Cats are one of the most intelligent animals there are. They naturally have higher IQs, and it shows in how well they interpret people’s moods, how complex their brains are, and their amazing short term memories.
So cats clearly work hard, but they play even harder.
Why Play Is Important
Felines love to play, but the pet parent should love it, too! This is because pet play is important and beneficial for both the pet and pet owner for several reasons:
- Cats are predators. Cats have a natural instinct to replicate what they were designed to do in the wild, which is hunt and find prey. Similar to their wild ancestors, house cats love to find toys that satisfy their innate needs by challenging them to move a bit faster to catch them, or a toy that they can easily be thrown about or manipulated.
- Physical Activity. Kitties tend to be known as languid creatures that thrive off of their afternoon naps, but they still need their exercise, too. Unlike dogs that need daily walks and trips to the park to stay in shape, cats do not usually have that same opportunity. That’s why playtime is their main way of moving their body. Jumping around, chasing toys, and pouncing on them will get their muscles stretched, their joints moving, and their whole body engaged. This is especially good for cats that may need to shed a few pounds or simply learn to be more active through a fun activity.
- Mental Stimulation. Playtime will help your kitten to stay focused and mentally engaged in whatever toy or task is at hand. This will keep them from not only getting bored, but help direct their energy into a fun, positive behavior. Toys that simultaneously mentally and physically stimulate your cat can also be a great form of stress and anxiety relief.
- Bonding Time. Playing with your cat gives you the opportunity for an extra fun time spent together. The two of you can look forward to a specific part of the day that you purposely set apart to bond and make memories.
Types of Cat Toys
Because playtime is such an essential part of your cat’s daily routine, investing in a good cat toy will make a world of a difference.
When it comes down to it, anything that moves can be considered a toy for your cat. This is what makes it so easy to safely devise your own homemade toys with a little research. It can be as simple as some yarn, cardboard boxes, ping pong balls, or crumpled paper. But today’s market has a huge selection of toys that will complement each and every different cat’s personality and preferences.
Here are just a few common types of cat toys:
- Wands - Wands, also known as teasers or chasers, are longer sticks of wire, wood, or plastic with feathers, toys, or small animals attached to the end opposite of the handle. This is great for keeping cats in shape, as the pet owner has the ability to wave and swoosh the wand around, encouraging your cat to actively jump and leap to catch the toy at the end. Wands help felines to exercise their natural impulses to hunt down prey and truly work for it. Plus, it keeps some distance between you and your cat accidentally scratching you.
- Scratchers - Scratchers come in many forms. From posts and pads to mounts and loungers. These are made for the sole purpose of letting your cat scratch something other than you and your furniture. These are usually made from sisal rope or sisal fabric, which is a sturdy, rough material that is sure to handle the sharpest claws. Scratching is important because it not only keeps your cat’s nails groomed, but it’s a way for them to mark their territory, stretch their bodies, and let go of any pent up energy or steam.
- Puzzles - Interactive toys are great for cats that love to use a little brain power. They’re also great for trying to sharpen your pet’s senses and skills in general! Puzzles and other interactive toys consist of putting pieces together, moving a ball through an intricately designed system, solving a maze, or thinking hard to retrieve hidden treats. This helps cats stay preoccupied, mentally stimulated, and focused on something productive.
- Soft Toys - Soft toys can be plush toys, stuffed animals, or even small, furry mice. These are similar to wands in how they satisfy felines’ inner instincts of hunting and feeding on prey. Soft, furry small mice toys, which are cat favorites, are fun to bite into and throw around. The same goes for soft plush toys. They’re super easy to manipulate, carry, and sometimes even rip apart. Not to mention, they can be great cuddle buddies, too!
- Balls - Balls will give your cat something to chase, getting them to exercise and get their body moving. The plus side of balls is that they are so versatile. Some of them have items inside, such as butterflies, sand, glitter, small stuffed animals, etc, which makes play time all the more motivating and exciting. Other balls open and you can place treats on the inside, acting as another enticer to make your cat want to play and get more active. A few balls have noise makers or things that make sound, like bells or crinkles, which helps to grab your kitty’s attention and sharpen their senses.
- CatNip Infused - CatNip comes from a plant that contains an active ingredient known as nepetalactone. It has many behavioral effects on cats that last for about 10 to 15 minutes, causing them to chew it, eat it, lick it, roll in it, play in it, etc. Because it’s become such a popular phenomenon, many toys are infused with CatNip, such as shaker bottles, sticks, bubble blowers, and more.
Choosing a Cat Toy
When you are selecting any one of the discussed toys, you should consider a few criteria:
- Cat’s Personality - Every cat’s personality is different. This is why you have to choose a toy that will satisfy their own unique, individual preferences. Whether they enjoy chasing, running, scratching, thinking, or snacking, make sure that you’re selecting a product that will satisfy their wants and needs. After all, playtime is all about them and how you can take part of it to make it more fun and interesting! That’s why the toy first and foremost has to be something they’ll genuinely like!
- Safety - The toy should be very durable. It should be made out of a safe, strong material or fabric that will not easily break apart, so that it doesn’t pose the risk of your cat digesting non-pet friendly material. Remember that cats have that natural instinct to tear things apart and can sometimes be rough, which is why the toy needs to be safe and durable in every way.
- Size & Texture - The product’s size and texture falls closely to your cat’s personality type and preferences. Make sure the toy is an appropriate size for your cat - one that they can really interact with and wrastle around with. Not one that is so small that they can consume it if it’s not meant for those purposes, and not one that is so large that they won’t know how to handle or play with it. The texture should be in alignment with whether your cat likes softer toys or harder, tougher ones.
Even though there are a lot of cat toys available to you and your feline, keep in mind that at the end of the day, the most important part of playtime is that you are a part of it. By taking just a few minutes from your day here and there to wisely select an appropriate cat toy, and then making an effort to engage with your cat as they try it out, you can really build a much stronger, healthier relationship with your cat!