We continue our series of recommendations for new cat owners. See the entire new cat shopping list here.
Most cats not only like to play, they need to play. Cats have to hunt daily in order to feel happy. Hunting is not only an enjoyable activity for them--it's one of the main reasons for their existence in nature. They're predators, so they'll feel happiest if they have the opportunity to hunt at dawn and dusk just like they would in nature. The best cat toys emulate the process of stalking and hunting prey.
What's interesting is how some cats seem to be predisposed to want to hunt a particular kind of prey. Some are more interested in birds while others find rodents most appealing. There will be a bit of trial and error on your way to finding the toys that trip your particular kitty's triggers.
Among the best toys are those that cost nothing. Believe it or not, many cats find a small wad of paper much more compelling that just about any store-bought toy. Using a fresh piece of note paper each time insures that it's good and crinkly and smells new. Paper has the advantage of being lightweight and of flying away when batted.
Boxes fall into this category too. Cats just LOVE boxes. All boxes. Even the ones they can't fit inside. Sometimes those are the most compelling to little felines! If you order something that comes in a box, you get the free bonus of a new cat toy! Before you give it to your cat, make sure there are no stringy tape bits or loose labels that could be eaten. Then just put it down and watch the magic begin!
High on the store-bought list is Da Bird. Yes, the name is silly, but for most cats, the appeal is incredible. We worry a bit about where the manufacturer might be sourcing their feathers, but there's no denying the attraction of these feather propellers.
You'll also want to get a good wand toy and learn how to use it. Just about any toy can become interesting to your cat if it acts like prey. Any toy can become boring if it just sits there or repeats the same motion over and over. It has to move unpredictably! Wand toys like this Cat Dancer product make that easy because of the way they flick about. Try it!
We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention one of our cats’ favorite toys, the Leaps & Bounds Caterpillar Teaser. This one’s almost always available at Petco and our cats go crazy for it!
Last, but not least, you may find that your particular feline has the fetch gene. Yes, some cats are adept at playing fetch. We've known cats who would play fetch for hours on end if their humans didn't tire of the game. In order to satisfy a fetchy feline, we recommend a toy that's lightweight and easy to pick up. Our current favorites are these Looney Loops. We've yet to find a fetching cat who could resist them.
An honorable mention should definitely go to all those catnip toys out there, but be careful. Not all catnip toys are created equal. We found that some items manufactured by the company PETSTAGES contained the smallest sprinkling of catnip in a filling made mostly of fiberfill. The brand we recommend is Yeoww! Everything they make is of a high quality but our cats particularly like the Stinkies. They're filled with nothing but catnip and we've yet to see a kitty pierce the tough fabric exterior of these toys.
There are also some common "toys" that should never be made available to cats. This list includes, yarn, rubber bands, yarn, hair bands, string, yarn, shoelaces, and any number of other small, swallowable items. Did we mention YARN? People probably link cats with yarn because cats will play with any stringy item. The trouble is that they shouldn't. The barbs on a cat's tongue make it very easy for these items to get hooked and swallowed, and once swallowed they can kill your kitty by blocking their intestinal tract. At the very least, you're in for some pricey vet visits.