Many pet owners are of the view that cats – especially older ones – don’t require cat toys and are naturally lethargic, preferring to rest and nap most of the day. This is a common misconception. In fact, cats are crepuscular – which means that they tend to lay low during the peak hours of the day and the night due to their natural instincts. Since these are the hours other perceived predators are assumed to be awake, felines prefer to relax at these times and tend to be more active during dawn and dusk hours.
In no way, however, are cats inactive. In fact, they are naturally strong and athletic, with their fascinating abilities to run, leap and jump. The inactiveness seen in most cats is not natural but almost always learnt; since domestic cats stay indoors almost all the time, they tend to adopt a sedentary lifestyle and lose their habit to exercise, which is a major health concern.
Why is Physical Activity Important for Cats?
Common misconceptions surrounding felines often lead pet parents to unknowingly neglecting their need for entertainment and physical exercise. Ideally, an average adult cat need at least 15 minutes of play a few times a day, while a kitten needs more and an older cat might need slightly lesser. Regardless, the absence of this physical activity commonly leads to cat obesity, which has become one of the biggest feline health concerns.
Not only does it lead to further health problems, but it also accounts for a shorter life span for the pet. Inactivity also leads to psychological problems; cats that get almost no exercise or play time are not mentally stimulated and tend to become bored and even depressed, which in turn results in behavioural issues.
Are Cat Toys Essential?
Unfortunately, pet parents are often keen to invest in toys for dogs but don’t seem to think they are essential for cats. The truth is that it is very important to provide cat toys to keep your cat entertained and physically active. Not only do they provide a healthy outlet for the natural energy that felines possess, but cat toys also appeal to their natural predatory instincts while still keeping them indoors.
Without providing a real prey to chase, cat toys provides your cat with the satisfaction of thinking, chasing and capturing. Providing both mental and physical exercise. Cat toys are also a great way to bond with your pet and are known to help cats stay healthy and happy in general.
What Cat Toys Entice Cats to Play?
When you are looking for cat toys, it is essential to consider the natural characteristics of your feline and to deduce what features would entice them. The rule of thumb to remember is to go for cat toys that would appeal to the natural predator in your cat. Here are a few features that make for great cat toys.
- Catnip – A plant of the mint family that is known to attract cats through its chemicals and odor, catnip also helps make great cat toys. It is most effective when dried and crushed, since that maximizes the odor it gives off. While catnip is medically safe for all cats, it must be noted that not all cats react the same to it; some become relaxed with it, while others become extremely active. Others yet become rather aggressive. The way your pet reacts to catnip will depend almost entirely on genetics. You should be able to observe your pet’s reaction and behavior by the time they are six months old.
- Feathers – Due to their natural predatory instinct towards birds, cats are attracted by feathers, which is why cat toys containing feathery material are almost always a safe bet.
- Strings – If you have ever had a kitten, you must already know how enticing chasing a single string can be for them. While cat toys with strings can be a great idea for some, they are sometimes rather experimental, since some cats seem to grow out of the fascination for strings.
- Movement – Cats that often appear lethargic are often also the only household pet and are left alone for long periods of time. When a cat is given something that moves on its own and that they can chase around, they are naturally inclined to follow it and try to capture it, which is why motorized cat toys are very popular in demand.
- Sounds and Lights – We have all seen cats curiously chase laser lights; it is due to this curiosity that the best cat toys usually includes random sounds, lights and colors. Not only do these cat toys trigger your cat’s predatory instinct leading to physical exercise thru play, but they are also great for mental stimulation.
- Scratching Posts – While ‘scratchers’ are essential, they should not be confused with regular cat toys since they provide for different needs of the feline. These are safe platforms that provide for your cat’s scratching needs. An example is the Catit Scratch Pad, which lets the cat fulfill the urge to scratch, so that your furniture does not fall victim to unwanted claw marks. Scratchers also naturally wear down the cat’s sharp claws while allowing for muscle exercise.
Types of Cat Toys
While there are countless types of cat toys to choose from, there are some that have been highly successful and popular with most cats. Here are a few recommendations your cat is bound to love!
Catnip-Filled Cat Toys
As an enticing scent for cats, catnip makes for a great toy-filler to ensure that your pet is curious and eager to play. There are several toys that come with catnip filled in them, whether they are just regular soft toys or creative catnip-filled toys, like a filled feather mouse.
Not only is this stuffed with premium catnip but it is also covered in feathers, providing for multiple enticing features for the cat. Another idea to use catnip for cat toys is to simply get a catnip spray and use it on cat toys you already have, or even around an area you want your cat to stay in.
