Pets deserve lots of love and affection, nutritious food, and lots of exercise. When we say exercise, it doesn’t have to be anything serious. As long as they are able to stretch and work their muscles, run as free as they possibly can, and do most of the stuff that they would otherwise do if they were in the wild, then it’s classified as good exercise. If you have a pet cat, you’ll want to give them one of our 20 best cat toys in 2018. At any rate, you’ll be ensuring their fitness while also giving them plenty of fun.
How We Chose the Amazing Kitty Toys in Our List
For many picking the right kitty toys can be quite daunting. For one, we need to understand the unique behaviors of cats so we’ll have a pretty good idea of what to look for in their playthings. That’s why we had to consult with our resident animal psychologist to provide us with an overview of what naturally stimulates kitties. This is a very fundamental purpose of toys. They have to be able to stimulate development, curiosity, and fascination from those that use them regardless of whether they are humans or animals.
It is well understood that cats are natural predators. So, we had to choose interactive cat toys that can help quench their predatory thirst. If they can pounce on it or even grab it or bite on it, we’d definitely include those in our list.
However, since almost every other feline plaything is designed and manufactured to stimulate their predatory instincts, we knew we had to look for another way to come up with the magic 10 in our circle. As such, we sought only products that have an excellent reputation based on consumer ratings. This gave us an understanding of how well these cat toys for indoor cats actually fare in the real world. The experiences and observations of cat owners who’ve already bought these products for their respective pets were taken into consideration.
Another aspect that was factored in the selection process was the company’s reputation. You would agree with us that you’ll trust only those products that come from reputable brands. While these may not really be cheap cat toys, the mere fact that you can depend on its quality and safe design should more than negate any price concerns.
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Feline Predatory Behavior and the Choice of Toys
We have already shared with you how we chose the kitty toys in our list. For the most part, all of these products are designed primarily for one very specific purpose: to nurture the predatory or hunting instincts of cats. It should be understood that cats are excellent predators, whether they are in the wild or right in the comforts of our homes.
While it is true that thousands of years of domestication has clearly tamed the wild cats of our times, it is impossible to completely erase the genes that dictate the hunter instincts of these animals. Nature designed them to hunt prey in order to survive especially in the wild. Even if you give them plenty of nutrition, this hunter’s instinct will always be there. You may not know it but your cat is really showing a lot of its predatory behavior. As such, in choosing toys for cats, it is imperative to understand cats’ predatory behavior.
Kittens are already programmed at birth to chase prey. Mother cats teach their kittens how to kill to survive (it’s a cruel world, we know). The learning occurs in stages until the kittens have developed the necessary skills to hunt on their own. This teaching is passed on from generation to generation. It’s already programmed in the genes of mother cats. So, there’s not much we can do about it.
Cats exhibit a variety of behaviors related to predation. They usually swipe at anything dangling off the edge of the table or chair. They will try to sneak up on you as stealthily as possible. They will try to create as less noise as possible, not wanting to draw attention to their presence. They like being perched higher than anything else so they’ll get a great view of prey underneath them.
These should always be taken into consideration when shopping for their toys. They need items that closely mimics their prey if not in terms of its appearance, at least, in terms of movement. This helps in ensuring their well-being as a genetic trait that is suppressed can lead to problems later on.
Why Is It Important for Cats to Play?
There are many reasons why play time is very important for cats. While they may be more aloof than dogs, with dogs being more inclined to seek the attention and approval of their human masters, cats do need playtime, too. Here are the reasons why:
- Play time empowers cats to live out their predatory nature
It is no secret that cats are natural predators. It’s in their genes. Playing can help cats nurture their very reason for existence, giving them the opportunity to relive their predatory heritage. Kitties are especially tuned to faint noises, miniscule movements, and even the slightest scent.
They know the presence of prey when they see movement or color, hear squeaks and squeals, and smell specific scents. That is why the best cat toys are designed specifically to mimic the different characteristics of cats’ many preys.
- Playing helps prevent feline obesity and its associated complications
This is short of saying playtime is your feline’s way to get some exercise. Most cats are observed to be ‘lazy’ like Garfield, crawling out of its bed only to feed before returning for a much-needed siesta. If your kitty continues with this lifestyle it may end up becoming the next Garfield or Fat Cat. Playing with them allows them to pounce, run, and jump at their toys. This allows them to work their muscles and help burn extra calories that have been stored after several hours of inactivity. This can help prevent feline obesity and many of its associated problems like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and metabolic abnormalities.
