Let’s face it, if you know cats you know that they can make a toy out of just about anything. A simple piece of string holds hours and hours of entertainment alone. Add a pet owner who will hold the piece of string and make it jump and flip about, and you’ve increased the entertainment factor exponentially.
The best cat toys will play to your cat’s natural interests, affinities, and instincts. Cats love to hunt. They love to creep and sneak up on unsuspecting prey. They love the chase.
We once had a cat that made a game of stalking us. Whenever we walked through the room, she’d come streaking out from under the couch and would spring at us. A moment before contact, she’d drop to the ground and walk away as if to say, “I won’t, but I just wanted you to know that I’m perfectly capable of taking out your knees.” After one too many surprises like that, we figured it was time to get her another toy to chase instead of us.
Another habit of cats is to hide or rest in small spaces. We had many cats that loved to swipe at things from under the couch cover. This made it a little interesting for us. Whenever we sat on the couch, the backs of our ankles would get attacked.
So maybe it’s time to ask yourself, does your cat like hiding and pouncing? Is he eager to leap and jump for objects? Maybe your feline likes to paw at and explore new items. Read up on the toys that play best to these behaviors:
Hiding and pouncing: If your cat likes to hide out in his own space, try providing fun, temporary play spaces for your cat by creating a haven of cardboard boxes or giving your cat a brown paper grocery bag to play with for the afternoon. You can also buy kitty scratching towers and posts with nooks for cats to hide in or you can try out a wire and fabric spring tunnel.
Leaping and jumping: Ribbon toys or products like “Da Bird” are great for cats who love to jump. They play on the kitty’s love for chasing something, and if that something is fast, all the better. These toys engage the cat’s ability and instinct for bird hunting by sending them chasing after something very fast and something that can fly. A great thing about these toys is the wand that you get to hold since it keeps you a safe distance from your kitty’s claws (if she has them) and keeps you from getting accidentally scratched.
Exploring new things: Puzzle toys are great for pets because they can keep your feline occupied and interested for a long time. Toys like the “Peek-a-Prize” toy box create an interactive game for your cat. The box has many small opening that your cat can reach into. You put small balls and objects inside of the box and then let your cat reach inside to bat around the prizes and try to get them out.
Hunting for food: Food is always a fun motivator. Although cat’s don’t have the same need to chew and worry items like dogs do, they still enjoy a surprising snack, and they still have the hunting instincts in their character, which make them want to work a little bit for their food. Some meal-dispensing balls encourage play while eating. When your cat hits and rolls the toy around, a small amount of cat food is allowed to fall out through small openings. The slow dispense of the food also prevents your cat from over-eating, something that can happen if the food is available in the bowl all day. This is a particularly good option for cats that are overweight and need a limit to their diet and an increase in activity. The combination of treats and chasing gives your cat both entertainment and exercise.
Chasing things: Some toys can satisfy your cat’s love for chasing things. These types of toys are commonly a type of open track with balls fixed in them. The ball will roll along the track but cannot be pulled out and lost. Simple versions of this toy will have a round track while more complex versions will be segmented pieces of track that you can put together in a fun course. Laser pointers make for another fun chasing game. Your cat will love tracking down that tantalizing ball of light.
Toys are great for helping your cat to burn off energy and stay entertained while you’re away, but they’re not a replacement for quality time with you. Remember to spend plenty of time with your pets. The fun and relaxation that comes from playing with your cat will be priceless.