Regular playtime is essential for your kitten’s mental and physical development, but it’s important to choose appropriate, safe toys for them to enjoy. Here’s what to look for when choosing the best kitten toys for your new pet.
Playtime is fantastic fun for a kitten, and for their owner too, but did you know it also has multiple benefits?
By stalking, chasing and pouncing on toys, your kitten hones their hunting skills. Catching pretend ‘prey’ also triggers the release of endorphins, hormones which help your cat feel content and socially connected.
With an estimated 4 in 10 UK cats overweight, regular play is vital for keeping your kitten fit and healthy. Providing a selection of suitable toys will also prevent your kitten getting bored and hopefully direct their attention away from your fingers and furniture!
What are the best toys for kittens?
While every kitten is different, most will enjoy playing with a range of toys from the following categories.
Toys for pouncing
Toys that move along the ground, such as balls and toy mice, are perfect for practising stalking and pouncing. Put the toy in a big box to keep a kitten busy without losing their plaything under the furniture.
Laser pointers are popular for pouncing play, but they don’t give cats the same endorphin rush as catching pretend prey and can cause frustration. If you have a laser pointer, use it sparingly and offer your kitten something satisfying to ‘catch’ at the end of the session.
Fishing rod toys
A fishing-rod toy with feathers or a tiny plush animal on the end of a string encourages the jumping and catching behaviour a cat uses when hunting fluttering insects and birds. You can also pull it along the ground for pouncing play. Make sure feathers and other small parts can’t easily detach, and always hide fishing-rod toys when not in use.
When a cat catches larger prey, such as a rabbit, they hold it between their front feet while kicking it with both back legs. Let your kitten practise this bunny-kicking behaviour on a kick-bag or small cuddly toy.
Interactive kitten toys keep them entertained even when you’re not available to play. There are countless models on the market – roller balls, whack-a-moles, fluttery butterflies – but remember most cats would rather interact with their owner than a machine!
Kittens are keen climbers. As well as being great exercise and good practice for life in the outside world, getting up high gives them a great view which helps them feel safe and secure.
Pet stores sell elaborate cat trees and climbing platforms, but if you don’t have the space or money for one of these you can help your kitten climb by making space on windowsills and bookshelves.
Hiding and jumping is great fun for kittens. Encourage this peek-a-boo play by providing a play tunnel or cutting holes in a cardboard box, some large enough for your kitten to climb through and others just big enough for a playful paw.
Feeding enrichment toys
Giving your kitten a bowl of food may be convenient for both of you, but it doesn’t provide the mental stimulation or physical exertion of tracking down prey. Give your kitten a mental and physical workout by offering some of their regular food in a feeding enrichment toy. Choose from puzzle balls, activity boards or use an egg box or ice-cube tray to get your kitten problem-solving for snacks.
As well as sharpening their claws, scratching is your kitten’s way of marking their territory and having a good stretch. Deter your kitten from clawing furniture by buying a couple of scratching posts that are more satisfying than your sofa. Choose tall, sturdy ones, ideally with a vertical weave rather than rope wound around. Some kittens also enjoy playing with cat-scratching boxes and rollers.
Your kitten will lose their baby teeth at three to four months, and their adult teeth should come through by six months of age. Good teething toys for kittens include soft toys made from fabric or mesh, cat-specific dental sticks or cardboard to chew.
Can I make kitten toys out of household items?
Homemade kitten toys can be just as much fun as shop-bought ones. Ping-pong, squash and practice golf balls are the perfect size for kittens to chase, and most love scrunched up balls of paper or foil that they can pick up with their teeth or claws.
Some kittens like to use a small soft toy or balled pair of socks as pretend prey. And a cardboard box or big paper bag is irresistible for kitten hide-and-seek.
What kitten toys should I avoid?
Avoid toys with small parts (such as bead eyes) that could be easily swallowed and anything with sharp edges or points. This includes household objects like paper clips and bag-ties. Batteries can be deadly if swallowed, so shut battery-operated kitten toys safely away when not in use.
Although cartoon kittens often chase balls of wool, it’s best to keep them away from yarn, string and ribbons in real life as these can cause intestinal blockages or pose a strangulation hazard. Keep rubber bands and hair elastics out of reach too.
Don’t bother with catnip toys until your kitten is older. Cats tend not to react to catnip until they are three to six months old, and even then around 20% to 30% of adult cats aren’t sensitive to it.
And finally, your fingers, toes and hair definitely don’t make the best kitten toys. It might seem cute to have a tiny kitten gnawing your fingers and pouncing on your feet, but it’s no fun once their teeth and claws are fully grown and you can’t break the habit!
If your kitten loves to bring you their toys after they’ve ‘caught’ them, they’d probably enjoy some short clicker training sessions to learn some fun tricks!