You can also buy natural catnip leaves and use them to fill cat toys at home.
Interactive Cat Toys
Cats love to interact with other beings, which is why they often get bored and lazy when left alone. This is why interactive cat toys are a great idea for when you can’t be around to play with your pet. These cat toys come with different features and are meant to entertain and keep your curious cat occupied.
A great idea is to get funny faced cat toys that come with different facial expressions and in different colors. They are bouncy and are meant to entice the cat. Also, they can be filled with treats.
Another great example of an interactive toy is the Kong Guide-and-Seek Cat Toy, which is a sliding device with holes in it. It glides, bounces and jumps in unexpected patterns and comes with feathers peeking out of the holes, providing for great entertainment and exercise for hours.
You can also opt for peek-a-boo style toys like Catit sense circuits with exciting sounds, lights, and balls to chase.
To make sure your cat gets enough exercise by running and jumping, it would be ideal to have at least one motorized cat toy at hand. These cat toys come in several shapes, including those of little animals that brings out the hunting instincts of your cat. They allow the cat to run around and exercise by moving in random, unpredictable directions to avoid boredom.
A great example is the Motomouse cat toy; it comes in bright colors, has a tail like a mouse and vibrates when switched on.
A much more advanced version is the motion sensor mouse. It can be used without a remote control and is ideal and safe for your cat to play with even when they are alone. Cat toys like these that you can leave your pet alone with are great at stamping out boredom as well as preventing psychological problems like feelings of abandonment and the resulting behavioral issues.
Interactive Puzzle Feeders
Cats are naturally smart, though they need their mental skills to be effectively and regularly stimulated in order to stay sharp. This can be done by playing with your cat and hiding items for them to find. However, since you can’t be around all the time, puzzle feeder cat toys are a great way to provide mental stimulation. These are feeders-cum-toys which require your pets to solve small puzzles in order to get their food or treats.
A great puzzle feeder is the Catit food tree; it is a food maze that can hide treats on different levels. It is ideal for all ages, since it provides three difficulty settings according to the maturity of your cat.
Another product to consider is the interactive digger, which comes with different tubes that can hide small amounts of food that the cat must paw out to eat. Puzzle feeders make for great cat toys, since they force your pet to mentally and physically exercise whenever they get hungry; this makes them especially effective for older cats that have become sluggish over time.
Regardless of the number of cat toys you have, it is also important to personally spend time with your pet and use certain toys to help build a healthy bond. Wand toys are great when it comes to playing with your cat. These are small, colorful objects attached to flexible wands that you can wave around, move on the floor or even up and down stairs for your cat to follow.
They are fun and provide for great exercise, while also giving your pet the much-needed ‘people time’.
Among the best wand toys is the Marukan mouse teaser wand that comes with a mouse and natural feathers on one end.
Another is the Kong twirl teaser toy that does not only have colorful strings and feathers attached to it but also makes crinkling sounds and is filled with catnip!
If there is one thing that is common in all cats, it’s their fascination with moving lights, which is why we suggest you keep at least one laser toy among your cat toys.
Laser cat toys can be placed anywhere to function on their own and often come with an random movements of the laser.
A more advanced version of this cat toy is the Kong laser craze toy, which is a weighted ball with laser and feathers, and is catnip-filled. It provides for healthy entertainment and exercise for long periods of time.
Keeping Your Cat Entertained with Cat Toys
While there are several fascinating types of cat toys out there, it is also important for pet owners to keep a few things in mind to ensure that the cat does not lose interest in the toys. Here are a few tips to keep your cat entertained and exercising.
- Regularly rotate toys – Always give your cat two to three toys to play with at a time, and then change them a week later. However, if your cat has a favorite, it is fine to leave that one toy out at all times.
- Experiment with toys – Not all cats will like the same toys, which is why it is recommended to get one of a certain type, and get more later if your pet seems to enjoy it.
- Provide different toys – Cats have several needs, so make sure you provide for them with different cat toys. They should have a toy each to carry, to chase, to wrestle with, and to cuddle with.
- Be prepared for the kill – Most cat toys appeal to hunting instincts and engage the pet in prey play, which means there will be destroyed and broken toys. Be prepared and be willing to replace them.
Finally, make sure you don’t replace personal time with toys. A cat that is curious and likes to play is a cat that is cared for. While cat toys are great, they can never replace you as the pet parent, so make sure you spend some time with your cat daily. Cats love to bond with their owners and will jump at any chance to do so, while the absence of warmth and care can lead to them becoming bored, depressed, and uninterested in all toys and activities. Remember: a loved cat makes for a healthy and happy pet!