Guide To Cat Toys: A Wonderfully Weird World
Hello catosphere! I’ve been negligent with my cat research of late—my mind’s been preoccupied with silly human things like house hunting and the ole 9-5. Yes, I’m on a mission to own my own home, if only so I’ll finally have the freedom to erect the monstrously ostentatious cat paradise I’ve always envisioned. It is my dream, and it shall be realized!
But no matter, we have much more important issues to discuss.
Let’s talk cat toys! I’ve touched on the subject a few times, whether we were going over the myriad ways to maintain harmonious kitty cohabitation or chatting about the basics of cat wrangling. Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that cat toys are, for the most part, completely unnecessary. Most cats are perfectly happy amusing themselves with bits of garbage and repurposed furniture. (This is assuming their environment is already chock-full of stimulating & enriching elements, like vertical space, balled-up paper balls, hidden treats, etc).
But if you insist on buying toys (like I do), then you might as well buy the best. I have a few tried-and-true favorites in my arsenal. I’ve also road tested a couple flops. For the sake of organization, I’ll break them down into helpful little categories, like so:
The OG cat toy. (Well, not really. The OG cat toy was probably a crumpled up piece of garbage tossed by a caveman some years back…)
Wands are super interactive and stimulating for you and your fur buns. Sometimes I get more exercise than they do. (I get really into it).
A side note (pro-tip?) on wand-wielding technique: it’s always more exciting for your cat if you move the bait on the wand the way real prey would move—running frantically away, and not towards them or in limp little circles in front of their noses. I can usually tempt even the most reluctant cat into pouncing by skittering the toy far away from them, even out of sight and into another room. Being able to hear the toy bouncing around without seeing it is usually enough to pique their curiosity and send them sprinting over.
This baby was the reigning champ in my house for a long time. The mouse bait is made of this weirdly durable papery fuzz, and the extra-whippy wire cable sends it skittering realistically across the floor. Seriously, it looks like a real mouse.
My cats go crazy for it, but there’s one fatal flaw: the cable starts splintering and breaking after a few months of heavy use. I can’t count the times I’ve had to replace it or the number of disembodied mouse baits (they’re removable) currently being batted across my floors.
Dis the best cat wand. Trust me. I’ve had many favorites, but none have lasted as long or danced as energetically as this fella. I got tired of the Go Cat Catcher breaking every few months and hunted around for something with a bit more lasting power.
I LOVE this guy’s braided “leather” cord: it feels indestructible and it’s really fun to whip around. Sita will lose her shit if I even so much as glance in its direction.
Don’t be deceived by this skinny stick’s simple appearance—It’s absolutely enthralling to kitties. The long (3 ft!), skinny fiberglass pole and the feathered bait mimics the movements of a bird swooping and darting through the air.
Perfect for those discerning felines who prefer mauling prey of the airborne variety. My cats go falling over each other to snatch it out of the sky whenever I bust this thing out.
Last but not least in my wand lineup is the
If the words “cat dancer” evoke images of a scantily clad lady, silk sash in hand, dancing around amidst clouds of hookah smoke, then you’re not alone. And you’re not entirely wrong, either. This wand is apparently meant to turn your cats into that lady.
They’ll prance about, entranced, as you whip this thing into increasingly convoluted figure 8s and waveforms. My cats weren’t super into it, to be honest. I was probably more entertained by it than they were. But then again, they were raised on classics like “balled-up sisal tied to shoestring.”
The rave reviews for this guy are what suckered me in. And you never know, my cats may just be a fluke.
For those rare times you’re just too beat to go sprinting around the house with your cats hot at your heels.
This nifty little robot is powered by tiny batteries, and marches along on random, ever-changing paths. It’s quite good at booping its way around obstacles, and when fully powered can bounce itself upright when tipped over.
My cats love to follow this little guy around the house. I’m pretty sure they think it’s some sort of fearless, cranky cockroach. They can’t get enough.
I don’t know how “safe” a laser that blunders along with no regard to the placement of your cats’ eyes can be, but “PetSafe” is their brand name!
I got one of these, thinking the laser would draw exciting, zig-zagging shapes all over the floor and walls. It does not. The laser putters back and forth in halting circles. Still, my cats seemed to enjoy it, and the fact that it automatically shuts off after 15 minutes is cool. Good for distracting your gremlins when you just really need a few undisturbed minutes to finish that show/report/meal/yoga sesh.
