Cat Toys: The Good, The Bad, and the Dangerous

cat toysBy Stacey Frazier  Let me start by saying that ANY HUMAN BODY PART is a BAD IDEA for a cat toy! Wiggling your fingers or toes for kitty may start out cute but can end horribly, mostly for you. Not only is there the immediate concern of getting scratched or bitten but it tells the kitten it is ok to attack their humans or any humans. The best cat toys are the ones that engage the cat without putting the animal, their human, or their household in danger.

To decide what are the best cat toys, it helps to understand a little about why and how cats play. Kittens start play early, developing their balance and paw-eye coordination. They learn their hunting skills through practice pounces, leaps, and sneak attacks. They learn social boundaries from their siblings with kitty wrestling and neck biting, which mimics the behavior that is the “kill” shake for a bird or a mouse. If they bite too hard on their sibling (or their own tail), they quickly learn that playing and fighting are two very different things.

The Best Cat Toys

The best cat toys are those that allow a cat to continue this play-learning behavior. Small stuffed mice with secure tails and soft bodies allow the cat to bat around, pick up, bite and toss the toy just as they would a real mouse. Small balls that can be batted and chased simulate prey getting away. A toy suspended on a wand can be waved above the cat, encouraging it to jump like it would for a bird or moth. Laser pointers are great for getting rid of pent up anxiety and energy. A large stuffed toy allows the cat to work those abs and perfect their rabbit kicks.

New kitty owners or people who have only had dogs often find themselves a little lost when it comes to finding the best cat toy. Dogs and cats have a different motivation when it comes to toys. While both seek human interaction, dogs tend to be more concerned with pleasing their owner than focusing on the toy. Where a dog will engage in tug o’war, a cat will want to know why you would give it a toy then try and take it away. Good luck explaining that!

There are some toys that should just never be offered to a cat (or dog, really) regardless of their age. String and yarn can be eaten and become a dangerous, if not deadly, obstruction. If you see a string hanging out of either end of your cat do NOT pull on it! Seek medical attention immediately. Toys with artificial fur should be monitored. Once the toy becomes damaged, it is time to throw it away. Plastic bags, feathers, plastic eyes from toy figures are all risky.

There are still plenty of great cat toys that are safe, including homemade ones. Cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper are great both intact and cut into rings. The plastic ring from the lid of a gallon milk jug is always a big hit. You can always go old school and crumple up a piece of notebook paper. The most important thing is to keep your cat engaged. Even though cats have a reputation for being solitary figures they still enjoy human play/interaction. Just because a cat has grown up doesn’t mean it doesn’t want to play. Feral cats have been observed playing just as house cats do.

Whichever toys your cat prefers, remember that you are part of the equation. The best cat toys are the ones that bring you and your furry friend together.  Guthrie Pet Hospital offers a variety of cat and dog toys for your pets.

 

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