Our kitties are smart, intelligent creatures who have sharp wits and bright minds that need to be stimulated through play. A bored kitty is not just an unhappy kitty, it can also lead to reasonably severe health issues that are best avoided (to say the least).
People have been making toys for cats for hundreds of years. Kitties love to play, and while we have come a long way from a simple ball of yarn being the height of kitty playtime – the principles are the same. We need to provide them with a way to satisfy their curiosity, their instincts, and their imagination.
With that in mind, today we are going to discuss the ins and outs of keeping your cat happy and occupied with interactive cat toys. We’re going to take a look at the various different types of toy that are on the market, discover why play is important, and we’re going to give you a few recommendations that no cat’s toy box should be without.
Let’s get started.
The Importance Of Keeping Your Cat Busy
Keeping your cat occupied with toys and playtime should be considered essential. Playtime is an outlet for a cat to utilize their strong natural hunting, stalking, and pouncing instincts that are deeply ingrained in all cats from birth.
To be totally honest, if your cat is allowed outdoors then providing them with toys and stimulation is less of an issue than if they are an indoor cat (although all cats should have toys). This is because they have got access to the big wide world that will naturally provide them with activities. They can stalk birds, hunt mice, interact with other cats and do all the real-life natural activities that playing with toys is designed to mimic.
Indoor cats don’t have access to this, and as such without adequate mental stimulation they can get stressed, depressed, and they can often exhibit destructive behaviors. They can become like a little pressure cooker, getting more aloof and antisocial due to a lack of activity and engagement. All of an indoor cat’s recreation has to come from toys, and as such, keeping them well stocked with interactive, interesting products is one of your primary responsibilities as a cat owner.
It’s not just mental health that needs to be taken into account, playtime can also help your cat stay in shape physically too. Again this is more important for indoor cats than outdoor cats (as they can roam the streets and gardens looking for adventure). By chasing feathers, and playing with balls indoor cats can run around, burn off energy, and use up some of the calories that may otherwise make them pile on the pounds.
There are many similarities you’ll come across between a cat and a small child in terms of toy safety. You need to ensure that all toys that you provide for them meet certain standards. The main things you need to look out for are choking hazards and toxic materials.
Any toys that have small parts that can easily be detached can become a choking hazard for playful kitties. Ensure that any toy you provide them with has no parts that can be broken off or dislodged and potentially block your cat’s airways.
Almost all products on the market that are specifically designed for use with cats and dogs are made from non-toxic materials. However, many people find other items online that are not specifically designed for use as a cat toy and give it to their kitty to play with. The chances of these products containing toxic materials is often small, but the risk is real. Ensure that any toy you give them to play with is intended for use as a pet toy (and is made from non-toxic materials).
The Most Popular Kinds Of Cat Toy
In this section, we will talk about a few general categories of cat toy that you’ll find on the market. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of the kinds of options you have available.
Most cats cannot get enough of catnip. It’s a substance that produces a hyperactive high feeling in your cat when they smell it.
Ever since people understood that cats can’t get enough of catnip they started to make toys from the substance. These days there are all kinds of puzzles, balls, and games that will dispense catnip as a reward for completing some kind of action. They really engage your kitty’s brain as they tirelessly work their hardest to receive some catnip as a reward for their efforts.
Note: Not all cats receive the energetic high from catnip that makes the substance so popular. It’s a genetic thing and a significant portion of the feline population have little or no reaction to it (and as such, they couldn’t care less about it).
Cats love chasing feather toys that are moved around by a human. It connects with their primal hunting instincts that are simply irresistible to them. They’ll find it very hard to ignore a tantalizing feather being wiggled in front of them. They’re one of the cheapest and most enjoyable toys a kitty can have in their toy box, and we think no cat should be without one.
Ok, we’re going to start this section off with a huge disclaimer. You should never use a normal laser pointer to play with a cat. If the laser is directly pointed into your cat’s eyes it can cause permanent damage to their vision and can even leave them blind. As your cat’s reactions are quicker than yours (and they are actively hunting the laser), it’s much easier for this to happen than you may think.
We’ll say it again, don’t use normal laser pointers to play with a cat.
Luckily there are several cat-friendly laser pointers on the market that are totally safe for use with our feline friends (and we’ll review one later in this article).
With the safety stuff out the way let’s talk a little bit about how much cats love (or hate) the little red dots that are created by laser pointers. Nearly every cat on the planet will have an incredibly strong reaction to a little dot suddenly appearing in their vicinity.
They’ll watch it intently before slowly prowling up to it as it wiggles around tauntingly. Eventually, they’re ready to pounce, and at the last moment, the dot seems to magically avoid their grasp and escapes to the other side of the room (where it wiggles tauntingly again).
No matter how hard they try they will never catch the laser. Over time this little red dot becomes an obsession for your cat. And it’s a whole lot of fun for them.
It obviously works similar to wand and feather toys by playing on your cat’s hunting, stalking, and pouncing instincts. The way the red dot suddenly appears without warning is like flicking a switch, it instantly turns on playtime with their favorite prey.
It’s incredibly amusing to us humans to watch our kitties play with the red dots of laser pointers, and as we can do it from the comfort of the sofa – it’s super convenient for us too.
Just remember to constantly shine it on a toy they can attack at the end of playtime. Kitties can get frustrated if they never win against the dot, and this makes them feel like they have won.
Second Disclaimer: Seriously, don’t use a normal laser pointer. Get a cat-friendly one instead.