- Play optimizes muscle and joint functions
We mentioned above that playtime is the cat’s exercise time. We also mentioned that this will work their muscles. What we forgot to mention is that it can also improve the range of motion of their joints. Cats are known to be very agile creatures. Agility relies on the flexibility and elasticity of the joint capsule. Strong joints will help them climb up a tree with relative ease or even pounce on their prey like cutting through butter. Playtime gives cats the opportunity to optimize their range of motion while toning their muscles so they can be more powerful jumpers, pouncers, and runners.
- Play prevents feline boredom
Majority of behavioral problems among pets stem from boredom. Although it would seem cats are perfectly okay just lying in their favorite nook all day long, experts now agree that boredom can also set in. This can lead to the formation of destructive feline behavior such as clawing, urinating in restricted areas, scratching, and many more. Playing with them stimulates their brain so they don’t get bored. Interactive feline toys can be exceptionally beneficial in this regard since these toys allow cats to be interested and stay focused on the game. A focused mind is never a bored mind.
- Play time is bonding time
Dogs love the attention they get from their human masters. And while cats may not be as clingy as their canine counterparts, they do appreciate moments that you spend with them. They may have been cast as antisocial animals, but given the right circumstance and the right attitude from their pet parents, cats can also be as socially-responsive as other dogs. As a matter of fact many cat-lovers agree that it is during playtime that they were able to form stronger and more meaningful relationships with their respective kitties. Fostering a healthy relationship with your pet is always a hallmark of a true pet parent.
Types of Cat Toys
One of the most important considerations when picking the right toy for your feline friend is the type of toy that they will most likely play with. It is critical to realize that different cats have different preferences. Some may like prey-like toys while others would prefer something related to food. To give you an idea of what you need to take for your kitty, take a look at the following types of cat toys.
- Wand toys
These playthings are like your fishing rod with line and lure. The only difference is that the lure is actually made up of almost anything that can entice your cat to pounce on it. Many come with mouse-like lures while others come with colorful bands of cloth. Pet parents hold the handle and just move it with their hands. The lure moves with it and cats attempt to ‘catch’ the lure. It’s an interactive way to play with cats without the danger of being scratched.
- Feather toys
These are somewhat similar to wand toys as majority actually come attached to a wand. The lure is made to simulate another of cats’ favorite prey – birds. In some cases, the feathery toy is not attached to anything. As long as the feathers can be ascertained to move, it should simulate live prey.
- Puzzle toys
Perfect for Garfield-wannabes, puzzle toys are also known as treat- or snack- dispensing toys. These have mechanisms that hold the treat inside the toy. A system of openings must be ‘solved’ by the cat to obtain the treats. Like any puzzle, once solved the cat gets the prize which is the tasty treat. In many ways these are preferred if you want to harness the problem-solving skills of your feline. What’s more it’s a great way to control the amount of food your cat is taking.
- Catnip toys
Catnip contains a volatile oil that is very aromatic to 7 to 8 of 10 cats. It is believed that this volatile oil acts more like a central nervous system stimulant producing extreme levels of happiness to cats that most folks who see them will think that they are crazy. Before you buy such a toy it is imperative to check first whether your pet is susceptible to the effects of catnip or not. If not, you’d simply be buying a toy that your pet will not like. If yes, then rejoice as your feline friend will love you for it.
- Electronic toys
These are electronic versions of the different types of cat playthings we have already shared above. Laser lights can also be classified as electronic. As long as there is interaction between the toy or the movements or actions produced by the toy and your cat it can be rightfully classified as a toy. In this case, if it runs on batteries or some other form of electricity, then it is considered as an electronic cat toy.
Things to Consider When Buying Cat Toys
We mentioned in the preceding section that the type of cat toys is a very important consideration when choosing the right plaything for your feline pal. That being said, it is not the only factor you have to think about. You will also need to consider the following.
- Type of prey your cat is more interested in
Cats’ playtime activities are actually anchored on their innate nature to hunt prey. As such, it is important to check what kind of prey your cat is interested in. There are felines that are more naturally attracted to certain species of birds while others are more attracted to brow mice but not the white ones. This will give you an idea of the kind of toy that you need to buy for your pet cat.
