As the holidays approach, our thoughts turn to sharing the magic of the season with the children in our lives. And, obviously, that includes our fur babies as well! For those of us whose family includes felines, the prospect of shopping for cat Christmas presents is so much fun ... but it also can be a little confusing. How do you know which of the many options out there are actually among the most worthwhile Christmas gifts for cats?
“The best gifts for cats are those that encourage them to be cats,” says Ingrid King, a Washington, D.C.-based best-selling author, certified veterinary journalist and founder of The Conscious Cat website.
In other words, explains King, ideal presents are ones that mimic behaviors and experiences cats would be having if they lived in the wild, like climbing and tracking down and pouncing on prey.
Of course, you should always keep your individual kitty in mind when sizing up potential presents. An elderly cat, for example, probably won’t particularly love a toy that requires them to be extra active. A skittish cat, on the other hand, may not appreciate a gift that makes noise.
Ready for more shopping inspiration? Here are the top suggestions for the perfect types of Christmas gifts for cats, according to feline experts.
Anything With Catnip
“If you are looking for something your cat can keep busy with on his own, a nice plush catnip-filled toy is always a good idea,” says Rita Reimers, a cat behaviorist and founding president and owner of Just For Cats Pet Sitting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Beverly Hills, California.
Indeed, Reimers tells Chewy, all 19 (yes, 19) of her cats absolutely love catnip toys.
“Toys that are refillable to keep the catnip fresh are the best choices,” she adds.
Catnip mice are so last season! For a modern, meme-able cat Christmas present, check out the funny food item catnip toys from Mad Cat. There’s the brunch-worthy Mad Cat Chicken N’ Waffles catnip toys, the Mad Cat Purrfect Pineapple catnip cat toy, the Mad Cat Peppurroni Pizza catnip cat toy and the Mad Cat Strawpurry Ice Cream catnip cat toy. In addition to catnip, each toy also includes silvervine, a species of kiwifruit that may entice cats who aren’t interested in catnip.
A New Scratching Post
A scratching post may not sound like one of the most exciting cat Christmas presents, but Reimers explains why the right one will, in fact, thrill your cat.
“Many do have cubby holes to play in and toys attached to them to keep a cat’s attention. If you don't have a lot of space, some of the smaller ones are wonderful,” says Reimers. “My cats love these. They can be put in front of a window so they can watch birds and other things moving around outside for hours.”
For cat parents living in small spaces, the Trixie Miguel Fold-and-Store Cat Tower will maximize your space while keeping your kitty enthralled. It offers just about anything a fun-loving cat would want: a scratching pad, a little nook to hide-out in, pom-poms to bat at and a comfy spot to lounge on. And you can easily fold it up and out of the way when needed.
Cats tend to enjoy playing by themselves more than dogs do, notes Reimers, especially with toys that can move on their own.
“My shy cat, Picasso, loves the self-play toys since she is still a little skittish of people,” she says.
The Catit Design Senses Circuit Cat Toy gets great reviews from pleased cat parents. Available in three different configurations, it captivates cats by appealing to their hunt-and-pounce instinct. The moving ball has a special pattern to catch your cat’s eye, and the track has ample spots where they can reach in to try to capture their “prey.”
Parker Chou, Chewy’s global sourcing manager, lauds the Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy as an example of an inventive twist on the classic track toy. This toy’s three balls make an appealing noise as they zoom around their individual tracks. But it’s the dancing butterfly on top, just begging to be swatted at, that will really put this toy at the top of a cat’s wish list! Plus, there’s a non-skid pad on the bottom to keep it from getting out of reach of your excited kitty.
A Treat-Dispensing Ball
Yes, you have tons of potential Christmas gifts for cats to choose from, but this one comes with a recommendation from Reimers’ own cats.
“Treat balls are a hit with Gigi especially, who needs to watch her portions,” laughs Reimers.
“These can be used not only to dole out treats, but also their regular hard food, which imitates the hunt for food that cats do in nature,” she adds.
Gigi’s all-time favorite is the KONG Active Treat Ball. It helps beat boredom and provides a little exercise, something most indoor cats need, while challenging them to “earn” their treats. Fill it up with American Journey 100% Chicken Freeze-Dried Treats and it’s pretty much the perfect, budget-friendly stocking stuffer for a cat.
Small Toy Balls
Felines never seem to tire of pawing those perennial favorites, mini toy balls. Their enthusiasm, in fact, may catch you off guard.
“Cats, especially kittens, bat and chase small balls...all by themselves!” says Victoria L Voith, Ph.D., DVM, DACVB, professor of animal behavior at Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Veterinary Medicine in Pomona, California. “Some cats will even retrieve items and return them to their human, not unlike a dog.”
