Imagine, if you will, your home without any forms of entertainment. No television, no game consoles, no iPads. No smart phones either, and no books. Not even any board games. It would be a pretty dull place to live, wouldn’t it? And yet that’s the reality if your home has a cat, but no cat toys. Sure, your cat may enjoy watching television with you occasionally, but probably only if you’re watching a nature documentary, or snooker (seriously, why do they love snooker so much?). But watching television as your only entertainment has the same issue for your cat as it does for you – you’re not getting any exercise!
Cats of all ages need a little something to keep them occupied. That’s where cat toys come in. Cats just love to play. You’ve probably had endless fun making your cat follow a laser pointer around. Making a cat jump for a wand toy is a great way to pass the time, too! But you’re not always around, and they also need entertainment when they’re on their own. Basically, the answer to “Do cats need toys?” is “yes”. But what toys do cats like? And what toys do cats like best of all?
In this article, we’re going to be looking at various types of cat toys. We’re going to limit ourselves strictly to toys, and not other forms of entertainment. We know that cat scratchers, and other forms of cat furniture, are also entertaining for cats, but they’re a totally different category. In fact, they’re a category we’ve already covered on our cat furniture guide! Cat scratchers and cat furniture are like exercise bikes. They’re part entertainment, and part exercise. We’re going to keep our focus on the things that cats can play with in your house just for fun.
Let’s dig in!
Cat Toy Types
There are probably thousands of variations on the theme of ‘toys for cats’, so we’re going to try to keep things organised. Many of them are just different variations of the same thing. For example, a ball with bell inside is the same thing as a ball without one. That being said, we’ll look to group things together as best we can, and explain them as we go. Regardless of whether you live in an apartment, a bungalow, a regular house or a mansion, there are cat toys available you and your cat. As a side note, did you know that how and why your cat plays is actually an expression of its personality? It’s true; science has proven it! With that in mind, let’s look at those cat toy types.
1. Wand Cat Toys
Description: We freely admit that these are among our favourites. A wand cat toy is simply an object – sometimes a mouse, sometimes just a furry ball – suspended from a piece of string, with a wand handle for you to hold. This is an interactive cat toy! It will only attract your cat’s attention if you’re around to pick it up and play with it. The attachment may or may not squeak, and may or may not contain catnip. You may sometimes see them referred to as ‘teaser’ cat toys.
Pros: Your cat will chase it if you drag it around the room, or jump for it if you dangle it above their head. Because of that, they’re great for exercising your cat indoors. They’re interactive toys, so they’re fun for you as well. They promote running and jumping, and appeal to a cat’s hunting instincts.
Cons: They’re not a toy your cat can engage with if you’re not playing with them. Also cats really do grab at them hard, so they don’t have the longest shelf life. Be prepared to replace wand toys regularly. Also, remember to let your cat grab it and attack it properly from time to time. If you keep the prize on the end of the rope forever out of reach, your cat will eventually get bored and wander off.
Typical price: Not only are they among the most fun cat toys, they’re also cheap cat toys! $5 or less will get you what you need.
2. “Chase” Cat Toys
Description: We’re grouping things together here, so “chase” cat toys cover a number of similar objects that are really just one and the same thing. A “chase” cat toy is anything that your cat can chase or hit around the house without any interaction from you. That might be a mouse – and it often is! Equally it can be a ball. Some chase toys have bells in them. Some have catnip in them. The more advanced toy mice for cats might even make electronic squeaks when your cat attacks them!
Pros: This is exactly what your cat needs when you’re not around. Something to play with and chase around the house! Hunting, chasing, stalking and pouncing are all part of a cat’s natural instincts, and these basic toys appeal to all of your cat’s urges when it comes to that.
Cons: You don’t have a lot of control over where your cat chases these things to. An eager cat will happily chase it all over the floor, colliding with anything it finds. That means food and drink can be spilled over. You may also forever find yourself retrieving stuck chase toys from underneath your own furniture. If you’re not around to do so, your cat will make its best efforts to fish it out itself. That can mean that carpets and furniture get clawed in the attempt. Like wand toys, cats like to give them a real beating. You’ll be replacing them over and over. Especially if it contains catnip!
Typical price: Very cheap cat toys again. $5 is more than enough to buy your cat a new toy.
3. Cat Feeding Exercise Balls
Description: Now even mealtimes can be fun! The principle behind these cat toys is basic. It’s a plastic ball, filled with food, and has a little hole that the food falls out of when your cat plays with it. The more they chase it around, the more food falls out, and so your cat gets a little treat for exercising itself. That’s why they’re sometimes called cat treat balls.
Pros: Unsurprisingly, cats love these! It’s another cat toy that doesn’t require constant interaction with you. All you need to do is keep it topped up with food. They can mean your cat won’t go hungry if it finishes its meal and you’re not around to feed it until much later on. (There are other ways around that – see our cat feeder guide for more information). You can also use these cat toys as a way of controlling food intake for cats with weight issues. If they have to put in some work to get their food out, you’ll have an in-shape cat in no time!
