Cats are funny little creatures. Sometimes, they can be the most devilish little pets in existence, especially when they knock over a shelf of your prized collectables or something else near and dear to you. Other times, they can be some of the most loving animals on the face of the earth. It tends to depend on the day.
Well, today, we will be looking at the reasons behind this behaviour and how you can help improve your cat’s attitude with a variety of cat toys. We will also be looking at different kinds of cat toys and materials and how cats tend to respond to differences in design, smell, taste and more.
Before we get started on cat toys, we will be looking at the underlying reasons behind why cats prefer to play with toys and why it is a good idea to buy at least a few for your furry friend. Cats are territorial creatures, and some toys help them quench their thirst to claim a particular territory.
Cats are also hierarchical animals that may better express their hierarchy with their fellow felines by who gets what toy. In addition, when cats play with toys, it tends to let them utilize their predatory instinct on something that isn’t living, which is a great form of stress release. Finally, toys also allow cats to get some much-needed exercise.
What Are Cat Toys
Before we start getting down to details, it helps ensure that we are all on the same page. To make sure that this is the case, we will first explain what exactly cat toys are. Cat toys make up a rather broad category of accessories used to aid cats with their various urges and needs for play.
Even objects which may not appear to be toys can fall under the classification of cat toys, such as cat towers and scratching posts since they allow cats to express their instincts. This expression of their instincts is good for them, as a cat with repressed instincts may end up turning hostile or will otherwise misbehave.
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Types Of Cat Toys
Here are some types of cat toys that your cat may like:
One of the more affordable and common cat toys you will find in pet stores around the country is the wand toy. This is a simple toy that consists of a rod with an attached string. This string can either be a colourful ribbon that the cat plays with or connected to a small rubber or plastic toy.
The toy at the end of the wand can take many forms, but it is often something small enough for your cat to paw at and play around with. These wand toys make for a great way for you to interact with your cat without having to worry about potentially being scratched, as the wand allows you to keep your hands well away from claws.
Dogs are not the only family pets that enjoy playing with a ball. Ball toys are exactly what they sound like; they are toys in the shape of a ball that your cats can play around with. While a cat will not necessarily fetch a ball for you, it will still enjoy playing with it.
Cats also enjoy playing with mousies, which are little toys in the shape of mice. The idea is very similar to the idea of their enjoyment of ball toys.
Mousies trigger a predatory response in cats, and it allows them to destress since they get to indulge in their instincts and feel like they are on the hunt.
Sometimes mousies are also hybridized with pillow toys, which are exactly what they sound like.
They are little pillows designed to be resilient enough to resist your cat’s claws, and they are usually brightly coloured and shaped like something the cat would like to hold. They can also be known as cuddle toys.
This category of toys is an excellent choice for kittens and cats who are growing up. Learning toys ensure that your cat can learn simple things. They usually consist of games, almost similar to toys that preschoolers use to understand basic physics and pattern recognition.
Some learning toys consist of a circuit that cats are encouraged to roll balls through to achieve a certain objective. Other learning toys are simple interactive games that don’t teach much, but they certainly keep your cat occupied and content while you are away.
Another popular category for cat toys is concealment toys. These toys are meant to accomplish one of two things. First, they are either meant to be concealed by your cat in a far off corner, which triggers their foraging instincts, as wild cats would have to hide away food for the future.
The other type of concealment toy is a toy that moves around the house automatically and may end up concealed on its own, and it becomes your cat’s mission to find it. This includes animatronic mice and other types of safe toys for your cat to play with but is still mobile.
This final category is one of the most common types of toys that you will encounter when it comes to cat toys. Scratchers consist of anything and everything that is meant to be scratched by your cat so it can quell their instinct to scratch things to keep their claws from going dull and mark their territory.
A scratching post or a similar scratching toy is a must for any cat which has not been declawed. Since cats will end up scratching most things in your home, like furniture, legs and many other objects, it is a good idea to save yourself the trouble and damage and invest in a scratcher early on.
Attractive Materials For Toys
Read about the most attractive materials for cat toys:
- Wool: This is a material that cats love to feel, as it is nice and soft and brings them a bit of joy to touch. Unfortunately, wool has a downside in younger cats and cats that like to eat a lot. Wool sucking is a phenomenon that is usually noticed in cats under a year of age, but it can also appear in older cats at times. Wool sucking could cause intestinal issues, so it should be stopped as soon as possible when noticed.
