Importance of Cat Toys But More Important Is How to Choose the Right One
Cat toys are an indispensable part of a house cat. They are the instruments that help keep your feline buddy in a healthy mental and physical state. But what’s important is playing with toys can sharpen and preserve their instinct, which is an essential tool for them to survive in the wild.
What’s more, playing with toys will keep them away from damaging your home furniture and personal items. That’s provided you get the right toys that they love to play with. So don’t take cat toys as something too trivial for your attention.
And choosing the right toys for your cat may not be as simple as you might think. But neither is it complicated. You only have to observe a few simple rules to pick the right toys your cat will enjoy. That will also save you from the mess of abandoned toys chucked in some corners or forgotten.
So here are the steps and tips for choosing the right toys for your cat.
No toys are 100% safe. Remember that. Your cat safety lies in your selection of toys and how you administer the play. Never treat all toys as safe for your cat to play alone. Some toys require your presence, your supervision, or even your participation. So in general, you can categorize the toys as safe for unsupervised and supervised play.
So what are the safety rules when choosing a cat toy?
When shopping for a cat toy, always inspect the toy for quality issues like chip-off, sharp edges, tear, and parts that may come loose or break after some time. These may pose some latent risks which can harm your cat.
Even when everything is intact, but you don’t feel good about some features, or the build quality as a whole, don’t buy. Like a glued-on plastic eye or whiskers, or when the toy material is of questionable quality, and there is no label or information attached to the toy to ascertain safe use.
Most toy-related mishaps are choking, stomach obstruction, and strangulation. Followed by toxic materials and coatings that can cause irritation and allergic reaction. So pay close attention to how the toy is made and the type of material used.
A good quality toy from a reputable manufacturer will always come with vital product and safety information. In particular, the material used and its proportion. For your convenience, here’s Healthy Stuff Product Search you can check for toxic chemical composition of the cat toys you intend to buy.
Unfortunately, pet toys safety is still not regulated here in the United States. So you are pretty much on your own to go by trial and error. And some mistakes can cost your cat’s life, if not its health. So don’t take it lightly just because it’s a cat toy. It is still a life, a friend, or even a family member. Back to ToC
Cat Toys to Avoid For Unsupervised Play
Anything that can easily be bitten or torn off is best not to give to your cat. When a cat decides something as ‘food’, once in their mouth, it is almost certain the item will be swallowed. Especially for kittens, they are always curious and can’t differentiate what is edible.
So toys with feathers, bells, and other small decorative items may look cute, think twice before buying. You never know. Even with your close supervision, accidents can still happen, and they happen fast.
Balls of yarn and any cat toys with string can turn dangerous during play. It’s easy to have the string wrap around the kitten’s limbs and neck. And the situation can quickly escalate to fatal level when they panic and starts to struggle to free itself from the entanglement. Such toys should only be given when you are present.
Some puzzle toys are also not suitable for cats to play alone. Like those which has holes where treats or a ball are hidden. It can trap the limbs or even head. The danger is always when it couldn’t pull itself out and start to panic with a wild struggle. Cuts, bruises, or even bone fracture can result. If you are getting a toy like that, examine the hole size to make sure it is big or shallow enough it won’t be a danger to your pet. Back to ToC
Toys That Are Safe For Your Cat to Play Without Supervision
Before you decide on a toy intended for solo play, you may need to experiment a bit with a few toy types. Cats can be pretty unpredictable, what appeals to you may not be so interesting for your kitty. It will shun away from anything it has no interest in, then the money is wasted, and one more junk is added to the pile.
The best way is to test and find out what toys are more likely to get your cat’s love. You can start with some household items like PET bottle, old shoes, cardboard box, a short piece of thick rope, or your kid’s toy you intend to discard. Whatever you give to your cat, observe the duration, and how it interacts with the item.
Is it shape, color, texture, smell, sound, or the movement. Does it love to bite, scratch, chase, pounce on, and flip…etc? That would more or less show what they like or dislike of a toy.
And whatever toys you have decided upon, look for parts that can be pull-out or detached easily. The most common toy folks like to give to their cat is a stuffed animal. For safety sake, you would want to remove the eyes or other small parts if it is glued-on and sew on a replacement or draw with a safe, permanent marker.
