When your cat isn’t napping, eating, or grooming, odds are that they are playing. Playtime for kitties is important for several reasons. Cats in the wild get their exercise by hunting prey. Your kitty at home has the same instincts to stalk, pounce, and swipe at critters. Play helps keep your cat healthy, happy, and calm.
Play is an important part of building a bond between you and your feline friend. “A lot of times people assume they are just being a ‘cat’ and don’t want to be affectionate,” says Jess Miller, Animal Care Manager at Wayside. “But just like dogs, you need to work on your bond with the animal and doing this through play is a great way to do it.“
Every cat is different and is attracted to different types of toys. Some are attracted to sounds like jingle bells or crinkly material. Others are more interested in different textures of fabric or material. Experiment with a variety of toys with your furry friend to learn which types they respond to the most. Jess recommends persistence when trying out new cat toys. “Often times people will try to play with a toy for a minute and if the cat doesn’t show interest right away they stop and assume they don’t like it. Cats are individuals and it can take them time to engage with a certain toy. Even if the cat is just watching the toy it’s beneficial to them and stimulating.”
Wands with colorful fabric strips are a favorite among cats. The movement of the ribbon mimics the movements of insects and other small critters. Wand toys are especially handy for kitties who still have their claws intact by keeping your hands a good distance away from your cat’s sharp bits. Be sure that all parts of your wand toy are firmly connected as kitties can pull strongly once they get a good grip.
Kitties love ball toys because their movements resemble the movements of mice and other small prey across the floor. Ball toys can take many forms – ping pong balls, plastic cage jingle bell balls, even a ball of crinkled up paper. However, don’t be surprised if you often have to retrieve your cat’s favorite ball toy from under the living room couch.
Catnip stuffed toys can bring the wild animal out of your sleepy house cat. Catnip is a perennial herb in the mint family. Most cats have a strong playful reaction when they sniff catnip. Often they will roll, flip, and be hyperactive for about 10 minutes or so. After the effect wears off expect your kitty to be fatigued and ready for some rest time.
Be aware that catnip can over-stimulate some kitties. Your cat may also build a tolerance to catnip with frequent exposure. We recommend using catnip sparingly, no more than a couple times a month.
Laser pointer cat toys are popular. Kitties like laser dots because they are bright and move quickly like small prey. Laser pointers make it easy for humans to encourage their cat to run, jump, and pounce wherever the little dot goes, giving your feline friend an intense workout with very little effort. Even if your kitty is more interested in watching the laser dot than chasing it, they’re getting rich mental stimulation.
However, laser toys can have some drawbacks. Be aware of how to use this toy properly for a safe and fun play experience:
- Never shine the laser directly in the eyes (kitty, human, or otherwise)
- Keep laser play limited to avoid overstimulation
- Rotate laser play with other types of toys to provide a good variety of enrichment activities
DIY Cat Toys
You can save money and reuse household materials by crafting feline enrichment activities and toys. Our team created these handy tutorials to build your own Cat Puzzle Box, Cat Pom Pom Toys, and Cat Ring Toys. For full tutorial instructions and other pins check out our Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/waysidewaifs/.
What to Avoid
- Some cats may hold down toys and gnaw on them, so be sure to choose toys without small pieces of plastic, fabric, or other material that may come loose and be accidentally ingested.
- Hair ties cats may ingest.
Don’t Forget to Put Your Toys Away
It’s a good idea to stow away your cat’s toys after playtime. Each time you pull their toy back out to play it’s new and interesting. This also allows you to closely monitor their interaction with the toy to prevent injury or ingestion of toy parts.
Whiskers & Wags Retail Store, located in the Wayside Waifs Adoption Center, has a large selection of toys, treats, and other enrichment goods for your furry friends. “Most cat toys are interchangeable for kittens,” says Wayside Adoptions Manager Carolyn Law. “Whiskers and Wags does offer a couple of soft toys specifically for kittens.” Your Whiskers & Wags purchases support Wayside Waifs and provides life-saving medical care, food, and safe shelter to 6,000 homeless pets per year.