Packaged as three stocking stuffers for the bargain price of one, the Hartz Just for Cats Bizzy Balls are a safe bet for holding the interest of even the pickiest cats. The balls have different textures, so they roll differently. Erratic motion mimics how a cat’s natural prey moves, so there’s a good chance these toys will catch—and keep—your kitty’s attention.
A Climbing Tree
King says climbing apparatuses are a sure-to-please Christmas gift for most cats.
“Consider furniture that enriches their environment by giving them spaces to climb, which is especially important in multi-cat households,” says King, who in addition to being a cat behaviorist is also a Reiki master practitioner and owner of Healing Hands, which provides Reiki for pets and people.
Finding a climbing tree that is attractive enough that you actually like having it in your home can be a challenge. Enter the On2Pets Kitty Jungle Cat Tree and Shelves. This is more like a cool piece of decor than cat gear. And your fur baby will love it as much as you. The silk leaves will make them feel like they’re really hiding out in the jungle, waiting for their next meal to amble by.
A toy that fools cats, so to speak, into thinking it’s prey often makes the best cat Christmas present, King says.
“In addition to making your cats happy, these gifts will also help prevent and eliminate behavioral issues,” she explains.
Feather wands (or, as your cats will see them, “birds”) are a common example, but other options can be found as well. Case in point: the Jackson Galaxy Mojo Maker Ground Prey Wand Teaser. The idea is simple: you drag the “mouse” along the ground, and the cat attacks! Their successful hunts are sure to boost their kitty confidence. The toy includes a telescoping handle, so you can make line longer or shorter to mix up the play. Add a Frisco Foldable Crinkle Play Tunnel to give cats a place to hide while stalking their next “victim” for maximum fun.
Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, founder of Los Angeles-based Fun Paw Care (and dad to felines Midnight and Cali), sings the praises of food puzzles, or any type of feeder that makes a cat work for their supper. In nature, he explains, cats don’t get their food handed to them. So, toys that do double duty as feeders will not only entertain cats and give them a sense of accomplishment, but also discourage them from gobbling down their entire meal too quickly.
The sleek Catit Senses 2.0 Food Tree can turn a lightning-fast meal into a stimulating play session. As cats poke out healthy-size bites of food, they feel as though they are earning their meal, just as they would in the wild. Bonus: The clever design corrals any stray bits so you’re relieved of the daily chore of cleaning up around a regular food bowl.
A Heating Pad
While you may think cats only need a heating pad if they’re elderly or arthritic, Hartstein insists they make a thoughtful cat Christmas present that all felines will adore. It makes sense when you think about it: If your cat likes to bask in a sunny spot in your living room, wouldn’t they also love a nice warm patch to snuggle up on during the darker days of winter? Warm and cozy is a wonderful feeling for everybody, cats included.
A perfect pick may be the Snuggle Safe Dog, Cat, and Small Animal Microwave Heat Pad. All you have to do is microwave the removable, plate-sized Thermapol heating pad (no worries about where or how to plug it in), and it stays toasty for up to 10 hours. The cushy filling is nontoxic and stays firm for uber-comfortable napping, and its compact size makes it easy to pack for holiday and other winter trips.
A Cat Goody Box
It’s no secret: you holiday shop for your fur babies as much as you do for your relatives. And while dogs seem giddy over just about any tidbit or toy, cats can be more discriminating. Finding the perfect presents for your feline friend can be a bit of trial and error. And who has time for that in December?
Enter the Purr-Palooza Cat Goody Box, the solution to gifting your kitty curated presents sure to delight him. Plus, you save money when you purchase a gift box as opposed to buying the items separately.
One of the products inside is the Pet Zone Play-N-Squeak MouseHunter Cat Toy. It makes kitty-captivating noises and is stuffed with catnip. “Your cat's prey instincts will be activated as he hunts for his ‘dinner,’ exactly what housecats miss,” says Rita Reimers, a Cat Behaviorist in Charlotte, NC and owner of Just For Cats Pet Sitting. “On non-carpeted floors, cats will have a ball chasing this around.”
Another item is the beloved Temptations Rockin’ Lobster Flavor Cat Treats, which are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with natural lobster flavor, yet are barely two calories each. “My cats love Temptations!” gushes Reimer. And being she has 18 of them, that’s saying a lot.
When you’re ready to start picking up Christmas gifts for cats, you can’t go wrong if you, well, think like a cat! If you focus on your individual pet’s needs and preferences, as well as the activities of wild cats in nature, cat Christmas present shopping will be easy. Have fun spoiling your favorite feline this season!