Also, try not to give your cat a toy which is twice its size. Your feline buddy may feel intimidated, especially one that is big and noisy. If it can’t cat-handle the toy, it is unlikely to like it. Besides, cats hate loud and high pitch noises, they can feel stress and uncomfortable with anything that produces a jangle.
So if you are buying an interactive cat toy with sound when toss, flip or squeeze, be sure the sound resembles those of bird chirpings or mouse squeaks. These toys will appear like preys to them and encourage interaction. But this type of toys is best for day play. You wouldn’t want that irritating chirping or squeaking during bedtime when the kitty is up ‘hunting’. Cats are nocturnal animals in case you forget.
Similarly, an interactive toy that lights up on touch may be a better choice for night play. But if your cat sleeps in the same room, though not recommended (unless you are nocturnal as well), it is better not to have any interactive toys around during bedtime. Stuffed toys are more appropriate in that case. Especially one that is laced or stuffed with catnip.
Other toys that dispense treats are also great interactive toys for extended solo playtime. But be mindful of cultivating that ‘no treats no play’ mentality and overfeeding. The latter may cause it to lose appetite for proper meals. Or worse, it leads to obesity.
And scratching is a cat’s favorite sport. But you don’t want your champion scratcher to be anywhere near your expensive Italian sofa, or your Scandinavian oak furniture. So providing ample scratch surfaces is never an option.
Scratch posts in all shapes, types, and material are readily available you will be spoilt for choice. Though this hardly qualifies as a toy, it is a must-have to protect your property. But you will have to train your cat to sink their claws on the right places you have provided. This can be achieved by attracting them to the scratch post and away from your furniture.
Placing toys or treats around a scratch post is an excellent way to keep your cat away from furniture and other home fixtures. But you can’t be sure it will always return to the scratch post when they need to scratch. In that case, you may want to use some lemon-scented air spray around the sofa, tables, chairs, doors, and places you don’t want your cat to claw on. If that’s better than placing scratch pads and posts throughout the entire house.
So the bottom line for an unsupervised cat toy is one that is of the right size, no detachable parts, durable, entertaining, and appeals to its natural instinct. But it’s hard to find a toy that comprises all these attributes. So you may have to mix a few toy types and provide a safe place for your cat to laze and play on its own.
And don’t forget to rotate the toys at least once every week. Add new ones if you have to. You don’t want to risk coming home to a brand new interior decor ‘redesigned’ by your cat after a long and tiring day at work. Back to ToC
Cat Toys Suitable For Supervised Play
When it comes to playtime, don’t limit your cat to the toys they play alone every day. It can get boring and lose interest in those toys whenever you are around them. They would prefer to play and be with you where ever you go because you are more than a toy to them.
You are a playmate, food dispenser, masseuse (or masseur), groomer, and security all role into one.
Give them a different set of toys. And these toys can deviate from those criteria discussed above for unsupervised play. But not totally. Safety measures are still needed even with your presence. If it’s a kitten, leave no chance to anything it can swallow. Not until it became an adult cat when it knows real food and when it can expect to receive it.
Bring on the cat toys with string, even the ones made of fleece, fur, or feather. Or any toys that mimic their prey will satisfy its natural instincts to hunt and kill. Toys that move in an irregular pattern are their favorite as it challenges their curiosity and elicits its intuition.
The prey-like movement is best with string toys, and they are not expensive. So it won’t be a pinch to replace. And you can control when to let it capture the ‘prey’ and manage the different level of challenges. But don’t make it too easy or too difficult, or it will lose interest after a while.
There is no lack of cat toys for supervised play. The bottom line is, safety must always come first. If you are occupied, remove the toys or replace with the interactive ones until you are back to play with your feline friend again.
And you should make time for a play session with your cat. At least 15 minutes every day is sufficient, and make it jump, run, pounce, etc. This daily exercises will keep them in pristine health condition. Also, it’s OK to break some rules as long as it is under your watchful eyes.
