Is your cat bored of its toy mouse? Does it not respond to feathers any more? Or are you getting bored teasing your cat with the same old cat toys? If that sounds like you, skim through the short list below to see if there’s anything that grabs your attention. You might be surprised!
1) Cat Fetch Toys
Straight in at number one are cat fetch toys. These are exactly what they sound like: fetch toys for cats rather than dogs.
Believe it or not, but cats can and do play fetch. Some breeds are well known for it, like the Siamese, but even regular domestic shorthairs can. Kittens are more likely to play than adult cats, but even adult cats will chase after things, even if they don’t bring them back. A purpose-made cat fetch toy is like a tracer gun or a disc gun, or alternatively, a Nerf gun. They fire something out that the cat can run after and bring back to you.
Even if your cat doesn’t enjoy playing fetch, that doesn’t mean it won’t enjoy playing with these toys. You can fire the toy and have the cat run after the ball or ring it fires; it might not bring it back, but your cat will enjoy chasing after it!
2) Cat Exercise Wheels
Yes, there are exercise wheels for cats. And yes—cats love them. They’re similar to exercise wheels for other pets, except they’re bigger, are covered with/made from a material suitable for cat claws, and have no central spoke.
The rationale behind providing your cat with an exercise wheel is surprisingly solid, particularly if you have an indoor cat. Pets kept in confined spaces—be that hamsters in cages or cats kept indoors 24/7—can’t exercise as they would in the wild. Even if you provide your cat with toys it can chase after or things that it can climb, it will never approach anything like its full speed. It simply doesn’t have the room. That’s what makes exercise wheels so useful for pets of all kinds. They allow your pet to reach close to its full speed as it runs, giving it real cardiac exercise that it wouldn’t get otherwise.
The trick is to get your cat to use one. Incredibly, studies show that wild rodents will use wheels without being taught how; but your cat may not take to running in a wheel as quickly. To help it get the point, put treats on your cat’s wheel so that it hops on and feels the movement of the wheel beneath it. Failing that, pick your cat up and plop it down on the wheel until it gets the message! At the very least, your cat will think that it’s an interesting new kind of bed… Much like everything else in your home.
An exercise wheel intended for use by other pets won’t be suitable. A cat exercise wheel has to be large so that your cat can fit in it adequately; your cat should be able to stand upright in it without its back being arched (as arching the back is incompatible with a comfortable running posture for your cat). For the same reason, the wheel you buy shouldn’t have a central spoke, as these force your cat to arch its back.
3) RC Mice
The ‘RC’ in ‘RC car’ stands for remote control. An RC mouse (or rat, or rodent of your choice!) is a small remote-controlled ‘car’, but instead of a plastic shell, it has a furry one that has tiny ears and eyes and a tail. You control it with a tiny handheld remote control.
The idea is that you can control the mouse without it being on a string. This means it seems even more like a real mouse to your cat because it doesn’t know you’re controlling it. You also have better control over how it moves so that you can entice your cat to chase it more easily.
There are a couple of drawbacks if you’re intent on getting one of these. One is that they break more easily than regular toy mice since they have moving parts. You therefore might have to replace it before you would have to replace the regular kind. Another issue is that they make a whirring noise, like anything with a small motor in it would, which your cat might not like.
4) Auto Cat Teasers
An automatic cat teaser is like a regular cat teaser toy, but instead of needing you to wizzle and wozzle it around for your cat to chase, it moves on its own! It’s programmed to move irregularly so that it gets your cat’s attention, just like how you would move it. You can set it to ‘tease’ and it does all the work for you…!
Like the RC mice above, these can make noise that your cat might not like. But once your cat is used to the noise, it will find an automatic toy just as fun to play with as a regular one.
5) Cat Self-Grooming Toys
These arguably fall under the definition of ‘furniture’ rather than ‘toy’, but they’re still worth mentioning as so few people know about them.
Self-grooming toys for cats look like big brushes. Because of their rough, pokey texture, they’re pleasurable for your cat to rub up against. So, the point is that they work like regular brushes but without you needing to hold them. Some of them attach to surfaces; others are standalone toys like cat scratchers. Perhaps the most common kind is one that looks like an arched bottle-brush attached to a solid base. Your cat can walk underneath the arch and rub its back against it to give itself a good brushing.
The good thing about these toys is that they’re practically indestructible and can last for years—and all for an ‘investment’ of a few dollars.
6) Alternatives to Catnip
Everybody knows that catnip drives cats wild. But what you may not know is that catnip doesn’t work for every cat. For reasons we don’t understand, some cats hardly react to catnip, while some don’t react at all. You may even have offered your cat catnip before, but been disappointed when it has no effect.
If catnip doesn’t work for your cat, there are alternatives you can use that have the same effect. These are made of similar plants that contain the same (or the same kind) of chemical compound that drives cats wild. The best by far is called ‘silver vine’, and it causes strong catnip-like reactions: rolling and rubbing on the toy, drooling, playfulness and so on. What makes silver vine great is that it produces more consistent reactions in cats: whereas around 50% of cats experience a strong reaction to catnip, around 70% experience a strong reaction to silver vine. That’s why it’s known as ‘cat powder’ and ‘cat plant’ in other languages!
You can buy silver vine or other catnip alternatives either as the raw, ground plant itself, or as part of a toy. It’s common to find toys like toy mice that contain catnip/similar plants to make them more appealing.