What Are The Best Cat Toys?

When your cat plays, she is honing her predatory hunting skills by stalking, pouncing, and "killing" anything that moves. Your cat's favorite toys will include ones that float, twirl, dart or fly in a way that simulates live prey. Toys seem more like potential victims when they are dragged on the floor, dangled from a wire and so on. If she can bat it around the floor or carry it in her mouth, it makes a great cat toy. One word of caution: always play with your kitten or cat with toys instead of your hands. Playing with your hands will encourage biting and aggressive behavior. Wiggling fingers are not appropriate; they only encourage aggression toward human flesh, and it is up to you to teach your pet at a very early age that exposed flesh of any kind is not a toy!

Purchased Toys

Just one visit to our catalog will astound you with the huge variety of safe cat toys that are available commercially. You should be aware that many of the toys you will find in your local pet store or supermarket contain small parts that a cat can swallow or choke on; you must avoid toys with loose or potentially sharp parts. Avoid or alter toys that are not "cat-proof." Typical problems include ribbons, feathers, strings, eyes, or other parts that could be removed, chewed, and/or ingested.

Small toys stuffed with catnip are probably the number-one favorite. These come in all sizes and shapes, and you have only to choose the kind that you and your cat find most appealing.

Soft, plush toys stuffed with cotton or batting are another favorite. Be certain that they are machine washable and should not contain nutshells or polystyrene beads. Also beware of small parts that can be dangerous to pets or children. Check for child safety labels; a stuffed toy that is labeled as safe for children under three years old will be safe for your pet as well. Some cats prefer toys small enough to carry around. Others (who want to "kill" the toys) prefer toys about the same size as they are. Toys with legs and a tail seem to have added attraction.

A variation of any kind of stuffed toy, including catnip toys, is a toy on a string. You can suspend it from a door or hook, and your cat will enjoy batting it back and forth. More interactively, you can also dangle it in front of your cat for hours of fun together.

Cats love to play their own variation of soccer. Purchased mesh balls or even ping-pong balls dropped on a floor or in an empty bathtub provide hours of amusement. A captive ball is much more fun than one that escapes under the sofa. WARNING: Remove balls from the bathtub before bedtime, unless you can't hear the action from your bedroom! Two o'clock in the morning seems to be a prime time for this game.

A small laser style or "pencil" flashlight will provide hours of entertainment for both you and your cat. Cats love to chase the light across the floor. Laser style lights that project an intense colored spot of light are especially popular, but be sure to keep the light safely away from your pet's eyes.

Some cats are entranced by the television. If your cat seems to like watching TV, you might consider purchasing commercially available videotapes of birds or mice.

Round plastic shower curtain rings are fun as a single ring to bat around, hide or carry, and can be linked together and hung in an enticing spot.

The rope-like texture of sisal-wrapped toys is often attractive to cats that ignore soft toys.

Homemade Toys

Because you want to rotate your toys frequently enough to keep your cat amused, you may want to make some toys to augment your cat's play chest. These can be inexpensive (usually free), simple to make and easy to replace.

Homemade toys that are all-time favorites include:

Paper balls, just about any size, from ping-pong ball size on up, are great fun. The only drawback is that just about every time you try to throw away a piece of paper, your cat will probably think it's play time. Be sure to use paper that does not contain colored ink, which can be toxic.

Empty paper (not plastic!) grocery bags are a huge hit! Remove any handles and then put a bag on its side on the floor and stand back!

A variation on the empty bag theme is an empty cardboard box. Cut several "paw-sized" holes in the bottom and lay it on its side on the floor. If you're lucky enough to have more than one cat, you and the cats will enjoy hours of entertainment from this toy! If the box is just slightly too small for the cat to fit in, it's sure to be a hit. (Cats seem to enjoy defying the laws of physics, such as: a ten-pound cat cannot fit into a five-pound-size box!)

An old sock stuffed with paper and a little catnip, then knotted at the top and dragged on a piece of string makes a great target for predatory aggression.

Accordion-fold an index card end-to-end until it's about one inch wide. Then tie a piece of string tightly around the middle until it resembles a bow tie. Your cat will pounce enthusiastically as you drag it across the floor. You can also thumbtack the loose end of the string to the center top of a doorframe so that the "bow tie" dangles about six inches off the floor. You shouldn't leave this toy accessible to your cat when you're not there to supervise and prevent her from swallowing it.

Empty cardboard rolls from toilet paper and paper towels are ideal; especially if you "unwind" a little cardboard to get them started.