Despite their reputation as lazy animals, cats need playtime. It's hard-wired into their basic instincts. Experts have observed that wild cats often play with their food (think small rodents and birds) before consuming it. Cats need things to pounce on, bat and bounce around to get their exercise and stay healthy. Playing helps with their mental and physical development, and allows them to bond with other cats in your household. In addition, if you have an indoor cat, playing will relieve boredom and stress.
Basic cat toys for cats include things that are small, easily moveable, and often make a jingling or shaking sound. You can buy cat toys just about everywhere including pet stores, discount department stores like Target and Wal-Mart, grocery stores, pharmacies such as Longs and Walgreen's, and possibly your vet's office.
The following are some tips for how to buy cat toys.
- Check the cat toys carefully before buying them. Gently pull on them and make sure they don't come apart in your hands. The last thing you want is your cat to swallow or choke on something they shouldn't.
- Many cat toys come scented with catnip, or actually contain catnip. If you've never seen a cat respond to catnip, you're in for a treat. Catnip is actually a mild hallucinogen to cats. Many cats will respond to a catnip toy by sniffing, licking, drooling and chewing the toy, batting it around, and rubbing their chin, cheeks and body up against it, usually while purring loudly. Male cats tend to like catnip better and not all cats respond to catnip. In addition, cats less than three months old will probably not respond to catnip.
However, two cautions about catnip. If your cat ingests a great deal, they may be at risk for vomiting and diarrhea. The other warning is that some cats drool excessively over catnip and can actually create small puddles on and around catnip-scented toys. If this disgusts you, catnip-scented toys may be something to avoid.
- Many cat toys come covered with fur or with a furry covering. Some cats like to lick furry toys and bat them around. You should check these toys weekly to make sure the fur does not become loose enough for your cat to ingest.
- Decide if you want a toy you and your cat can play with together. Toys you can play with together are great if have the time and inclination to play with your cat. As cats get older, they may need human encouragement to play. In addition, playing with your cat will allow for bonding, a huge plus if your cat is shy or slightly aggressive. Toys you can play with together with your cat include things like remote control toys, plastic handles with feathers and ribbons on them that you wave at your cat and laser toys. You can even play with 'play alone' toys like small mice, or balls your cat can bat back and forth to you.
- Look at items around your house as toys. A balled-up piece of paper or a pen across a linoleum floor may be a great and economical toy for your cat. Remember that if you decide to use items around your house as toys, make sure your cat can't be harmed by them. Plastic bags, while great for kittens to play hide and seek in, can suffocate a small cat, or cause a problem if pieces are swallowed. Rubber bands, paper clips, thumbtacks and other small plastic items, such as from children's toys, are also potential choking hazards.
- Have a variety of cat toys in your house so your cat doesn't become bored with one. Hide them after your cat has played with them for a few weeks and then bring them back out later.