Cat Toys

Playing with cat toys is a great way to bond with your cat and give it some exercise at the same time

Kitten playing with a big ball of wool

String games

The most popular games for cats are ones which involve you, but also allow the use of unrestrained teeth and claws and encourage hunting skills like catching, pouncing and gripping. String games provide the bridge between you and the cat, allowing the cat to use full attack force without the risk of causing you harm. String games are essentially all about waving bits of string in a random manner for your cat to pounce on, bat in the air, or catch. You can buy all kinds of 'fishing rod' type string games from pet stores, normally with fabric toy mice, fish, or feathers on the end, but a simple string and stick is often just as popular.

Static toys

Static toys can be anything which your cat has to move or make move and include balls, stuffed toys or even just bits of paper. Static toys are often used to pounce on, throw, and catch, mimicking the behaviour of catching prey which then gets away and has to be re-caught. Different cats will react to different types of static toy and you should try out a variety of different textured items to see which your cat prefers. Quite often, a simple screwed up ball of paper is a favourite and your cat will recognise the noise of paper being torn up - if he is in the mood to play he will crouch and adopt a hunting posture ready to catch the paper when you throw it. Many cats like static toys which have some sort of rustling noise, and toy makers now produce fabric cat toys filled with a rustling material. Cats will learn which static items are toys and some will play with them on their own whilst others will always need a bit of initiation from a human.

Bags and boxes

Cat in a cardboard box
The best toys are often the cheapest and simplest to make
When a cat is hunting, it often catches its prey when the prey is cornered into a hole, so it is natural for cats to enjoy pouncing into things. Caves, tunnels, paper bags and boxes all make ideal places to pounce into. Plastic bags are best avoided so your cat does not get wrapped into handles or holes and chokes, but large grocery style brown paper bags are perfect. Lay the bag down with the open end facing your cat and tap on the bottom of the bag, soon your cat won't be able to resist and will pounce inside the bag.
Cats seem to like the feel of cardboard boxes, which make good caves or play centers to jump in and out of. If you cut some viewing holes in the box and dangle a piece of string it wont be long before paws start grabbing through the box.

Food puzzle games

The main reason to encourage play in your cat is that it helps keep your cats mind working and stops boredom which can result in an unhappy cat, sometimes with behavioural issues. Puzzle games and toys are designed to give your cat a problem to solve, with the end result being a treat of food. These games can be as simple as a ball with some holes in which needs to be rolled around for food to fall out. Other games are more complicated and may require a bit more work but will keep your cat entertained. You can make games like this easily by just putting food items in difficult places, such as in an empty bottle. Make sure you don't put your cat at risk of getting stuck anywhere, and make sure it is possible to get the food items or your cat will simply get frustrated and give up.

Catnip in toys

Some cats need a little extra encouragement to play with toys and whilst it does not work on all cats, catnip filled toys are a good way of engaging your cat with play. Catnip has varied effects on cats and the small amount put into toys is mainly just to generate interest as the first step towards play. You can also purchase catnip sprays which can be used on toys or any object to encourage your cat to take an interest. Depending on the cat the result could be an intense state of happiness or excitability, or nothing at all.

Habit forming

Be careful what you use as toys, by playing with your cat you are saying "it is ok to do this" and if you start using fingers as things to chase or pounce on, don't be surprised if you suddenly get a set of sharp claws in your hand. The same can happen with items like pens or pencils - one day you are playing with your cat and a pen, the next day you might be writing a shopping list and your cat suddenly pounces on you!

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