Cons: There will be cat food all over your house. There’s no way to dress that up. If you have carpets, you’re probably going to find cat food ground up into it. It’ll go under your furniture. You’ll probably end up stepping in it yourself! Also be careful not to overfill them. Just as they can be used to control your cat’s diet in a positive way, the opposite is also true. If you’re giving your cat full meals plus a full cat feeding toy, it’s likely to eat more than it really needs. We all know cats don’t have a great sense of portion control! They’ll eat from cat balls all day if you give them chance.
Typical price: Somewhere around $10, but remember to factor in the cost of all the extra food, too. Cat treat balls require topping up, and often!
4. “Pounce” Cat Teaser Toys
Description: These are so much fun to watch cats play with. The idea is similar to a small, circular train set. There’s a track, on which an object sits (usually a mouse), and the object moves around the track for your cat to chase. It will move back and forth, changing directions randomly, and sometimes disappear into a hole your cat can’t get at. They’re battery powered, and usually programmable to start and shut off and different times of the day.
Pros: This is another example of cat toys that appeal to your cat’s hunting instincts. The random movement of the object keeps your cat guessing, and cats who like these toys will happily play with them for hours. If your cat ‘catches’ the object, it will attempt to reverse away, giving them a reason to chase it again. Because you can program the toy, you can make sure it kicks into life in the middle of the day and gives your cat something to do. If you keep the ‘on’ time down to small amounts every day, your cat is unlikely to get bored of it.
Cons: As with anything with moving parts, it can break. Your cat will do its best to wrench the object off the track, and because they’re usually made out of plastic, strong cats may succeed. They also tend to make a lot of noise, which can put some cats off (and irritate you!). There’s no ‘treat’ element of the toy, and so if it’s left on for too long and your cat gets over exposed to it, it may eventually lose interest.
Typical price: These are more expensive, high quality cat toys. They’re mechanical and have moving parts, so you’re paying for that element, too. They generally retail for somewhere between $40 and $50. Don’t forget the ongoing cost of battery replacement, too!
5. Cat Laser Pens
Description: This is a very basic toy to understand and operate. It’s a pen, and at the end of it is a laser light. You point the laser light at the floor, or the wall, and move it around. Your cat will go crazy trying to attack the light. Hours of fun!
Pros: It’s another interactive cat toy, so it’s something you and your cat can play with together. They’re small, they don’t make mess, and it lets you give your cat a workout. Have them chase the light across the floor, or jump up at the wall. You can even have them running from one end of the room to the other to keep up with it. They’re a very simple way of indulging your cat’s hunting instincts, and they’re one of the cheapest cat toys you could buy.
Cons: There’s no ‘end game’ for your cat. They can never grab hold of the light in the same way they can with a wand toy, so it can become very frustrating for them. Also, they have a tendency to keep attacking the last area they saw the light once you’ve shut it off. Great care should be exercised as to what you point the light at – if it lands on ornaments, they’ll likely be knocked over. If you shine it up against expensive wallpaper or items on the wall, don’t blame your cat if they get damaged in the chase.
Typical price: Another cat toy type that makes for both the most fun cat toys, and cheap cat toys. This is another toy you can get for your cat for less than $5!
6. Automatic Laser Chasers
Description: We just talked about how much cats love laser pens. Here’s a twist on the idea that they can play with when you’re not around! Automatic laser chasers are just a base unit that projects a laser light out onto the area around them. They can be programmed, and they change direction frequently just as you would in order to keep your cat active and engaged. Various forms of these cat toys are available. You can have single beams or multiple beams. Some will project spots, and others will project shapes onto the wall. Battery powered and mains-operated versions are available.
Pros: All the fun of a laser pen for your cat, without you needing to be there to play with them! This is another option that works well for the cat owner who isn’t always home. Automatic programming means they can come on at any time of day. Equally, if you want some quiet time in the evening and want your cat to be entertained elsewhere, this will take care of that desire for you.
Cons: You’re not in charge of where the laser is pointed. That means they could go anywhere, and onto anything. Be careful that you place the base unit into an area where there’s a lot of space around it, and no valuables that you wouldn’t want a cat to run at. For that exact reason, they’re not a great idea if you don’t have a lot of space to play with. The same general cons that apply to cat laser toys also apply here.
Typical cost: These are technology based, high quality cat toys, and technology costs! These are not the cheapest cat toys. Be prepared to hand over around $50.
7. Cat Kicker Toys
Description: These toys really appeal to your cat’s wilder side! They’re essentially stuffed toys, and they’re often full of catnip. They’re designed for cats to grab
hold of, bite, kick and claw at. Your cat will typically grab it with its teeth and front paws, whilst thrashing its back legs at it furiously. They come in various shapes and sizes but they’re often shaped like fish, mice or birds. If you’ve come here looking for toy mice for cats, this is the correct name for them! There are also various textures, depending on your cat’s own preference.