Apart from those toys that help in maintaining their agility, do include those for cognitive development. Puzzle toys come in all shapes, sizes, and challenges. They can be for play-alone and some it is best played in your presence for safety, training, and bond-building. Back to ToC
Evergreen Cat Toys
Looking at the variety of cat toys in the house speaks volume of the owner’s affection for her cat. But that may also mean you do not know your cat well or most of it is due to impulsive buying. And you end up with a pile of toys that your cat is not interested or are bored with it.
In most cases, the cat has simply grown up, and those toys it used to play when it was a kitten no longer appeal to it. So getting new toys from time to time seems unavoidable. While that’s true, some toy types never get deserted or ignored regardless of age.
So in your selection of toys, always include those evergreens, as many as it is necessary. And with a timely rotation of toys, you shouldn’t have to put up with unwanted toys lying around. Or get creative and repurpose some toys to make it interesting again.
Toys that encourage thinking are more appealing to adult cats. Which is why puzzle toys hardly get rejected. But not all puzzle toys are well like by older cats. Treat dispensing ones are the evergreens because it serves 2 purposes, for cognitive development as well as to quench a biological need.
When you provide an avenue for exploration and food, no cats can get tired of it. So, if you have an adult, a treat-dispensing puzzle toy is almost a must-have. Grab a few of those and rotate them when they get too familiar with how the treats are dispensed.
The other evergreens are the plush toys for cats. Stuffed animals like squirrel, mouse, or beaver never fail to receive hugs and gentle bites. Especially when it is stuff with catnip. But if your cat doesn’t respond well to catnip, try silver vine or valerian root, or mix them up. A stuffable animal plush toy will be perfect as you can rotate the stuffing to keep your kitty interested.
And cats sleep a lot in the day. When they are bored or tired, they will find a safe place to nap. Which is good, so they won’t wander around the house looking for things to destroy. But when they are done with their napping, you better keep them occupied with toys. That’s the time they are most active, full of energy and ready to wreak havoc.
Providing that safe place can be done with a nice cozy cave bed or a cat house. And a tunnel toy be placed nearby with its favorite plush toy prey to begin its hunting game when it wakes up. Or its favorite interactive or puzzle toy that dispenses a treat. The whole idea is to keep it occupied for the duration you are not home, as much as possible.
A house cat daily activities are playing, ‘hunting’, eating, grooming, and sleeping. So if you can provide the means to meet all its daily activities, your cat will be well stimulated to perform normal predatory behavior. The opposite could otherwise lead to physiological stress, which can affect its physical and mental health when prolonged.
And lastly, don’t forget your cat needs water too to keep itself hydrated. While you can always place water bowls in those places it frequents, a water dispensing toy might be a better choice. It encourages play and drinking without wandering far from its little play corner. Back to ToC
For play-alone toys, the hard and fast rules are always safety-related and with lots of common sense. As a parent to your little kitty, you should more or less know its playstyle and routine. This may require you to observe your cat’s behavior and its response to everything it comes into contact with.
From there, you will be able to acquire the toys that more accurately fit their playstyle, and knowing it will be safe.
And as a precaution, do inspect the toys regularly and keep them clean. Wash the plush toys at least once a week because cats love the smell of fresh laundry. You can have a few fluffy toys for rotation, and keep them in a dry and mildly scented box. So every time you give it to them, they will not reject.
Other toys that are not suitable for solo play should be stored away from their sight and reach. And make sure you don’t let them see where you keep the toys. Cats do have a good memory. They remember the fun with those toys, and you can be sure they will seek them out when you are not around.
Always keep an eye on your cat when it is playing with toys that can possibly get it into trouble. Your pet can be menaced by even the most unsuspecting toy design. So when buying a cat toy, it helps by first studying its design to look out for clues that spell danger no matter how minute they appear to be.
But don’t get paranoid over safety and become too restrictive in its play. You should still give it space and opportunities to explore. Under your watchful eyes, they will grow and develop into a healthy and intelligent buddy you will enjoy throughout its entire lifetime.
Last but not least, bonding and trust-building with your pet are essential, and that can be achieved through a mere 15 minutes of playtime daily. So no matter how busy is your day, you should try to make some enriching playtime with your cat. Which is also a form of relaxation for yourself after a long and stressful day at work. Back to ToC