So, you know you need to be getting your new kitten or cat some toys - but which one to choose? With such a huge selection out there, it can get confusing! We're laid out the information for you in a detailed guide, along with some concrete suggestions.
When choosing a toy for your cat, always keep the following criteria in mind -
There's more to choosing a cat toy than that.
- Safety – Can this toy get lodged in my cat’s throat, causing them to choke?
- Size – Is the toy so large that it could hurt my cat? Is it so small that it presents a choking hazard?
- Exercise – Does this toy facilitate active playtime to help my cat stay athletic and fit?
- Durability – Will I have to replace this toy often? Could it become dangerous when/if it starts to fall apart?
No doubt about it, the toy aisle of the pet store is a bewildering place. Colorful rows of different types of toys, all promising that they will be irresistible to your feline companion, present a nearly overwhelming number of options.
The only thing worse than facing this dilemma is finally making your selection, bringing the toy home, and finding that your cat has no interest in it at all.
So, how can you avoid your cat turning up their nose at their latest playtime item? This guide will help you to determine which toys will be the perfect fit for the kitty in your life. Throughout this guide, you'll find text and image links to various toys. Just click on them to get to the product page on Amazon.
Cat Toys: Choosing the Right One for YOUR Cat
Truth be told, there is no one toy that will yield delighted reactions from every cat. Young cats are supremely active little creatures, so their toys need to reflect that. By ensuring that you are buying the right toy for your feline, you are making sure that they are living their most active and healthiest life.
The abundance of energy that’s characteristic of kittens and young adult cats can become quite destructive if they are not given a proper physical outlet. Choosing the right toy could mean the difference between a content kitty and one that will destroy anything they can get their paws on.
The key to choosing a good toy is often in offering a selection. Try several types of toys and see which ones your new cat likes. Start with the simpler, more affordable toys, and see if Kitty likes to pounce, chase, jump or stalk. Or all of these combined. Spend time interacting with your cat to learn his or her unique patterns and you'll soon be able to see for yourself what "toy genre" she's into.
Read more: Playing With Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know
Criteria for Choosing Cat Toys
Even when making that initial selection, you need to pay attention to a few things.
Unfortunately, not all cat toys are made with the highest quality materials and methods. This means that you need to be careful in making a selection at the pet store. First, and most importantly, let’s talk about how to choose the safest toy for your cat.
Cat Toy Safety
In many ways, buying a toy for a cat is very similar to buying a toy for a small child. You want to avoid toys that they could easily choke on, become tangled in, or have dropped on them and cause bodily harm.
Some cat toys are made with parts that can become dislodged from the body of the toy - meaning that these parts could end up being swallowed.
One common example of this are those cute, little mouse toys that cats just love to pounce on and grasp between their teeth. While these toys are a staple of many cats’ toy boxes, glued-on components pose a choking risk for feisty felines that have mauled their new toy.
Consider this cute, little squirrel by KONG instead.
The body of this toy consists of a single piece with no added threads, bells or elements that can easily become torn or chewed off. It is also free of stuffing, which means that this toy poses one less risk than its stuffed toy counterparts.
If you find yourself in the possession of small cat toys with potentially problematic parts (like glued-on eyes and noses), you can still make the toy safer for your cat by removing those elements.
Whether your cat prefers to pounce and jump on a mouse or a feather or a laser, you should know that there are many safe options for playtime on the market. Cat owners have developed more discriminating tastes where their cat’s toys are concerned in recent years, as shown by the increasing quality of the toys we see on pet store shelves. Toys that are free of small parts and are of sturdy construction are plentiful, so your options aren’t at all limited!
Choosing a Type of Cat Toy
There are many types of cat toys available today, ranging from simple mice and rodent lookalikes to more complex and even electronic gadgets. Some toys are dependent on the owner’s use while others can function on their own with batteries or other mechanisms for solo playtime. It is important that you do not implement only one type of toy over all others. Cats need variety, including toys that you use to help them get their physical fitness in.
