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Cat Toys: Why You Need Them & What To Get
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As cute as it may be watching your cat play with their toys, cat toys actually serve an important function in their life. Cat toys can provide cats with mental stimulation and keep them physically active. Thus, purchasing cat toys for your furry friend is essential when it comes to keeping them happy and healthy.
Whether you’re a new cat owner or a more experienced one, it can be overwhelming to choose from all of the different cat toys on the market. You want to find the best cat toys in order to effectively support and nurture your pet, yet you may not be sure where to start.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the benefits of cat toys as well as the best interactive cat toys currently available. We will discuss why cat toys are important, how often you should use them, and the different types available.
- Does Your Cat Need Toys?
- Benefits Of Cat Toys
- How Often Should You Play With Your Cat?
- Types Of Cat Toys
- What Are The Best Cat Toys To Get
- Tips For Playing With Cat Toys
- Final Notes
Does Your Cat Need Toys?
Cat toys can be more than just a source of entertainment for your favorite feline. In order to prevent behavioral problems, cats must be allowed to engage in typical feline behaviors, which include playing with cat toys. Cat toys such as boxes, containers, catnip toys, and active toys that you dangle in front of your cat can satisfy your pet’s need to feed, hunt, play, and scratch1.
Additionally, certain cat toys give your cat the opportunity to run, jump, and stimulate themselves mentally and physically. This can reduce the likelihood of your cat contracting illnesses associated with physical inactivity, such as feline obesity or diabetes.
Benefits Of Cat Toys
Cat toys are beneficial when it comes to keeping your cat healthy and happy. As we mentioned in the section above, cat toys help cats engage in basic, yet essential, feline behaviors such as feeding, hunting, playing, and scratching. In addition to these benefits, the regular use of interactive cat toys2 can also:
- Keep cats active, reducing the risk of obesity
- Foster a connection between owner and pet
- Reduce boredom
- Allow healthy expression of feline aggression
- Build muscle and encourage healthy circulation
- Lower risk of anxiety and other behavioral problems
Keep in mind that not all cat toys are made equal—different cat toys can offer their own benefits. For instance, a catnip toy may help stimulate the appetite of a picky eater, while active toys can provide a release for particularly aggressive cats.
How Often Should You Play With Your Cat?
How often you play with your cat will depend on the personality and needs of your particular cat. However, it can be beneficial to play with your cat several times throughout the day if it’s possible with your schedule. If you have a busy lifestyle, you might want to consider having different family members or housemates take turns playing with your cat to ensure they get the necessary daily stimulation, and the playtime they crave.
Playing with your cat for a few minutes at a time throughout the course of the day can help keep your cat entertained and stimulated. In general, it’s considered to be better to engage in play with your cat for longer periods of time rather than shorter ones. In fact, researchers in one study found that owners who played with their cat for at least five minutes at a time reported fewer behavioral problems than owners who only play with their cat for one minute3. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to play with your cat until they show signs of decreasing energy or interest in the activity. And then, don’t be afraid to take a break! We can all become overstimulated by too much input; listen to what your cat is telling you.
Last but not least, every cat is different, so some may want to play more often, while others are only interested in playing once or twice a day—or even prefer solo play. You know your cat best, so you can arrange play time based on your best judgement.
Types Of Cat Toys
There are several types of cat toys available for you to explore. Different cat toys can be used in unique ways and may serve different purposes when it comes to your cat’s health and wellbeing. The best toys are those that mimic natural behaviors, which releases stress, such as scratching, clawing, hunting, or pouncing. Some of the most popular cat toys currently on the market include:
- Stick toys: You can wave a stick that has fabric, ribbon, or some kind of ornament attached to the end of it and your cat will chase and jump after it.
- Feather toys: Toys that incorporate feathers can help satisfy the feline desire to hunt.
- Ball toys: A ball’s movement along the floor can replicate the behavior of prey. Balls with bells attached can also add an extra level of stimulation for your cat.
- Catnip toys: Some toys have compartments where catnip can be hidden. With these toys, your cat will play with them and try to extract the catnip, which can help satisfy their need to feed and hunt.
- Scratchers: Scratching is an instinctive behavior in cats. Purchasing a scratching post or similar toy allows your cat to scratch all they want without destroying your living room.
