Cats like to be entertained. This is true in general, but for cats who live inside even more so. If you work all day, you will come home to a well-rested cat who won’t care at all that you’re tired and exhausted and would love to spend the rest of the evening on the couch. If you don’t challenge your cats, you’ll realize that they’ll find something to do regardless, like scratching up your furniture, chewing on your plants or crashing about on the hallway when you finally made it to bed. Our cat Garrus also has a nice toy he likes to get out on occasion, preferably at 3am or 4am: the sink strainer in the shower. It’s made of metal and makes an awful noise when he’s bored and kicking it about in the otherwise empty apartment.
In order to avoid such nighttime surprises, it’s better to play with your cat or to give them a toy they can play with alone. Here’s a list of different toys we tried out with Garrus and Wrex:
- Cat Dancer – This exceptional toy is nothing bit a piece of paper attached to a wire, but our cats absolutely love it. We received it as a gift from friends and it had Wrex and Garrus jumping around enthusiastically while trying to catch it. The wire is bent and makes the paper move differently from other toys – it looks more like a fly or an insect. It lasted several months, then the paper started falling off and the wire got bent and the cats lots interest. I’d still recommend it though, considering the low price point and how long it managed to hold our cats’ attention.
- Laser pointer – Laser pointers are a bit controversial. Garrus immediately goes nuts once the little red dot appears. He’ll run across the sofa, up to the cat shelves, back to the floor, speeds down the hallway, all in the hopes of reaching the red dot. And therein lies the problem: he’ll never be able to catch it. This is why laser pointers can cause a great deal of frustration for your cats. Even when the laser pointer is switched off, Garrus still wanders about trying to find the dot, and no doubt he’s annoyed he didn’t manage to catch it yet again. I tried putting out a treat and making the dot rest on that, but that only worked for a brief moment. He ate the first two, but now he’ll just stare at the dot and the treat. It might be because cats can’t recognize colors very well or because the dot suddenly “surrenders” – who knows. Either way I’ve decided not to use the laser pointer anymore, especially since we have wood flooring that sometimes reflects the laser very well, so the risk is high that I might accidentally damage the cats’ eyesight that way. Maybe other cats are less bothered once the red dot disappears.
- Snack ball – A small ball that can be filled with treats. To get these treats, the cat has to get to work and push the ball about until treats fall out. How easily they will fall out depends on how far you open the whole in the ball. Depending on how good your cat is at pushing the ball about, it might take a while for all the treats to fall out. I’ve often come home to find the ball somewhere under the sofa. Snack balls are fairly robust toys that will last you a long time. I’m a fan of them as it gives the cats a little mental workout.
- Valerian cat cushion or catnip cushion – Some cats don’t have a reaction to catnip. Ours, however, are crazy for both catnip and valerian. They’ll roll around on the floor and drool. A few minutes later, they calm down and ignore the cushions again. After all I’ve read, catnip has no adverse effects for cats, so I don’t see any reason to deny your cats such a toy. I don’t want to give it to them all the time, however, if only because the valerian smell can be a bit unpleasant after a while.
- Super Roller Circuit with ball – This toy by Trixie can be assembled in various different ways so the ball always has a different way to go. Unfortunately, our cats weren’t very impressed. After a few pushes of the ball they quickly lose interest. It’s understandable: They’ll never reach the ball, since it’s enclosed in the roller circuit. As with any cat toy, some cats are more interested in some toys than others. Many reviewers on Amazon gave the roller circuit a high score because their cats can’t get enough of it.
- Catit Play-n-Scratch – This mouse also couldn’t keep our cats’ interest after a few minutes of play. And that even though they did manage to break out the mouse.
- Cat tunnel – A tunnel made of a material that makes a crackling sound when the cats walk through it. Garrus and Wrex used to play with this a lot, but meanwhile they hardly ever seek it out. Maybe it’ll come to be in fashion again one day.
