Engaging Your Cat With Interactive Cat Toys
If you have an indoor kitty, interactive cat toys can be your best friend.
“Cats do not get enough exercise, especially indoor cats,” says Susan Bulanda, a certified animal behavior consultant in Westminster, Maryland. “They need mental and physical stimulation as much as anyone else—both human and animal.”
And that means hunting, or at least engaging in hunting behaviors.
“Cats need to stalk, pounce and kill, which is what their instincts drive them to do,” Bulanda explains. “By engaging in these behaviors, they feel a sense of accomplishment, and it feels natural and good to them.”
That is where interactive cat toys can come in.
“They help cats move, promote playing and keeps their mind active,” Bulanda says.
What Are Interactive Cat Toys?
Interactive cat toys are either toys your cat engages with himself or one where you, the human, is involved. Cat interactive toys are designed to provide cats with the exercise and mental stimulation they crave and can keep indoor kitties busy and out of trouble.
“Some cats are not people orientated,” Bulanda says.
If that sounds like your cat, he may enjoy interactive cat toys he can play with solo. On the other hand, if your cat does like human interaction, he may prefer to play with you and his favorite wand toy.
“You have to try stuff,” Bulanda says. “There is no easy answer on which interactive toy is right for your cat. That’s why there are so many out there.”
When you do find the few your cat likes, the trick is rotate them to keep things exciting and to prevent your cat from getting bored.
“You should have two or three activities and toys to alternate to keep your cat interested, active and healthy,” explains Bulanda.
Different Types of Interactive Cat Toys
Cat toy makers have put together some creative products to help keep cats engaged and entertained. You can get a cat tunnel, a cat puzzle toy and a host of other interesting items to suit every feline taste.
Teaser cat toys do exactly what they say—tease your cat in all kinds of ways that provide mental stimulation. Teaser toys include wand toys, catnip toys, spring toys and mice toys.
“Most cats will interact if their owners are involved,” Bulanda says.
This is why most wand toys, like the KONG Active feather teaser cat toy, are usually a hit for kitties. You can wave the wand around to get you cat to chase and jump in an effort to catch it. They are not only great for stimulation, but it can be the perfect thing to do together to bond with your cat and get them moving.
Puzzle and Treat Toys
“Puzzle toys stimulate the feline mind by encouraging the cat to figure out how to get to the prize, usually a treat or a toy,” Bulanda says.
The KONG Active Treat Ball, for example, works by teaching the cat to swat and chase the ball until a treat falls out. Or, to test your cat’s mad scientist skills, see if your cat is interested in the Trixie Mad Scientist turn around interactive cat toy.
But first, you have to find a treat your cat likes, Bulanda explains. After all, if your cat is not tempted by the treat, he would have no desire to play.
Tasty treats, like the Feline Natural Healthy Bites beef treats and the Pet Greens Cat Craves turkey & duck cat treats, are good treats to try out to see if they pique your cat’s interest before stuffing them in a cat puzzle toy.
Game toys can be great for a cat that has a very high prey drive, Bulanda says.
Some of the game toys can be electronic, which could be a hit or miss for cats.
“Anything that is mechanical tends to make a lot of noise. Your cat may get excited from the noise or it can be a deterrent,” Bulanda says.
Because of this, it could be ideal to start them off young.
“Kittens almost go for anything,” Bulanda says. “If you give a kitten an electronic toy when they are young, they may continue to play with it when they are an adult.”
Tunnels and Hideouts
A cat tunnel and a cat hideout both appeal to a cat’s natural instinct to hide and burrow. On top of that, they are also great for playdates.
“These kinds of products are best for two cats, so they can play and hide from each other … cats love playmates and the tunnels and hideouts provide a fun way to interact when playing,” Bulanda says.
Some tunnels, like the Frisco’s 47-inch foldable crinkle play tunnel, crinkle when moved, have dangly toys and multiple entry ways.
And for the ultimate hideout, you can’t go wrong with the Hartz Just For Cats peek & play pop-up cat tent. This tent has two dangling toys, a crinkly pad and multiple entries—it’s the perfect getaway and play area all in one.
What Interactive Toy to Try First
It can be hard to know which toys your cat will like best without trying them out first, Bulanda says. Talking to other cat parents and checking online reviews can help you decide which toys to try out first.
“Choosing a toy is purely a matter of guess work,” Bulanda says. “All cats are different, and what one cat may like, another will not. That said, most cats would rather have their owners play with them and the toy than play alone.”
It’s much easier to get a young kitten interested in a particular toy than it is to get an older cat to play with a new toy, Bulanda adds. But knowing the kinds of toys your cat enjoyed in the past can help you make a good decision when picking the best interactive cat toys for kitty now.
By: Audrey Pavia and Lindsay Page
Featured Image: Via iStock.com/cunfek