As a cat owner, you probably already know that exercise is a vital component to having a happy and healthy cat. Playing with your cat keeps them mentally and physically active, strengthens the bond between you and your pet, and reduces the likelihood that they’ll develop behavioral problems due to boredom. But when it comes down to actually getting your cat to exercise, it might be harder than you’d think.
In the wild cats spend a great deal of time hunting and catching prey in order to survive. Domestic cats don’t need to hunt for survival because their owners provide their meals. And since hunting is no longer necessary for survival, cats become lazy. In a lot of ways, house cats aren’t so different from people. Exercise is usually the first thing that gets nixed from our daily routine when time gets limited.
Even though our cats no longer have to hunt, their natural instinct to stalk and chase things is still very much intact. As good cat owners, it is our responsibility to encourage these behaviors by playing with our little hunters. Let’s take a look at the different types of cat toys out there and see which kinds are the best.
Interactive Cat Toys
This rather broad grouping of cat toys includes anything that requires your participation. But not all interactive cat toys are created equally. Some require more effort on your part, and some are more engaging than others. As a general safety precaution, interactive cat toys shouldn’t be left out when they aren’t being used.
Some of the best cat toys on the market are interactive wands. They are designed to mimic the behavior of particular types of prey, like snakes and birds. When you’re playing with your cat, try to make the toy move in the same way a real snake or bird would move. Don’t make it too easy on your cat either. Just dangling the toy over their head isn’t going to provide much of a challenge for them. Your job is to get them to move and act like a natural predator. For more info on Interactive Wand Toys, check out our Top Picks, Detailed Buying Guide, and Reviews.
There are hundreds of plush cat toys on the market in every shape and size. Most of them include catnip. Whether your cat enjoys carrying these toys around like prey or nuzzling up against them to take a nap, plush toys are a good selection for your kitty’s arsenal. The best catnip toys are primarily filled with potent North American grown catnip and contain minimal or no polyfill stuffing. Since catnip loses its potency rather quickly, our favorite catnip toys are refillable. Most of these refillable catnip toys are made by KONG and come with a vial of catnip. But you can purchase high-quality catnip separately when you run out. Just remember to keep it in the freezer to preserve its freshness. For more info on Catnip Toys, check out our Top Picks, Reviews, and Buying Guide.
Laser pointers have always been a big hit for cats, and even more so for cat owners. These toys take very little effort on the cat owner’s part, but generally provide lots of exercise for your cats. The downside of these toys is that your cat never actually gets to catch anything and that can be pretty frustrating. We recommend following up your laser toy play session with some other type of toy that your cat can actually catch. Then, finish off the play session with a cat treat or dinner as the reward. This way you can enjoy the entertainment of watching your cat run up walls without feeling guilty.
Balls & Chasers
Crinkle balls, light-up balls, mop-like balls, bouncy balls, jingle balls, sisal mice, springs, etc. – just to name a few. These toys are generally safe enough to be left out for your kitty to entertain themselves. While most cats won’t play fetch with you, they do enjoy chasing after these toys when you throw them. It also helps if you constantly rotate these toys to ensure your cat won’t get bored too quickly seeing the same toy every day.
Which Cat Toys are the Best?
Now that you know what kind of toys are out there, let’s see which ones are the best. While there are pros and cons to each type of cat toy listed, the crucial ingredient for enticing your cat to play is not about the toy at all. It’s about you, and how engaged you are with your cat. Cats can be fussy creatures, but before you blame the $5 toy, take a look at yourself. Make sure the “interactive” play session is between you and your cat, and not your cat and that toy you left in the corner of the room.
We recommend variety when it comes to cat toys and cat toy types. Most cat toys are inexpensive and will last several months if you rotate them and don’t leave them lying around. Figure out what kind of hunter your cat is and buy toys that cater to their preferences.