Cat toys help to stimulate our pets’ minds and are particularly helpful for keeping indoor cats active – here, we round up some of the most popular types.
Cat toys aren’t just for kittens – given the opportunity, most adult cats love the chance to stalk, pounce and play with toys. Offering your cat a variety of toy options for regular play sessions can help them stay healthy and happy. This is especially important for indoor cats who need mental stimulation and may not get as much exercise as cats that go outside, so could be more likely to gain weight.
Different cats often have different play styles, so while some cats might love catching a ball, others might prefer toys that encourage climbing or jumping. Enjoy experimenting with some of the best toys for cats we’ve rounded up below, to find your feline’s favourite!
1. Kicker toys
When some cats ‘catch’ a toy, you’ll see them do a classic ‘bunny kick’ with their back legs. The best toys to encourage this natural hunting behaviour in cats and help keep them physically active are called cat kickers, kick bags or kick stick toys. You can also achieve the same effect with a small cuddly toy. Throw the kicker toy across the floor for your cat to chase and pounce, before watching them grab and attack it!
2. Pouncing toys
As instinctive hunters, a cat’s eyes will be drawn to any moving toys that scurry along the floor like their prey. Some cats love small balls, while others will prefer stuffed toy mice or birds to practise those pouncing instincts. Don’t be surprised if you see your cat trotting along with their toy after they’ve ‘caught’ it!
Think carefully before investing in a cat laser toy, however. While laser pointers can initially be fun for cats to chase, our cats can become frustrated because they never ‘catch’ the laser. If you do use a laser toy, keep play sessions short, and throw your cat a small toy to physically catch and ‘kill’ at the end.
3. Catnip toys
The catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) contains a chemical compound that stimulates a sensory response in many cats’ brains when sniffed. As a result, you’ll find plenty of different catnip toys for cats (with the toys varying in quality), including kicker and pouncing toys infused with the herb, loose catnip that can be sprinkled on scratching posts, and even catnip bubbles. The catnip plant itself is particularly effective, however. What’s more, it is easy to grow and found in most garden centres and nurseries. A pesticide-free plant is good for bees as well!
The arousing effect of catnip usually lasts 10 minutes or so, after which it will wear off. Placing catnip toys in a sealed plastic bag when not being used can help keep them fresh, or look for toys with a refillable catnip pouch.
Cats vary in their response to catnip, displaying behaviours ranging from active (for example, rolling around) to passive (for example, maintaining a sphinx-like position), although some studies suggest that up to 32% of cats may not respond at all. An individual cat’s response may be affected by gender, neuter status and age, with adult cats responding more actively than younger cats.
4. Cat fishing rod toys
Toys attached to the end of a piece of string on a short ‘fishing rod’ are great for encouraging the kind of running and jumping behaviour you’d see if your cat was trying to catch birds or insects. Chasing a toy instead is a lot kinder to local wildlife, so make time for some interactive play sessions with cat fishing rod toys. Never leave your cat unattended with toys that contain string, however, in case they get tangled up and hurt themselves.
Don’t miss our Petplan advent calendar
See what treats are behind each door every day from 1st December until Christmas.
5. Cat puzzle toys
Cat puzzle toys and mazes that involve food are a great way to help your pet stay mentally stimulated. Puzzle feeder toys for cats may have levers or compartments that your cat needs to press, push or lift to access a treat, or need to be rolled along the floor to release treats. Put some of your cat’s daily allowance of dry food in one of these puzzle toys and always show your cat how to use it for a couple of minutes before standing back and letting them have a go. This helps to reduce the risk of them becoming bored or frustrated with the toy. It’s good to start with something basic while they get the hang of it, and then gradually build up the difficulty level.
6. Electronic cat toys
There are plenty of fun electronic toys to keep your cat entertained these days – from remote-controlled mice to fluttering feathers that pop out from under a cover, testing their reflexes. Electronic toys for cats can be more expensive than some playthings, but could make great birthday or Christmas presents. Just remember that gadgets shouldn’t be used as a substitute for regular, supervised play sessions with your cat.
7. Scratching and climbing cat toys
Scratching and climbing are two very natural cat behaviours, so if your cat is clawing your furniture or clambering up your bookcase, they’re probably trying to tell you something! Treat them to a cat climbing toy or cat tree with elevated places for them to hide, plus plenty of surfaces for scratching. When they’re not playing, your cat may climb up into their cat tower and enjoy a nap where they feel safe.
8. Homemade cat toys
Whichever cat toys your pet prefers, it’s a good idea to rotate these regularly so they don’t get bored. Buying a variety of toys for your cat can, of course, become an expensive business! But the good news is that most felines will appreciate a homemade cat toy just as much as a shop-bought one. Go old-school and scrunch a piece of foil or paper into a ball for your cat to bat around the house, or make a kicker toy using some old socks.
You could also recycle household items to make your own DIY cat puzzle toys. At its simplest, this could mean scattering dry food into an empty egg box for your cat to scoop out, or placing some food inside a cardboard toilet roll and folding the tube over the ends. And don’t forget the joy that a simple cardboard box can bring! Make a fun box for your cat by filling it with leaves, sprinkling in some treats and letting them enjoy a treasure hunt.
Which DIY cat toys and activities have been a big hit with your favourite felines? Share your stories and tips with us on social media using #PethoodStories – we’d love to pass on your bright ideas!