- Wand toy – There’s a variety of fishing rod or telescopic rod toys out there that let you safely play with your cat. You dangle the mouse, ball or feathers about and your cat has to chase after it. Our cats really enjoy these toys. Garrus will run after it, grab it and then he’ll leave it again. Wrex on the other hand will run after it, grab it and then carry it off with his head high, dragging the rod behind him. It’s a good toy to use to play WITH your cat rather than to just put out and wait for your cat to busy himself with. Depending on type they will last quite a long time. Our cats have one with leather strips which they love and which is still going strong. When they were younger, they tore one of those apart, but meanwhile they’re slightly more gentle. Cat toys with feathers* are also very popular with our cats, but any thin material won’t last too long in my experience. It’s still nice occasionally for a bit of variety for your cats.
- Cat activity blanket with hidden treats – If you’re looking for a toy that will keep your cat busy for a while while you do something else, a blanket like this might be a good purchase. This cat activity blanket or fumble blanket rustles with every move, which pleases my cat a lot more than it does me. It has holes you hide some treats in, then cats can stick their paws in and try to get the treats out. Filling it is slightly inconvenient but it does take a while for the cats to get the treats out. I’d definitely recommend the blanket, but be aware that it’s noisy.
- Toy mice – Any cat owner should have several mice like these! Sure, cats will lose interest eventually and before you know it, they’ll all congregate under your sofa. But it’s one of those toys they always come back to. They’ll ignore it for three days, next thing they’re shooting it across the floor and catapulting it into the air. It’s almost impossible to spend less money on a cat toy – you can get mice like these for under a dollar at most pet stores. Our cats love mice with a hard plastic center that make a rattling sound when you push them about. They’ve skinned many of them, too. If they do lose interest in a mouse, try lying it next to wherever you keep your valerian cushion and they’ll surely become enthusiastic about it again. Try it!
- Fish with cat nip – We got this from our neighbor who also has a cat at home. I can tell you it was quite the shock when we stepped out of the apartment and found this semi-realistic fish just lying there! It’s filled with catnip and I assume it’s the main reason why our cats like it. Usually they’re not into big toys – presumably because they’re harder to push around. But as with other catnip toys, this fish makes them roll around on the floor and drool all over the place before they go back to ignoring it.
- Zoing – This is essentially a small tube that you can squish together and which will then shoot into the air once you release it. I ordered it when I was ordering cat food because it looked interesting and didn’t cost much, and I was surprised how much Garrus and Wrex enjoyed it. They were crazy about it and chased it throughout the whole apartment. Considering how cheap it was, it was definitely worth it.
- Clicker – A clicker is a cat toy that requires your input as well. We bought a cat clicker box (similar to the one linked, but ours was in German) that tells you how to clicker-train your cat, the clicker was included. Some people think it’s not natural to teach your cat tricks. However, once your cat gets used to the clicker, every correct action is a good experience for your cat. Additionally, your cat has to use its little noggin, which is also good. It’s also good to train your cat to enter the cat carrier on command, which might help if it needs to go to the vet. Our cats can give you their paw, high-five you, jump up a table and sit on command.
- Wire and cable ties – Garrus’ favorite toy of all time. It’s typical: You buy lots of expensive toys for your cat, and in the end it likes cable ties more. If you have some wire lying around, you can quickly make your own cat toy. And Garrus will love it.
- Cat leash – I don’t want to miss out in mentioning cat leashes or a cat harness. After all we’re talking about inside cats. Some people take their cats out for little walks. You can get your cats used to a harness using clicker training, which will then enable you to take them outside. Unfortunately we don’t have a garden we could get them used to and we have a lot of dogs in the neighborhood. That’s why our little walks so far were restricted to the staircase. A friend of mine likes to take her cat out every day, though, and now the cat loves it and begs for it, too. (Which is obviously not a good behavior!) If you’re not scared of taking your cats out – and if your cats aren’t scared either – you can take your cats out and open a while new world for them with new smells, new plants to sniff and, if your cats are chill enough, with a range of new people to be petted by. I think it’s a good idea, although I imagine you’ll get a lot of strange looks if you start walking your cats. But never mind that: We want a happy cat more than a happy neighbor!
I hope this helped you get a good overview of the various kinds of cat toys out there, and maybe you’ll buy some of these toys for your furry friends. Even if some of them might not hold your cats’ attention for long, it’s always good to give them some variety. And if they don’t care at all, your local shelter or your cat-loving neighbor might have a cat who likes it more.