Play with this – not that! How to choose the best cat toys
Cats love stalking things, chasing things, and exploring things with their paws and teeth, which can sometimes lead to a whole mess of trouble. Introducing a selection of feline-friendly toys will keep your pet entertained while ensuring they won’t come to any harm.
If your favourite feline is fascinated by wool (which they can get tangled up in), electrical cords (nice and chewy and potentially deadly creepy crawlies (the odd fly won’t do too much damage, but other insects can) or mice and birds, provide them with a range of cat-enticing toys that help them exhibit their natural feline behaviours in a safe way.
But what sort of toys should you choose? A good idea is to start by watching your feline friend closely to see what kind of activities they are drawn to. This will help you choose exactly the right toy that will suit your cat.
International Cat Care advises: “Every cat is different, and they may have preferences for play style (or you may see your cat perform all of them!).” The feline welfare charity outlines different play styles your cat may exhibit such as:
- Lying on their side, biting and grasping a toy with their front paws and kicking sharply with their back legs.
- Lying low to the ground and pouncing forward onto a moving toy on the floor.
- Jumping and stretching into the air to grab an aerial toy.
When choosing a toy, International Cat Care advises to look for features that enable your cat to carry out their preferred play style. Here are a few feline-tastic ideas:
Great cat toy options
Fishing rod style toys
These allow you to interact with playing your cat by moving the wand with the toy on the end of it in fast and straight movements along the ground, mimicking the movements of a cat’s natural prey. Blue Cross says: “This is perfect for teaching your kitten how to play appropriately, using the rod to create some distance between sharp claws and your hands.”
- Why not try: KONG Cat Feather Teaser, which comprises a cute toy figure with catnip, bright feathers and a crinkle sound to draw them in and really involve them in playtime. Available from Pet Planet >>
CAT FACT: How we interact with, play with and ‘train’ a new kitten will have a big influence on their behaviour around people as an adult cat, so it’s important to go about it in the right way. Find out more about early learning for kittens >>
These are designed to be played without human involvement and can range from simple balls to electronically powered toys. Remember to always end any game with a treat or meal so all that ‘hunting’ results in a reward.
- Why not try: A Catit Play Circuit Ball Toy, comprising a ball circuit with replaceable cardboard scratch pad and a crazy bouncy bee for bouncy interactive fun. Available from Battersea >>
International Cat Care says: “Toys infused with catnip or other similar plants such as valerian, can encourage a cat to investigate and engage in play. But don’t worry if your cat doesn’t seem to be interested- research has found that only between 50 and 70% of cats respond to catnip.”
- Why not try: Cute Mini Catnip Mice – a set of three natural wild catnip mice for feline playtime fun. Available from Cats Protection >>. Or how about a Jolly Moggy Mice Duo, consisting of two colourful patchwork catnip mice, available from Blue Cross >>
CAT FACT: Cats inhabit a world where the sense of smell is crucial. It tells them all about their surroundings and helps them to navigate safely through life. Because they are so finely tuned to the language of scent, it’s just one of the reasons why catnip has such an effect on them. Find out more about the attraction of catnip >>
Small soft toys
These are often preferred by cats as these are similar to the size of their normal prey, such as a mouse or small bird.
- Why not try: A two-piece Mouse in a Teacup cat toy that’s great for batting and playing. The teacup has a fascinating crinkly sound and is a great hiding place for treats, helping to satisfy hunting and play instincts. Available from Battersea >>
Big soft toys
These may also be good if your cat likes to grab and bite the toy and rake it with their back legs.
- Why not try: A KONG Softies Patchwork Bear Cat Toy, which makes an irresistible crinkling sound and is enhanced with a generous amount of premium catnip and comes in grey, chocolate or caramel. Available from Battersea >>
Toys to hide in and pounce from
Cats Protection says: “Hiding away and then pouncing out on unsuspecting toys is a favourite cat pastime, so they’ll have endless fun and games with a pop-up tunnel.”
- Why not try: A Cat and Kitten Pop-up Play Tunnel for plenty of fun and games. Available from Cats Protection >>
Treat ball toys
Blue Cross advises: “Cats are very intelligent, and their natural instinct is to hunt for their food, so they can find hours of entertainment with a treat ball. Batting around the ball to shake the treat loose encourages cats to use their brain and provides great mental stimulation.”