This teaser toy by Go Cat is great for high-energy fun.
Though all teaser wand toys of this nature should be removed from the cat’s reach when not in supervised use, you should still make sure to buy a well-constructed and sturdy teaser wand. Or, if you’re worried about your cat getting into their teaser toy regardless of how well you stash it, you could consider the addition of a laser teaser toy in your home. Friends Forever makes a great laser toy that features no cords and an automatic shut-off feature.
Small Toys of Prey
Size is an important part of determining how a cat will play with the toy. Even though your cat likely doesn’t have to hunt for their own food, they still have the predatory instincts that drive them to pounce on, tackle and bite their “prey” – in this case, their toys. Many cats prefer a toy that they can carry around in their mouths as their conquest, so it’s worth considering buying a toy or two that they can proudly display as their “kill.”
like this mouse from Our Pets fit the bill perfectly. With its sturdy construction and realistic squeaking sounds, your cat will channel their inner Big Cat and go in for the kill. This toy is lightweight enough to be flicked, batted and thrown around while still being hearty enough to withstand quite a bit of tooth and claw action.
Automatic and Interactive Toys
Toys that operate on their own are great finds for busy households where cats may be left alone for extended periods of time. We all know what mischief a cat can cause when they are bored and left to their own devices without stimulation, so it’s best to provide them something that they can play with when you aren’t around.
This might require getting a bit more intricate than the standard fare, as the toy will also be responsible for getting the cat’s attention in the first place.
While these toys can be an important part of a cat’s playtime, it’s important to note that you should not rely on the cat’s ability to entertain themselves with these toys alone. They need interaction and variety, so make sure to combine these interactive toys with toys that you operate for them as well.
SmartyKat fully acknowledges this aspect of our domesticated feline friends and has produced this incredible automated toy that perfectly triggers a cat’s hunting impulses. The erratic movements of the automated mouse beneath the mat mimics an actual hunting session, which is perfect for any active cat.
In fact, automated toys are great additions to almost any cat household. Most of us can’t dedicate every hour to being at home to entertain our pets, so a toy that operates on its own is a great solution. If a toy moves or lights up on its own, without your help, your cat can conquer boredom on their terms.
This scratcher toy by Bergan caters to your cat’s natural impulses to play and to scratch, saving your furniture while giving cats an outlet for their rambunctious energy.
Not all automatic toys are electronic in nature. This stack of tracks by PetStages requires nothing more than your cat’s interest and a nudge of their paw to get the balls rolling on the tracks.
For as long as your cat is enthralled by the jingling of the toys racing around in circles, the toy will keep them occupied. This interactive toy grants endless hours of excitement and exercise while taking up little space in your home.
PetSafe creates a ball toy that is designed to dispense food while your cat plays. You can use toys like this to monitor and slow down your pet’s eating or fill the toy with a few treats to reward them for their spirited play. This is a great way to get your lazy kitty more active – a cat will always do what they have to in order to get those sweet treats!
This Catit digger toy fuses the practicality of a food-dispensing toy with a cat’s innate urge to hunt. Your cat can paw around for their treats or their dinner in a way that simulates their natural hunting tendencies.
Toys of this nature combine portion control, fun, exercise and reward all into one item. They’re a great investment for all cat-loving households, not just those with problematic eaters.
Let’s Talk About Catnip
Catnip, otherwise known as Nepeta cataria, is closely related to mint and grows naturally with white flowers and a strong smell – the characteristic aroma that makes some cats go nuts for the stuff. The plant acts as something of a sedative when eaten, but when smelled promotes the fun and playful antics that we associate to cats on catnip.
Many cat toys utilize catnip in their design. They have pouches of catnip inside them or may be rolled in catnip before use.