- Fur: Fur is another material that cats enjoy feeling since it is soft, and they can run their paws and claws through it with few issues. Make sure that the fur in your cat toys doesn’t end up tangled, as it may end up hurting one of your cat’s claws.
- Fleece: Another material that cats are quite fond of is a fleece. You will find that cats tend to knead fleece when they see it. For example, pressing their paws against it and purring. This reminds them of their instinct to suckle milk from their mothers and go away in older cats.
- Crinkly materials: Cats are satisfied when they play around with crinkly materials as they enjoy auditory feedback when playing with their toys. Your cat may scratch or knead at crinkly materials simply because of the sound.
- Bells: Cats are also very fond of bells, as cat toys that contain bells provide quite a bit of auditory stimulation. Unfortunately, cat toys that include bells can start to get a little maddening after a while, so they can usually be optionally removed.
- Electronic chirps: Like bells, cats love to hear electronic chirps when emitted from toys. These toys may resemble mice or other animals that cats feel predatory desires towards.
- Feathery and fluttery materials: Cats like to play with fluttery materials since the movement reminds them of their predatory instincts. Their first thought is to catch something small that moves.
- Lights: Lights are another great way to stimulate your cat into enjoying a toy visually. Balls that light up or other similar toys tend to be a great choice if you want to draw your cat’s attention to a particular toy.
- Moving parts: Moving parts are present on many cat educational toys, so they are a great way to get your cat’s instincts going. However, they tend to require a few more mechanical components than simple light-up toys, so they may end up being a little more complex.
Smell And Taste
- Fur: Fur is a great way to stimulate your cat’s sense of smell, as they are naturally wired to hunt down small furry creatures. A toy that features fur with a natural scent will seldom fail to attract a cat, no matter where they may be in the house or what they may be doing.
- Added flavouring: Some cat toys come included with added flavouring to draw your cat’s attention. Cats are huge fans of fishy flavours and catnip, honeysuckle, and quite a few other ones. These flavours will tend to wear out over time, however.
5 Benefits Of Cats Playing
There are many benefits of cats playing, and here are some of them explained.
Solves Behavior Problems
You will find that letting your cats play is a great way to stop them from acting up. Most of the time, cats don’t mean to misbehave, but they do so because of their instincts. For example, since cats need to exercise their predatory instincts, they will often claw at things and may even attack other cats if they have gone a while without play.
Another behaviour problem that you may notice is that your cat is scratching objects around your house. This issue can easily be solved if you invest in a cat toy, a scratching post, to be specific.
While it may sound funny or cute, cat obesity is a genuine problem. If your cat is obese, its life expectancy will be much lower than otherwise since its heart will be strained much more than it should be. Cats have developed bodies for hunting their food in the wild, and a domesticated lifestyle can lead to them becoming fat.
Investing in cat toys is a great way to ensure that your cat remains healthy throughout its life, as it can act out its hunting instincts. In addition, cat toys are guaranteed to get nearly any cat darting around the house left and right.
This is somewhat related to the first point about solving behaviour problems, but only in a tangential fashion. You will find that many behavioural issues in cats may be caused by stress, but there are a lot of other adverse effects on both health and psychology when your cat is stressed out.
Your cat will typically get stressed when it finds that it is unable to act out its instinctual desires, which makes it so that your kitty will start to get frustrated. Stress has been proven to be bad for the heart, so investing in some cat toys is a great way to ensure that your cat remains sound in body and sound in mind.
Improves Bond Between You And Your Cat
Playing with your cat often is a surefire way to get your cat to love you unconditionally. Most cats are smart enough to realize that you pay attention to them often, and they can interpret this as care. This will significantly improve your relationship with your cat, so it is good to start at an early age.
You will also find that cat toys will help make a grumpy cat improve its attitude since they may stem from your cat feeling neglected. This can happen if you have been working unusually long hours or have just forgotten to play with your cat for a while.
Bond Between Multiple Cats
Investing in cat toys is also a great way to ensure that your cats remain friendly to each other. However, as we mentioned earlier in the article, you will find that cats are highly hierarchical creatures, so you will need to find some way for them to establish that hierarchy without them fighting.
