Helpful handouts for pet adopters, owners & educators
Cat Toys and How to Use Them
There are many factors that contribute to the safety or danger of a toy. Among them are your cat’s size, activity level and personal preference. Another is the environment in which your cat spends his time. Although we can’t guarantee your cat’s enthusiasm or his safety with any specific toy, we can offer the following guidelines.
The things that are usually the most attractive to cats are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Cat-proof your home by checking for string, ribbon, yarn, rubber bands, plastic milk jug rings, paper clips, pins, needles and anything else that could be ingested. All of these items are dangerous, no matter how cute your cat may look when he’s playing with them.
Avoid or alter any toys that aren’t cat-proof by removing ribbons, feathers, strings, plastic eyeballs or other small parts that could be chewed or ingested.
Soft toys should be machine washable. Check labels for child safety. Look for a stuffed toy that is labeled as safe for children under 3 years old and doesn’t contain dangerous fillings. Problem fillings include things like nutshells and polystyrene beads. Also, rigid toys are not as attractive to cats.
Toys We Recommend
- Round plastic shower curtain rings. These are fun either as a single ring to bat around,hide or carry, or linked together and hung in an enticing spot.
- Plastic rolling balls, with or without bells inside.
- Ping-Pong balls and plastic practice golf balls with holes (the holes help cats carry them). Try putting one of these items in a dry bathtub, as the captive ball is much more fun than one that escapes under the sofa. You may want to remove the 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.
- Paper bags with any handles removed. Paper bags are good for pouncing, hiding and interactive play. They are also a great distraction if you need your cat to pay less attention to what you’re trying to accomplish. Plastic bags are not a good idea, as many cats like to chew and ingest the plastic.
- Sisal-wrapped toys are very attractive to cats that tend to ignore soft toys.
- Empty cardboard rolls from toilet paper and paper towels are ideal cat toys, especially if you unwind a little cardboard to get them started.
- Catnip-filled soft toys are fun to kick, carry and rub.
- Plain catnip can be crushed and sprinkled on the carpet or on a towel placed on the floor, if you want to be able to remove all traces. The catnip oils will stay in the carpet, and although they’re not visible to us, your cat will still be able to smell them.
- Catnip sprays are an alternative to the crushed leaves in your carpet.
- Not all cats are attracted to catnip. Some cats may become over-stimulated to the point of aggressive play and others may be slightly sedated.
- Catnip is not addictive and is safe for cats to roll in, rub in or eat.
- Soft stuffed animals are good for several purposes. For some cats, the stuffed animal should be small enough to carry around. For cats that want to “kill” the toy, the stuffed animal should be about the same size as the cat. Toys with legs and a tail seem to be even more attractive to cats.
- Cardboard boxes are good hiding places, especially those a bit too small for the cat to really fit into.
Get the Most out of Toys
- Rotate your cat’s toys daily or weekly by making only four or five toys available at a time. Keep a variety of types easily accessible. If your cat has his very favorite, like a soft “baby” that he loves to cuddle, you should leave that one out all the time.
- Provide toys that offer a variety of uses—at least one toy to carry, one to “kill,” one to roll and one to “baby.”
- “Hide and seek” is a fun game for cats to play. Found toys are often much more attractive than a toy that is overtly introduced.