Picking the Right Cat Toys
There are tons of cat toys on the market, but do you know your cat’s preference? Is your cat a birder, a mouser, or a bugger? Does your cat prefer toys that mimic birds, mice, or catching bugs? There are many types of toys made for cats and each cat has their own preference as to what stimulates them to interact.
Favored toys help cats mimic predatory acts that would perform if they were to hunt for their food. Although your cat may not need to “hunt,” they still enjoy the action and movement involved with the process. Cats love to chase, pounce, capture, carry, bite, and roll around with a great toy.
Let’s consider the types of toys and figure out what your cat likes best:
Types of Cat Toys
Some cats prefer toys that either mimics the sounds, textures, or movements of prey. Cat toys on the market may be designed to move, vibrate, twitter, squeak, or swing, simulating “prey” to induce a cat to react and play. Natural substrates, such as leather, fur or feathers, are popular with cats, however, some cats prefer fabric or items that crinkle like plastic or foil. Some kitties like toys with no sound, while others prefer squeaks, twitters, chips, or crackles. Others like playthings that move quickly across surfaces (like a small ball), pieces of kibble that slide across the floor, or a laser light on a wall for them to “chase.” Many cats love toys that can be tossed up with their paws, swatted, and bit Some cat toys are even enriched with catnip to entice play.
Figure Out Your Cat’s Preferences
Buy several cat toys and roll them or toss them to your cat to determine their preference. Watch to see which type of toy is most interesting to your cat. For example, you may see a trend of your cat preferring toys that simulate birds such as bird shaped toys, toys that chirp, toys made of a bird-like feathers, or toys that create bird-like movements (fluttering toys). Other cats will prefer toys that mimic “catching small rodents,” such as toys shaped like mice, toys that squeak, toys made of fur, or toys that have encourage jerking movements. They may also enjoy tossing, biting, or carrying their “prey” around in their mouths. Movements that simulate bug catching are also a favorite toy for many cats. You can test this by giving your cat a bit of food to chase, using a laser light on the floor or wall, or by playing with a string with a knot on the end and moving it quickly.
When trying out new cat toys, introduce them one at a time. Use different sizes, shapes, and textures. Try fur, feathers, fabric, and leather. Roll them, toss them, slide them, and move them in different ways and at different speeds. When using dangling toys, such as wands or sticks that have a dangling object, play with your cat by dangling the toy in front of them and slowly moving it away. Try the feathery options that fly and mimic bird feather movement. These work really well and will often provoke a “pounce” in cats. You might find that you cat likes a crinkle ball that rolls or bounces and makes noise when they “attack,” simulating the movement and sounds of prey.
Once you figure out what your cat prefers, you can vary the sizes and types of cat toys within that category.
Features to Consider in Cat Toys
- Ability to move/flutter/fly
- Ability to make sounds
- Safety (no parts that can be swallowed)
- Compatibility with your cat’s interests
Ideal Choice for Your Pet
The ideal choice of cat toys will depend on your cat’s preference. Offer a variety and rotate toys often. If you don’t yet know your cat’s preference, some initial options are a feathery flyer, some round crinkle balls, a laser pointer, and something stuffed with catnip.
Shopping Tips for Buying Cat Toys
- Don’t buy too many toys at first. Just get enough to distract your cat. Buy more cat toys as you know what types of toys your cat prefers.
- When choosing a cat toy, consider safety. Make sure that no parts of the toy can be swallowed or eaten. If you are unsure how your pet will react to a toy, supervise playtime and hide toys when you are not able to observe their behavior.
- Try catnip. It’s a huge hit with many cats, already added to many toys, and easy to grow at home.
- Offer your cat a variety of toys and rotate them out periodically to keep things fresh and exciting. A reasonable rotation is to hide your current playthings every 2 – 3 days and replace them with new items.
- Consider homemade cat toy options. Try using empty paper bags, rolled up paper balls, milk bottle “rings,” or empty toilet paper rolls. You can also stuff a light weight sock or make small catnip toys from spare fabric. Some owners will even hide treats around the house, so that their cat will be occupied when they aren’t home.
- Make time to play with your cat every day, at least 8 – 12 minutes per day per cat. Try using interactive cat toys, like laser lights and dangling “flyers,” or playing games to keep them engaged.