Cat toys make for a harmless way of establishing this aforementioned hierarchy. You will find that toys like cat towers work particularly well since your cats will be able to decide who is the top cat by positioning themselves on the right levels. The highest cat will usually be at the head of the hierarchy.
Role Of Catnip
Catnip is a herb that is highly attractive to cats. When they smell catnip, they tend to rush at whatever it is on and try to eat it. When a cat eats the actual herb, it acts as a kind of drug, giving them sedative effects. You, as a pet owner, maybe wondering what role catnip could be used for.
Well, the main application for catnip is to ensure that your cat starts using whatever toy you have recently bought for it. You will usually want to apply catnip to cat towers and scratching posts so you can be sure that your cat will start using them. You may have to reapply it several times to ensure that your cat gets used to using the toy.
Guidelines For Play
These are good tips every owner of cats should follow:
Go At Your Cat’s Pace
It is important not to strain your cat when you are playing. For example, when you have an older cat, or maybe a cat who is a little on the husky side, you shouldn’t overexert it, as this can be bad for its health. It is important to find a pace that your cat is comfortable with to remain healthy and happy when playing with you.
Scheduling Play Time
If you find that you have a pretty hectic schedule, and you often find it difficult to arrange a chance to play with your pets, you will find that setting up predetermined playtimes is an excellent idea. This will ensure that your cat gets all the exercise and attention it needs throughout the week without ruining your schedule.
Neglected cats can start to act up, and inconsistent playtimes can also cause behavioural issues in cats, so you will want to ensure that you have a semi-regular schedule at the very least.
Encouraging Certain Behavior
When you play with your cat, you will want to encourage them to do certain things. This is one application where catnip becomes very useful. For example, you may want to encourage your cat to use a scratching post instead of scratching up all of your furniture, or you may wish to get them to play with a ball instead of chasing around other cats.
Choosing The Right Place
It is also important to ensure that you play with your cat in the right part of your home. If you encourage your cat to play in a particular area, do not be surprised if you see it returning there to play later on. Your cat may even claim your chosen play area as its territory, so you will want to ensure that it is somewhere clear of obstacles.
If you choose the wrong area for your cat to play in, you may find that you have difficulty getting them to change their play areas and may have to make some liberal use of catnip. Even then, it can be difficult to get them to change their minds.
It is also important to supervise your cats while playing, especially if there are several of them. If you leave your cats to play unsupervised, you may return to them having injured themselves or each other through a fight or simply because of a broken toy.
Do Not Let Your Cat Play With Small Household Objects
You mustn’t let your cat play with small objects which can be found around the house. You should only ever let them use purpose-built toys for play. Much like small children, you will find that cats are liable to choke if they swallow a small object.
Here’s our recommendation for the best manufacturers:
SmartyKat is a manufacturer of high-quality cat toys. These are meant to be some of the best cat toys available regarding enjoyment for your cat as well as aesthetic value. They offer a broad range of products, from simple wand toys all the way up to scratching posts.
OurPets is a company that specializes in producing toys and equipment for both dog owners and cat owners. They make much more than toys, creating smart food bowls, kitty litter, and other products. Their toys also tend to be made to exacting standards.
FluffyPal is another company that specializes in both cat and dog products. They make an extensive range of goods, all the way from dog collars to educational cat toys. While they have a smaller selection of products for cats, they are all well-made.
You will always want to ensure that your cat’s toys are properly maintained. For example, toys that are starting to fall apart should be taken away from your pets, so they don’t end up choking or being otherwise harmed by them.
Tips On Safety
- Keep Pole Toys Away When Not Playing – You will want to keep pole toys out of reach of your cats when you are not controlling them, as they may end up ingesting the string or some other part of the toy. At the very least, your cat may end up breaking your toy.
- Throw Away Broken Toys – As we mentioned in the maintenance section, you will want to ensure that you throw away broken toys as they can harm your cat.
- Watch Out For Small Parts – As with children, small parts present a serious choking hazard for cats, so you will want to ensure that no small parts are loose or liable to come loose when playing with your pet.
Now that we have covered most of the characteristics of cat toys and why you may end up needing them, we can move on to our cat toys buying guide. In this next article, we will be going over some of the best cat toys available on the market.