Scratching posts are one of the most common kinds of cat toys on the market. They’ve been around for decades now and provide a great way for your cat to stretch and scratch.
Cats have a natural urge to itch and scratch themselves in nature (and in your home). They do this to leave their scent and mark their territory. Unless you want your kitty to use your furniture, it’s usually a good idea to provide an indoor cat with a scratching post (but remember, outdoor cats love them too).
We’re sure it’s not going to come as a big surprise for you to learn that cats love playing with cardboard boxes. It’s a strange phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm and has spawned countless memes over the years. For some reason or another, cats absolutely love sitting and lying in cardboard boxes.
You can spend hundreds of dollars on the most elaborate and expensive network of runs, tunnels, posts, and platforms for your cat to play on – and they’ll often prefer to play with the boxes it came in. Cardboard boxes aren’t going to be sufficient for complete mental stimulation, and they should not be the only toy your cat has access to…
But whenever you get one, make sure the cat can play with it before you throw it away.
Overall Best Interactive Cat Toys:
Petstages Tower of Tracks Cat Toy
There are a whole host of different products that we came across during the research for this article that are worthy of your consideration (and we’re going to list some of them below). However, if we had to only choose one toy to recommend in 2018 it would be the tower of tracks from the world-renowned Petstages.
You’ll never lose another ball under the sofa or behind a cupboard again with this awesome product. It’s a single piece toy that’s got 3 tiers in a tower configuration. In each tier a colorful playful ball is trapped inside (so it can’t be removed and get lost). Your kitty will have countless hours of fun swiping their paws at the balls, making them spin around and around before catching them.
It’s one of the best products for cats to play with on their own (or with another cat) as it doesn’t require human interaction. Its got a secure non-skid bottom that ensures that it’s not going to slip and slide all over the place and it’s made from high-quality durable materials that will be able to withstand attacks from even the fiercest kitties.
If you only get one product from this list, it should be this one. The other toys we’re about to discuss are all excellent choices, but we’re willing to bet that your kitty is going to get more use out of this than any of them.
5 More Interactive Toys your Cat will Love
Budget Pick: Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser Original 2 in 1 Dog & Cat Toy
Remember how we mentioned earlier that you should not let a cat play with the light from a normal laser pointer? Well, this product is the answer to that problem. It’s a custom-made kitty laser pointer that will not harm your cat’s eyes in any way, shape or form.
It manages to do this by instead of using high powered lasers, it uses low light LEDs instead. LED light cannot accidentally harm a cat’s eyes (as it’s not bright enough), but it does provide enough light to become a target for them to chase.
It uses replaceable batteries (which are included in the product) and because LEDs use such a low amount of power, replacing them will not be a common task. It’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor play and at under $3 it’s the cheapest product on this list.
We can honestly not think of another product in the world that will provide your kitty with this much fun at such a low price point (perhaps with the exception of a cardboard box). If you’re ordering another toy from this list, we highly recommend adding this to your cart too – you won’t regret it.
Scratcher: Bergan Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy
This unique scratcher toy from Bergan is an innovative alternative to scratching posts. Instead of having a large pole in your home for your cat to scratch and claw at, this is a circular disk made of cardboard. It’s one of the most popular toys on YouTube and cats seem to love it.
We highly suspect that many cats love it because of the catnip that’s included instead of the actual scratcher itself. There’s a little ball in a track that runs around the outside of the scratching pad to provide additional entertainment and fun for your kitty.
If your cat is currently using your carpet or your furniture to scratch and stretch, then we highly recommend that you consider this product. Simply sprinkle on a little catnip and watch them become addicted to getting their scratching fix on this pad.
Surprise: Goody Box Meow You’re Talking
We always love a good play on words, and “Meow You’re Talking” is one of the best names for a product we have heard in a long time. It’s a little bit of an unusual product and is provided by the online store Chewy.
Inside this mystery box, you’ll find 5 different premium quality cat toys that are randomly chosen by the online megastore. You’ll find a variety of treats, toppers, wands, and chase toys inside that any cat is sure to love.
The combined value of the products inside these mystery boxes is always more than the cost of the mystery box itself. Many brands (in different industries) offer a similar deal where they combine a bunch of premium products that they have too much stock of and sell them as a job lot like this at a discount.
If your kitty’s toy box is looking a little empty, this could be a great way to provide them with a top up that they’re going to love.
Ball Toy: KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy
No cat can be without a good ball toy to play with. This excellent product is made by the world famous KONG who have hard earned a reputation for making some of the most durable and long lasting products on the planet. Providing you don’t lose it, you’re never going to need to buy another ball for your kitty again.
Its got several holes inside that allow for treats to be dispensed as your cat knocks the ball around, and it has also got an unusual and unpredictable movement pattern for added fun.
It’s a great way for your cat to get a little exercise from the comfort of your home.
Tunnel: SmartyKat Crackle Chute Collapsible Tunnel Cat Toy
The final product on our list is a classic tunnel toy from SmartyKat. It’s designed to grab your cat’s attention as it makes a mysterious and enticing crackling sound from the moment you unravel it. There is no way that they’re going to be able to ignore this!
It collapses away for easy storage, but when it’s fully expanded it’s 35 inches long. There’s a large side opening for added excitement, and at under $10 it’s an absolute bargain.
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know (and perhaps a little bit more) about the wonderful world of interactive cat toys.
Any of the products on this list are more than worthy of your consideration, none of them are particularly expensive and all of them will provide countless hours of feline fun time.
And remember, a kitty can never have too many toys.