10 min read

Here Are Some Toys Your Cat Will Actually Play With

"Your cat doesn't like being bored any more than you do."

Cats are ... unpredictable. A toy one cat obsessively plays with could cause indifference in another.

So The Dodo asked an expert, Kathleen Armour, project coordinator for the MSPCA Boston Adoption Center, about which toys are most likely to get your little lion up and moving.

"As a proud cat lady, this is a topic near and dear to my heart," Armour told The Dodo. "Your cat doesn't like being bored any more than you do."

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Armour pointed out that many people keep their cats indoors for their safety and longevity. "But we should never forget that these are wild beasts that live among us," she said. "The great outdoors may not be the safest option for our cats, but getting fat and lazy in the home is not the only other option for them."

Drawing from Armour's recommendations (and some personal experience as well), we formulated the following list of toys your cat will actually play with.

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Kinds of toys to try

Some of these toys need your involvement, while others can keep your kitties entertained while you're away at work.

Toys with feathers

"Hope is the thing with feathers," Emily Dickinson once wrote. Replace "hope" with "best toy" and you'll be thinking like your cat.

"In my pretty vast experience with cats, there has never been a toy as effective for all types and personalities as 'Da Bird,'" Armour said. "Da Bird" is a wand with feathers attached to the end of it in a way that makes it swoop and move like an actual bird.

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"Cats eyes and brains are designed to react to and really electrify when they see movement," Armour explained. "I have to lock my Da Bird away in a closet between play sessions because my cats get a little too obsessed with it."

(The author echoes that experience with her own cats.)

Lasers

Laser pointers can really get cats moving, and some timed laser toys are great for while you're away from the house.

"The potential problem with these toys comes because the cat can never 'win' the game. Even if a cat catches the dot there's nothing there. The cat gets all worked up with no resolution - every time," according to Vet Street. So make sure to give them a treat after this game - or even transition to "Da Bird."

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Bird feeder

If you have a spot by a very securely closed window where you could hang a bird feeder, this could provide hours of entertainment for your cats, especially while you're away at work.

A bonus is helping to feed wild birds, especially in winter, when food is harder to come by.

Tin foil balls and other unexpected objects

Cat people know that the more expensive the toy, the less our cats actually want to play with it.

But certain inanimate objects we might never even think of as toys are transformed when our cats get their paws on them.

"Tinfoil from a burrito rolled into a ball is somehow the greatest thing they've ever seen," Armour agreed. "I even have a cat who adores playing with dried penne I toss her way."

(It's true that dried pasta is often batted around the author's kitchen floor.)

"Don't underestimate your cat's need and longing to engage," Armour said, "and you'll be tickled by what they choose as their new favorite game."

Hidden treats

Some cats enjoy the hunt - and you can set up a little challenge for them while you're away.

"If you have a food-motivated cat, start hiding their food in various places throughout your home," Armour said. "We all feel happier when we've got a job to do, and looking for and finding food is a really rewarding experience for many cats."

Kinds of toys to avoid

Your cat might be most attracted to ribbons, threads, yarn or even rubber bands - that's because cats are insane.

"Ribbons, yarn and elastics should never be offered as toys as they can result in intestinal blockages and very expensive and dangerous surgery," Armour cautioned.

Also, never offer your hands or feet as cat toys, no matter how much your little lion rules your life. "This is something that many of us are guilty of doing with a newly adopted kitten, but soon realize that having them associate our limbs with playtime gets vastly less cute as they grow bigger and stronger," Armour said.

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Also, never offer your hands or feet as cat toys, no matter how much your little lion rules your life. "This is something that many of us are guilty of doing with a newly adopted kitten, but soon realize that having them associate our limbs with playtime gets vastly less cute as they grow bigger and stronger," Armour said.

Armour suggests offering a stuffed animal about the size of your cat for them to latch onto and beat up. "There's a toy called a Kick-a-Roo that is perfect for this sort of cat," Armour suggested. "I've found that in a pinch, a roll of paper towels is an amazing (albeit messy) way for a rough player to let off some steam."

Extra tips for success

Remember, cats are little hunters. So toys with fur and feathers help satisfy their predatory urges.

And one of the most important things? As much as they'd avoid admitting it, your participation actually means a lot to them.

"One theory as to why cats will leave their killed prey at the doorsteps of their people is not so much an offering of thanks, but because they're trying to teach us some hunting skills," Armour said. As indifferent as they might sometimes seem, they really do care about hanging out with us humans.

So, remember that, when you might just want to watch TV after work, some quality time with your cats and "Da Bird" is probably better - for both of you.

Sarah V. Schweig

To support the rescue work of the MSPCA, you can make a donation here.

To get a little lion of your own, visit Adopt-a-Pet to get started.