- *A special note about scratching posts: the most important thing to consider is not what type of scratching post to get, but where it is located! Cats are more likely to use items if they are adjacent to the natural ‘corridors’ of a home. Putting a scratching post in the far corner of the basement where your cat does not go will not entice them to use it. However, putting it at the end of a room where it turns into a hallway, or in front of a window with a bird feeder will make them significantly more likely to utilize the item!*
Variety is the spice of life! Be sure to always keep a few different types of cat toys in the house to give your cat options. A quick caveat with this as well: just like toddlers, cats are prone to getting bored with their toys. Things that stay in view for long periods may become boring. However a magic toy drawer that lets two different toys out each night is more fun and interesting for you, and your cat! For larger items, try hiding them in an unusual room, or simply moving them or turning them upside down for a day (and then replacing them).
What Are The Best Cat Toys To Get
The best cat toys for your feline will ultimately depend on his or her playstyle and preferences. It’s typically a good idea to keep a variety of cat toys on hand so that your pet has the opportunity to experience different types of stimulation. For instance, you might want to purchase cat toys that enable your cat to achieve the following types of play4:
- Interactive play (stick toys and wands)
- Hunting play (large stuffed toys and feather toys)
- Chase play (plush mice and balls)
- Exploring play (cardboard boxes and tunnels)
As you try to determine the best cat toys for your pet, consider their personality. Do they like to leap on you as you lay in bed? Do they stalk and chase after birds in the backyard? These clues, along with a little experimentation, can help you determine the best interactive cat toys for your furry friend.
Tips For Playing With Cat Toys
If you’re a new cat owner or are just beginning to use cat toys, you may have a few questions concerning best practices. In that case, check out the below tips for playing with cat toys:
- Be mindful of small parts. Just as you wouldn’t give a child a toy with easily ingestible parts, you should be careful about the toys you give your cat. Consider whether the cat toys you’re using could pose a choking hazard. This is particularly important with string, as cats who ingest string could develop a common but life-threatening condition. Ensure your cat is never playing with string or string-like objects (rubber bands, bracelets) unsupervised, or cut these items out of their play area entirely.
- Read the label. Whether you’re purchasing a cat toy from the pet store or fashioning a cat toy at home, make sure you understand the kinds of materials your cat will be playing with. Make sure the cat toys aren’t made using toxic materials.
- During interactive play, let your cat win. Allow them to catch the prey at the end of a play session and reward them with a treat they enjoy, such as letting them pounce on a laser pointer to enhance their feelings of triumph! This will help prevent them from getting too fixated on their cat toy4.
- Monitor your cat’s body language during play. This is especially true during long play sessions. Make sure they’re not hyperventilating or overextending themselves. Take breaks as needed.
It might take some trial and error to find the best cat toys that suit your cat’s preferences. Discovering which toys your cat enjoys can be a bit of a learning curve, but with time, you’ll figure out how best to bond with and entertain your cat!
Toys are beneficial to cats in many ways. In addition to keeping your cat entertained, cat toys can help promote physical and mental health by providing necessary stimulation and attending to your cat’s instinctual feline behaviors.
While cat toys can help prevent behavioral problems in the long run, they can’t always cure behavioral problems in cats. If you notice the symptoms of anxiety in your cat or repeatedly find cat diarrhea in the house, you should consult with a vet to get to the bottom of the issue.
Using Dutch, you can quickly schedule an online consultation with a qualified vet, who can assess your cat’s symptoms, provide a diagnosis, and design a personalized treatment plan (if allowed in your state). Dutch is also the only pet telemedicine company to facilitate the delivery of medication directly to your home. Schedule a consultation today to take the first step in resolving your cat’s health problems.
- Landsberg, Gary M. “Behavior Problems in Cats.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, May 2018, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/behavior-of-cats/behavior-problems-in-cats?query=play.
- “Cat Toys and Cat Play.” Maddie's Fund, San Francisco SPCA, Aug. 2019, https://www.maddiesfund.org/kb-cat-toys-and-cat-play.htm?p=topic1033.
- Strickler, Beth L, and Elizabeth A Shull. “An Owner Survey of Toys, Activities, and Behavior Problems in Indoor Cats.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Elsevier, Sept. 2014, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787814000884.
- “Cat Toys - Choosing and Using Them.” SPCA of Texas, SPCA of Texas, https://www.spca.org/file/pet-university/Cat-Toys---Choosing-and-Using-Them.pdf.