The key behind catnip’s effects on felines is nepetalactone, a chemical compound that’s present in the leaves and stems of the catnip plant. Cats with the inherited sensitivity to catnip will often roll around, flop around on the floor and generally act hyperactive. Cats who are not sensitive to it, including all kittens under a few months of age, will treat the catnip or catnip toy just like any other thing in their environment.
Not all cats are responsive to catnip (in fact, only about 50% are), so it’s really a toss-up to see if your cat has any interest in it. If your cat ends up being one who goes nuts for the stuff, it can seriously ramp up playtime.
In fact, there are tons of toys on the market that are designed to be used with catnip! You can even buy catnip-infused scratching toys to discourage unwanted scratching on your walls or furniture, like this one made by COCHING.
Cat Toys That Use Catnip
When you introduce catnip to a receptive cat at playtime, you’ve opened up a world of possibilities! Even something as simple as this catnip-infused banana toy by Yeowww! will rock your cat’s world and quickly become their next favorite thing. The toy has no additional parts that can become dislodged and is a perfect size and weight for carefree playtime fun.
These realistic fish catnip toys by MEWTOGO are a lot like the banana toy made by Yeowww! However, they have the added fun of looking just like real fish! Your cat will love batting their fish around and attacking it while under the effects of the intoxicating catnip inside.
Catnip pillows like the ones crafted by the company Johnson Pet Products are great for cats who like to snuggle up intensely while enjoying their “high.” These pillows are incredibly popular because they are a great size and shape for casual play. After they have played away all of their energy for the moment, you might even find them passed out, asleep on it!
Refillable Catnip Toys
You also have the option of purchasing refillable catnip toys. Many cat owners who like to give their cats catnip every now and then prefer refillable toys so that they don’t have to consistently replace damaged catnip pillows and toys. This refillable beaver toy by KONG is one such toy, allowing you to add catnip to the toy whenever you please.
Catnip can be purchased in several forms. For the purpose of refilling toys, the catnip by Cat Crack is ideal. This catnip is entirely natural and safe for your kitty – and you can use it anywhere! Fill a toy with it, sprinkle a little on the ground or add a pinch to their scratching post and watch the power of catnip take over!
If you’re not so fond of having loose flakes of catnip plant around your house, you can also purchase catnip in the form of a spray. KONG Naturals produces this well-loved catnip spray that can be used in the same ways as Cat Crack.
A Warning About Catnip Overconsumption
While catnip is a wonderful additive to your feline friend’s playtime, it should not be used in excess. Most people recommend only using it once every couple of weeks to keep the cat from becoming used to it. If they are exposed to catnip very often, they will likely lose their love for it.
Catnip isn’t dangerous in any amount to cats when smelled, as they will refuse it once they’ve had enough. You should avoid putting catnip into their food bowl, however, as this can eventually lead to digestive troubles if done too often.
So, Which Toy Should I Get My Cat?
All of the information above may be a lot to process. You have quite a bit to keep in mind next time you go shopping for cat toys but try not to overthink it too much.
Instead, try to buy an assortment of different types of toys. This will keep playtime fun and interesting for you and your cat. If the toy is something that your cat can safely use when left alone, it’s a good buy.
Teaser toys are also great for high-energy play but should be stored away when you’re not using them. Cats can become tangled in or chew on wires and strings, which you obviously don’t want.
Catnip is also something that you should consider introducing to your cat – if for no other reason than to see if they like it! Consider buying a single catnip-infused toy at first. This way you don’t end up stuck with a bunch of catnip that you’ll never use if they aren’t sensitive to it.
If your cat does end up enjoying catnip, make sure to keep any loose catnip stashed away from where they can get to it unsupervised. Keep your use of catnip limited so that they don’t become overly accustomed to it.
There’s a big, wide world of cat toys for you and your feisty feline to explore! As long as you shop with safety in mind, you’re bound to find your cat’s next favorite thing. There’s no wrong way to play, as long as Kitty is safe and expending his or her energy in a healthy way.
Over to you now! Leave a comment to tell us about your cat's favorite toys and why you chose them for her or him!