- Why not try: The Catit Treat Ball, which is a treat and toy all in one! Treats are dispensed during play. Available from Battersea >>
CAT FACT: In the wild, cats have to work for their food, which exercises their bodies and stimulates their minds. Providing pet cats with the opportunity to put some effort into getting their paws on the edible prize, could have a big effect on their health and wellbeing. Find out why you should let your cat puzzle it out >>
Toys made of faux fur or feathers
International Cat Care says: “These can be appealing as these textures have been found to encourage play as they feel most like prey. Crinkly materials can also stimulate the cat’s senses. Avoid any parts that could detach and be eaten, such as bells or plastic noses or eyes.”
- Why not try: A pack of six faux fur rainbow mice that cats can chase, bite, and bat harmlessly, providing hours of fun and exercise. Available from Battersea >>
CAT FACT: Like all baby animals, kittens love to play. As well as being lots of fun, play teaches young cats about the world around them, aids their physical development and hones their fabulous feline skills. As cats get older, play is a great way to keep fit, lean and healthy. Find out how to play games with cats of all ages >>
Toys to kick
Blue Cross says: “Kickeroo toys are made for cats who like to kick out with their hind paws when they are in the mood to play. Encouraging your pet to wrestle on this toy provides both mental and physical stimulation and means your furniture and legs are saved from excited claws!”
- Why not try: The KONG Kickeroo™ Mouse’s floppy, feathery tail and crinkly sound spur pouncing and chasing, letting your cat express natural hunting instincts. This rascally rodent’s extra-long shape invites tons of wrestling and kicking that gives your cat lots of healthy exercise. Available from PDSA >>
Sensory enrichment toys
These can be particularly beneficial for indoor cats, so they can enjoy the benefits of the outdoors indoors.
- Why not try: The Catit Design Senses Grass Garden Kit, which contains grass seed and substrate to grow your own cat grass, plus an Accu Pressure Mat, which provides pressure point paw massage. Available from Battersea >>
CAT FACT: While keeping a cat permanently indoors ensures they are safe, it’s important that they are provided with plenty of activities to enable them to display a normal range of behaviours that keep them mentally alert and physically fit. Find out more about enriching the lives of indoor cats >>
A centre of activity, just for your cat
Cat activity centres are made up of multiple levels with string toys attached to encourage cats' playful nature. Blue Cross advises: “The cat activity centre plays an important role in a cat's day to day life and provides entertainment for them too. Your cat loves to climb and explore, and the little hidey-holes in an activity centre are perfect for them to escape to if they feel a bit cautious or worried about a situation. Allowing them to get up a bit higher and observe the goings on from a safe space, which is especially useful in multi-cat households.”
- Why not try: The Cat Scratch and Rest Station, which features a scratching post with a slanted, carpeted base, providing the perfect angle for your feline friend to scratch comfortably. It's a great way to save your soft furnishings and, with a toy on the side, it encourages them to play. Available from Argos >>
At Burgess, all our cat food is made using premium ingredients and is high in protein, to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your cat happy and healthy – from kitten, to adult and mature and our award-winning variety for neutered cats.
If you found this interesting, you may also like:
KITTEN TIMELINE: WHAT ARE YOUR KITTEN'S MILESTONES? When will my kitten eat solid food? When will my kitten start to purr? When will my kitten be able to go outside? Mark your meowing munchkin’s milestone moments with our comprehensive kitten timeline...
GRUB'S UP! Find out why little and often suits most cats – and the reason why play should be part of your feeding routine…
CAN YOU TRAIN A CAT? Felines excel at training their human guardians to give them food, attention and a cosy lap to curl up on. But is it possible for us to train them?
DOES YOUR CAT KNOW THEIR NAME? Whatever name we choose to bestow upon our beloved pet cats, does it make any difference to them? Do they actually understand that they’re called Alfie or Bella or even Archibald von Snugglemuffin?
THE HOMING INSTINCT – CAN CATS REALLY FIND THEIR WAY HOME? Top tip – it’s much easier if they’re microchipped! Plus, what a change in the law will mean for every cat owner...
THE TIME TO NEUTER YOUR CAT IS NOW Is your cat neutered? If not, what’s holding you back? Neutering is a simple operation that will not only stop unwanted pregnancies, but also benefit your favourite feline’s overall health and wellbeing.
GOT A CAT QUESTION? Whether you have a question about ‘Why does my cat lick me?’, ‘Why does my cat bite me?’, ‘Why does my cat stare at me?” we’ve some interesting and informative answers – and you may see your favourite feline in a whole new light...