I have a love-hate relationship with this stupid thing. I love it because it can hold my cats’ undivided attention for a pretty long time (when the batteries are full), but I also hate it because the build quality is crap and it drains power like nobody’s business. If I weren’t so cheap, I might spring for a deluxe version like this guy.
But I am cheap, and I really wish I could just design my own cat toys. Like really, guys? How hard is it to make something sturdy that plugs into a wall and isn’t a strangling/choking hazard?? I have at least ten different blueprints in my head. Let’s talk, pet toy manufacturers.
Almost as high-tech as my PS4, these units can keep a kitty entertained and stimulated for hours, without a single battery. I guess you could say these are the kitty board games of the cat toy world. Some are flashy and sophisticated, while others—brilliant in their simplicity.
Bergan’s scratcher/ball spinner combo is pretty awesome.
It feels super solid, and its relatively small size makes it perfect for kittens, or really really stupid adult cats (like my Pips). I say that only because the ball is confined to a small round track, and most clever cats quickly lose interest in prey that does nothing but run around in tiny, unchanging circles.
Again, great for kittens. And stupid cats, bless their hearts.
Similar to the Bergan Turbo, but with slightly more entertaining twists and turns. The balls also light up when prodded, which is nifty. Again, I find these tracks to be built a little too small for full-sized cats. And if those cats happen to be too clever for their own good, they’re even less interested.
Perfect for kittens to play with, and for cats to nap in while enjoying the sensation of being encircled on all sides (which the nutters love).
March 2017 addition:
I kind of took a chance on this thing—at the time I bought it on Amazon there were very few reviews. (What can I say, I’m a fearlessly intrepid early adopter.) This high-stakes gamble paid off though, since both cats go nuts for this toy. And not just the dumb one.
I love that the track is flexible and can be broken up and reconfigured into various shapes. The figure 8 (pictured) is especially fun since it creates this neat little “bridge & tunnel” formation for extra interest. I actually have to take the little ball out at bedtime or else the fuckers will keep me up all night with their racket. As with all new toys, sprinkle some catnip on it, demo it for your cats a bit by rolling the ball around the track, and it’ll catch on in a few days (or immediately, if you’re lucky!).
Ok, I’ll admit it. I don’t own this strange thing—yet. It’s still coming in the mail.
I labored for MONTHS over this “activity mat” (you can tell my life is very exciting), because after all, it is literally two rugs bunched on top of each other. Two ugly rugs. Two ugly rugs that are not cheap. But it kept popping up all over the place, and the reviews are so incredibly convincing—skeptical, at first, and then glowing (Take a read for yourself if you don’t believe me)— that I had to see what all the fuss was about.
Anyone have one of these who can vouch for it? Either way, I’ll report back. Don’t laugh, this is serious business.
Now, this sucker I do have. And it’s the greatest thing in the world. Velvety soft, makes crinkly noises, basically indestructible, and compresses down to the size of a frisbee.
This tunnel is laid out in my living room 24/7, and the cats will go out of their way to walk through it. And hide in it. And ambush each other. And me.
If you don’t have a cat tunnel yet, especially if you have multiple cats, what are you waiting for?? This is seriously invaluable kitty enrichment, and so stinkin’ simple. If you’re not a fan of the leopard print (who could blame you), there’re loads of other models out there.
Puzzle feeders are so key for cat stimulation and enrichment. Steph from Fearless Fresh sent me an article a while back called “How To Keep Your Cat From Losing Its Mind” about just this subject. Definitely worth a read.
Cats want to stalk and kill things. They want to use all those generations’ worth of finely-honed skills. They want to use their brains. Let them!
A classic. Drop a few treats into each section of the board, and watch your cats bust out their maneuvering skills.
Sections range from easy (sweep paw along grooves to push treats out) to hard (scoop treats one by one from a plastic “fishbowl.”)
One of the highest rated kitty puzzles around.
This “Food Tree” is awesome, especially if you need a way to stop your overweight/overzealous cat from messily inhaling their food. It makes them work for every mouthful, pushing kibble down one level at a time until it drops into the bowl. Or, use it as a treat dispenser and drop a few in every day after dinner.
The “2.0” version has a wider base that prevents tipping and a narrower opening at the top that prevents cheating. Sneaky buggers.
A treat-dispensing ball is a staple in the puzzle feeder world. Just pop a few treats in and let your cat bat it around to release them one by one.
So simple. So stimulating.
So easy to make your own:
Got any favorite toys you can’t live without? Clue me in! I’m constantly on the lookout for the latest and greatest thingamabobs to amuse my fur children. I’m sure you all can relate.
Crazy cat parents, unite!