate prey chasing and pounce skills.
And just like dogs, they enjoy a variety of different play objects to keep them engaged. The best way to stock the kitty toy box is to ensure that it includes three kinds of toys: action, distraction and comfort toys.
Action Toys for Cats
This category includes toys that you can use to play with your cat. They’re a great way to bond with your favorite feline and provide her with some exercise.
- Wands: Without a doubt, the best action toys comprise anything on a wand that can be waved around and initiate chasing games. Those with lifelike looking bugs on the end will definitely hold feline attention. When my cat Ziggy was just a few weeks old, I starting playing with him with a variety of wands. Not only would he enjoy chasing them around in circles, but also, when I would throw the wand a reasonable distance, he would run after it and bring it back to me. Yes! Lots of cats love to play fetch, too. So small balls and anything that they can retrieve can also be considered an action toy. I soon noticed that he loved to pull the feathers out of the wand toys, leaving a hard bead at the end of the string, which was easy to carry in his mouth. This has become his favorite type of wand toy to bring to me to initiate games (which I am happy to do because it pulls me away from my desk and gives me a break). It’s fine for cats to pull at their toys and “redesign” them as long as they are not chewers and run the risk of swallowing something. If your cat is a chewer, don’t risk it — throw the remnants away and bring out a new toy. And avoid anything with feathers!Pro Tip: When you are playing with wands, be sure to move them away from your body to prevent your cat from inadvertently scratching you when she is in pursuit mode.
- Lasers: Lasers are also great for initiating action games. I can easily drink a cup of coffee while keeping a game going — multi-tasking is a wonderful thing. Just be sure never to shine the light directly at your cat’s eyes.Pro Tip: I always end such games with a favorite treat. Otherwise laser games are unfair, because cats never really get to catch anything!
- Bubbles: Bubbles are also considered an action toy, and you may even find catnip-infused bubbles at a pet store. They are great to teach children how to interact with pets because both will have a lot of fun with them.
There is no shortage of wonderful distraction toys designed to keep cats engaged when they are home alone.
- Puzzles: Puzzles in which you can hide treats will keep your cat busy for hours trying to remove the tasty morsels hidden inside. Such toys are available in different degrees of difficulty.
- Treat-Dispensing Toys: Treat balls that roll around dispensing treats haphazardly are fun in multi-cat households where cats are likely to initiate games between themselves. There are also toys that can be filled with a special fish paste that will keep your cat’s deft paws busy cleaning it out.
- Electronic Toys: Cat toys have become very sophisticated and there are a growing number of electronic battery-operated toys to keep them engaged in self-play.
Some play-driven cats, like my Ziggy, can learn to switch on some of these toys on their own. We have one, and it’s a firm favorite in our house. When switched on, a small mouse goes around a track in a haphazard fashion, suddenly changing direction, and it switches itself off after about 10 minutes of play so no batteries are wasted.
Pro Tip: I often take different toys and hide them around the house to create a treasure hunt for my cats and keep them busy when I am not home.
Kitty Comfort Toys
Comfort toys help provide cats a familiar and soothing environment. Usually soft and snuggly, comfort toys can be played with and cuddled.
- Plush Toys: Some cats like soft plush toys that they can carry around in their mouths (like kittens) and ultimately sleep with in a favorite snooze zone.
- Catnip-Filled Plush Toys: Kick the activity level up with catnip-stuffed plush toys. The catnip will rev up your cat for about 10 minutes of frenzied fun, and then she is likely to carry the toy off somewhere and sleep with it.
It’s a good idea to place toys near a favorite sleeping place and close to where you like to hang out, too, as a reminder to initiate some playtime. Ten minutes of fun and games at regular intervals throughout the day is all it takes to keep your cat active and engaged. And it’s a great way to spend quality time with your favorite feline.