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The "Frisky Feline's" Guide to Choosing Cat Toys

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Cat playing with a cat toy

Picking the right cat toys can feel like an impossible feat when your cat prefers to play with anything else EXCEPT the toys you buy. Here are a few of our best tips for helping your cat to have the best toy box!

  1. Self play or independent play is not for every cat. Do you have a box of cat toys sitting somewhere collecting dust while your cat is playing with your feet as you walk by? Is your cat always getting into things although they have so many things to be entertained with? It's possible that despite your best efforts, you may not have found the right toys that suit them or perhaps they need an upgrade but rom the cats perspective many of these toys are viewed as "dead prey". There is no movement or scurrying - thus, the fun is already gone. For those that don't engage in self play toys we might recommend exploring with food foraging opportunities, automatic interactive toys, wand toy play and environmental enrichment like tunnels and cat trees as a means of mental stimulation.

  2. Shop around. Cat toys are sold everywhere! Retail stores, pet stores, grocery stores, vet offices, groomers, training centers, crafter markets and of course online make it so easy to buy something new. With this much opportunity, it is a great idea to explore all these options to find the best quality, variety and pricing for toys for your frisky feline.

  3. SAFETY 1st. We can't stress this enough - CHECK YOUR CAT TOYS BEFORE BUYING! Toys, even when new, may present pieces that can be a choking hazard for our feline friends if not monitored. Watch for things such as googly eyes, felt pieces, small bells, strings, elastics and other attachments that can easily detach and make for a BIG problem down the road. If your cat has Pica or even just a tendency to destroy or ingest their toys, be sure to consider toy size, materials, and quality even more.

  4. Avoid intimidating toys. Cat toys are continuing to dip into an entirely new era of abilities but much like us, not every cat is going to be so welcoming to the idea of an "upgrade". Some cats can be scared of toys that move on their own or make noise so if you've ever seen your cat prefer the box over the toy, you might take that as their way of saying "prefers to be entertained by the simple things".

  5. Aging and upgrading. Favorite toys are great, but as your cat ages it is important to still explore and introduce new toys for them. If your cat has had 90% of their toys since they were a kitten, its likely time to introduce some new ones into the mix. Check over toys for holes, cracks, strings, sharp edges and anything else that could cause injury - and throw them away.

  6. Pay attention to what they're telling you. If you watch your cat's behaviors, it's likely that you are able to pick up on things that interest them. Keep a close eye on things they're exploring or attracted to and aim to use that in your decisions for the toys your purchase. A cat who likes wrappers may like crinkle balls, or a cat who likes strings may prefer wand toys rather than self play toys.

  7. Get a variety. You want to aim to create a mix of different toys that offer new excitement from one toy to the next. For stuffed toys, look to get a variety of "preys" such as mice, fish and birds. For balls, consider soft fabric balls, balls with bells, balls that light up and maybe some that crinkle. There are also many other toys on the market you can add in like chirpers, catnip kickers and springs. Take time to build a unique toy box for your feline friend.

  8. Avoid leaving toys out too long. When we talk with families about toys they've tried we often hear, "they liked it for the first day and now they don't bother with it." That's often because if it is left out, this loses it's excitement as something new. Certain toys may offer your cat short lived entertainment but this excitement can be reignited if you put it away for some time and reintroduce it in another week or so in a totally different room.

  9. Lasers are not the only option. While many cats love laser pointers, they should not be the only thing your cat plays with. Why? Well, they never truly catch anything which can leave your feline feeling more distressed then fulfilled. It's not much fun to be chasing something endlessly without ever "winning" right? With out sufficient opportunity for behaviors such as biting, gripping and kicking their prey, your cat may not be getting the most of playtime. What is this important to your cat? If your cat feels unsatisfied, they may start seeking out other opportunity for these behaviors which can include you or other pets.

  10. Do your part. Interactive play between you and your cat is an integral part of your cat's routine. For some families wand toys are used, others might play a game like fetch. With this type of play, it is equally as important that you have a variety of toys that provide different interests to your cat. Try wand toys that offer different preys for your cat and that ignite each of their different senses. You can opt to have different wand toys OR a single toy with multiple attachments.

  11. Age and health matters. If your cat is not feeling their best, there is a good chance you may see decreased play behaviors in them. Sometimes this means we need to slow the game down or make play a little bit easier by offering it on soft surfaces like a blanket or bed. At times cat's may want softer or larger toys to make play easier. Your cat will greatly appreciate your accommodations.

  12. Putting the pieces together. A combination of self play toys, interactive wand toys and automatic toys is a great way to keep your cat's happy and healthy while fulfilling their predatory instincts. Start with a few of each and build based on what you learn your cat enjoys most. Once you have learned your cat's toy preferences and play style, you will find playtime to be less work and more fulfilling for your feline. Why does this matter? Well, good behavior is built around the foundation that your cat's instincts are fulfilled. Some of our favorite toys include Kitty Kick Stix, Turkey Flyer, SmartyKat Skitter Kritter Mice, Catstages Grass Patch Hunting Box and the Kittio Hidey Mouse. Still need more help? Contact us for more guidance on choosing the best cat toys for your feline companion!

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