Provide Your Cat With Outlets for Their Natural Prey Drive With 3 Types of Toys
Your cat will benefit from a variety of toys including inanimate toys, electronic, and wand toys. Interactive playtime should be part of the daily routine. Toys can help provide your cat with stimulation and exercise, but are not the only enrichment your cat needs to live successfully in captivity. To name a few others, cats need climbing spots, hiding spots, resting spots, and scratching posts, all of which contribute to environment that helps to stimulate their mind, body and natural instincts.
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Generally, cat toys fall into 3 categories, and you should have a variety of each:
These are the little mice, balls, and other assorted objects that do not move on their own, but require the cat to be interested and motivated enough to actively engage these toys. Kittens and young cats easily play with inanimate toys since they have so much energy and want to play frequently. Some older cats will play with these toys too, though I find they might need more help to keeping it interesting.
Set your cat up for success. Instead of having 20+ toys lying around, store some for later use. Remove the toys from the middle of the floor. Strategically place a handful around your home. Where would a mouse hide? Just under the couch, along the perimeter, maybe peeking out behind the flower pot on the windowsill. Hiding the toys like prey will make it much more interesting for your cat.
With the toys you put away, try marinating those in catnip or silvervine from a reputable odor enrichment company like Meowy Janes. This way, when you're ready to hide the next batch, they will be also captivate your cat's sense of smell.
Fishing rods or wand toys are the best interactive toys. These have a stick with string attached, and a prey toy at the end. This is a must have for every cat owner. Engaging your cat in play that mimics a hunt is a great way to keep the predator in your cat happy, and an excellent way to provide exercise and mental stimulation. Look for a toy that has detachable attachments so you can change it up and keep it exciting. Don't just wave it in your cat's face. Pretend to be the bird or mouse and move away from your cat. Try to move it as the prey would move. Fly like a bird, or hide like a mouse.
I love Depets retractable wand with fishing wire. The length of the stick makes it really easy to move, and because it's retractable, it's easy to put away. I often make my own attachments, but my cats also love commercial ones such as Da Bird, Meek Mouse, Litterboys beetles and Lizzie the Lizard.
Other interactive toys include the Cat Dancer which many cats find irresistible, and the teaser wands. Although we mostly use prey attachments, I find the Cat Dancer and ribbon wands are great to use in the rotation to help keep playtime exciting.
Oscar with his favorite lizard prey attachment.
These are great to supplement wand toy play sessions, especially for highly energetic cats. These can also be useful to provide a distraction if you have a multi-cat home and there's some tension. It can be hard to find ones that will keep your cat interested since they tend to make the same movements over and over. Two that my cats love are the Cat's Meow Motorized Wand Cat Toy and SmartyCat Hot Pursuit Electronic Concealed motion toy - the movements are random and it can keep cats entertained for some time. They also like the Butterfly Flutter toy and Hexbug Mouse.
Since cats are smart, electronic toys can get boring fast. Have a few to rotate and then think about how to increase the excitement. The way you set up an electronic toys can matter in it's level of attractiveness.
Having a combination of toys will provide your cat with great stimulation and keep your cat from getting bored. Boredom can lead to stress and behavior issues such as excessive vocalization, play aggression and destructive behaviors among others.
About the author: Jennifer Van de Kieft is a Certified Advanced Feline Training & Behavior Professional located in Brooklyn, NY, providing virtual consultations throughout the United States. She owns Cat Advocate, a feline behavior consulting company. She provides cat guardians with the strategies, tools and knowledge needed to address their cat's behavior issues.