- Prey-like characteristics of the toy
As we have said above, the predatory drive of cats is great even when they are at play. They are naturally attracted to moving objects, colorful items, noisy things, and a whole lot more that may indicate the presence of prey. That being said, it is critical to look for features in the cat toy you wish to buy that somehow closely resembles the favorite prey of your cat.
It goes without saying that the kind of toy you are going to buy for your pet needs to be safe. While it is true that cats are not really known for chewing toys unlike dogs, they do tend to claw at things. It is imperative that the toy is not composed of different elements that can snag your cat’s claws.
Cats will never chew and shred their toys to bits. Well, this is the belief. But if you’ve been watching My Cat from Hell, then you know that some cats can be as destructive as certain dogs. They may not bite and chew on their toys, but they surely can use their powerful, razor-sharp claws to shred anything that they can get their paws on. If you have a cat from hell or has a kitty that is close to being one, you might want to consider getting a tougher, more durable toy for it.
Q: Why does my cat put her toys in her water?
A: There really is no conclusive explanation as to why cats love putting their toys in their water bowls. There are two theories that feline behaviorists use to explain such odd behavior.
The first theory is that cats put their toys in their water bowls because it is a lot safer. Consider a wild cat that has to hunt for food. Wild cats will hide their prey in their respective dens as a means of protecting it against other predators. In like manner, cats are believed to ‘safeguard’ their toys by keeping them in a place where no other predators will go – the water. This is so they can play with it later on.
The second theory is more a reflection of the gathering or collecting behavior of cats. Behaviorists say that it is similar to a mother cat bringing home any wandering kitten or when moving its kittens from one location to another, usually by grabbing onto the nape of the kittens.
Q: Why does my cat bring toys to bed?
A: Just as many cats like to put their toys in their water bowl, some actually bring theirs to the bed, whether theirs or their master’s. Again there really is no scientific explanation for such a behavior except for the assumption that they’re bringing their toys to a place that is deemed ‘safer’ or which cats perceive as their own.
Q: Why does my cat hide her toys?
A: Hiding toys is a sign of the cat’s distrust of its environment. It doesn’t actually believe that it is perfectly safe to leave its toys on the place where it played with it. Cats with this behavior are typically protective of their ‘possessions’ that they don’t want others to be getting it from them. One can think of it as being selfish, but it is only in keeping with a cat’s natural tendency to hide and ‘protect’ its prey so it can enjoy it later on.
Our Top Pick
We had to have several picks for our top cat toys since there are different types of playthings for felines. For wand toys we picked the Cat Dancer Cat Charmer Wand primarily because of its colorful ribbon design resembling a gymnast’s accessory. The wand itself is made of durable polycarbonate while the overall design is primarily designed to charm kitties. It may not be designed like cat’s natural prey, but it sure is a worthy toy for domesticated felines as proven by many pet parents.
For the interactive type of cat toys, our pick is the Petstages Tower of Tracks. With 3 levels of tracks complete with 3 colorful balls that your pet can nudge as they roll around the tower, it truly makes for an entertaining toy. The beauty of the Tower of Tracks is that your pet will be swiping at the balls with all its might and the balls will simply roll along the tracks.
The SmartyKat Skitter Critters Catnip Cat Toy also earned our approval as the best when it comes to catnip cat toys. We already mentioned that 7 to 8 out of 10 kitties go crazy over the scent of catnip. Now add a toy that is designed like the natural prey of cats – mice – then you have the perfect recipe for a really good time with your feline friend.
We also included the Bergan Turbo Scratcher as a viable alternative to the Tower of Tracks, although the ring of corrugated cardboard in the center is what makes for a really hefty non-destructive scratching material for your pet. At least you’ll not only be addressing your cat’s need to play, you’ll also be satisfying its incessant desire to scratch.
For the puzzle type of cat toy, we picked the PetSafe SlimCat for its pet-safe and simple design. It’s just a ball with several holes that can be adjusted to make it easy or difficult for cats to retrieve the 2/3-cup dry cat food inside its chamber. It’s a great way to lose weight if your tabby happens to be just a few more meals away from being Garfield.
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The Bottom Line
If you love your cat, then you would do almost anything to make it happy. With the 20 best cat toys in 2018, you’re now much closer to becoming a really responsible pet owner.
- Best Cat Toys for Playtime, Pet Net
- Choosing the Right Toys for Your Cat: My 12 Tips, Cat Behavior Associates
- Why Play is Important for Your Cat, VetStreet
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