Pros: They’ll definitely get your cat’s aggression out of its system! They may appeal to the most savage nature inside your cat, simulating the process a cat would need to go through to rip something open for food. As with chase toys, they can be played with when you’re not around. They’re more likely to be laced with catnip than any other toy; and catnip is great for keeping your cat’s mood up.
Cons: They tear open in the end, and you may come home to find pieces of them shredded all over your house. They’re also not the most energetic toys to play with. Your cat puts in a lot of aggression when attacking them, but they’re not toys that can be chased around the home like other options can.
Typical price: As with most basic cat toys, you’ll find these in the $5 or below section.
8. Pounce Houses/Cat Tunnels
Description: We were in two minds about whether these belong in the cat toys section, or the cat furniture section. We eventually decided to go with “toys” because they’re built purely for entertainment. Pounce houses and pounce tunnels resemble little canvas tents for cats. There will be an entry hole, and at least one exit hole (obviously houses have more entrances and exits than tunnels). Cats can run through them, chase toys through them, or just jump on them for their own entertainment.
Pros: For a cat, this is somewhere between a toy and a hiding place. Some cats will even sleep in them like they’re proper cat beds! (We have a great section on cat beds, by the way). Cats seem to love canvas as a material. They’ll jump on them, pull at them and dive through them. They’re great in conjunction with other toys, too. You may find that cats drag their favourite toys in there with them, and they’ll happily run through one whilst chasing a wand toy. They also make a nice hiding place; cats like to feel secure when they’re about to pounce, and they may use a pounce house as temporary cover whilst lining up their next move.
Cons: Ripping is an issue. Canvas is a strong material, but it won’t stand up to cats claws forever. If you ever had a den as a kid, you’ll probably remember leaving it full of bits of your favourite food, and toys. Pounce houses are really dens for cats, and the same problems apply. You’ll want to check in there for traces of food and other detritus, and they may also need washing occasionally depending on the build.
Typical price: Around $25 should do the job.
As we hope we’ve demonstrated, there are plenty of cat toy options available to you, and they have very few drawbacks. Regardless of the space you have at home, or the age of your cat, there’s definitely something out there that will appeal to them. And sharing playtime with your cat is a wonderful experience that brings the two of you close together! Cats need entertainment, just like humans do, so you should definitely invest in at least a couple of these options to make life brighter for them. The contents of this article shouldn’t be considered to be a complete list, but we’ve covered the major types, and almost every variety of cat toys falls into one of the categories we’ve listed above. So, do you still have questions? Let’s try to answer them for you.
What Should I Have As A Minimum?
We’d recommend having at least one wand toy, and one toy your cat can play with when you’re not there. Have the wand toy because you want to play with your cat yourself – and you should never deny yourself that pleasure – and another toy that doesn’t need your involvement so your cat isn’t bored when you’re out. We’ve known intelligent cats to pick up their wand toys and bring them to their owners in bed if they don’t have anything else to keep them occupied! The best cat toys are the ones your cat loves the most. There’s no harm in trying several and finding out what they take an interest in.
Are Catnip Toys Dangerous?
A lot of people wonder this, and it’s usually because they don’t understand what catnip is. It’s actually made from completely natural ingredients. It’s comprised of herbs, and there are no negative consequences of cats consuming it. You can even grow it yourself and drink it in tea, and some people claim it has health benefits for humans! Scientific studies have been done into the benefits of catnip, and if you’re really curious, you can find them right here.
Catnip on its own cannot harm your cat. It does, however, tend to whip cats up into a flying frenzy. That’s why cats probably think catnip toys are the best cat toys! A cat who’s ingested a lot of catnip can go really wild for a while! If you’ve ever been in a house where a cat has run up and down the stairs repeatedly at 3am, it’s probably down to catnip. It also has a strong aroma, and because cats love it so much, it can entice them in from outside. If your doors are open, and there are catnip toys around, other neighbourhood cats may try to get in and gain access to the goodies. We suggest your cat should have a catnip toy, but you should probably monitor how long they get to play with it for, and where it’s stored.
My Cat Won’t Play With Toys, Help!
We’re sorry to hear that. If your cat won’t play with toys, there’s probably a psychological or behavioral reason for it. See our guide to cat behavior, which may contain information that can help you.
What Type Of Toy Suits My Cat Best?
That’s like asking us “How often should I play with my cat”? We wish we knew your cat, so we could answer that for you! All of our furry friends have their own personalities, and some will love toys that others despise. Just bear that in mind when making your purchases. We’ve heard that cats who like to chase birds around the garden are particularly fond of wand toys, as they make for a similar hunting experience. Nervous cats probably won’t like mechanical toys that make noise and have moving parts. It’s all down to their own preferences, and you know them better than anybody.
We hope you’ve found this article useful, and you’re not open to a whole new world of cat entertainment! Please feel free to share it amongst your cat loving friends. We’re here to help, and to give information!