Playing With Your Cat: Toys and Games
Most housecats—although they’re much safer inside from disease and danger—tend to be overweight and underactive. Cats, like people and dogs, benefit from keeping fit and active, both mentally and physically. Exercise is essential for your cat’s mental and physical health because it relieves stress and boredom, improves circulation, builds muscle tone and can prevent or reduce behavioral problems.
So, we need to get our cats up and moving, and there’s no better way to coax out their natural instincts to stalk and chase prey than by engaging them with toys.
Types of Toys for Fun and Games
A wand toy can be as simple as a stick with a thin piece of fabric or soft ribbon tied to it. You can wave, twitch, flutter and circle the wand around randomly so that the ribbon moves enticingly like an insect or bird or other prey. A key added benefit of the wand toy is that it lets you keep some distance between your cat’s claws and your skin.
There are hundreds of variations of the wand toy, and most are relatively inexpensive. The wand itself can be wire, wood or plastic. Anything pliable but firm will do. Many objects can be attached to the wand to attract your cat’s attention: feathers, strings or small stuffed toys. These objects can be accented with bells or electronic noises, or with catnip scent or fur that smells good to your cat. Feathers from peacocks or other large birds can be used as wand toys themselves.
It’s best to put the wand toy away after playtime for three reasons:
- This toy should be available to your cat only when you’re playing with her, so you can build on your relationship with her.
- When you put the toy away after a play session, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s still safe. Watch for pieces of string or other components that might fall off the toy and get swallowed by your cat. If you notice any loose toy parts, it’s probably time to retire the old toy and get a new one.
- How many times have you seen mice or birds just hanging around a cat? By putting the toy away after playtime, it remains attractive and interesting when you begin the next play session.
Some wand toys you might like to try:
- The Cat Dancer®
- Da Bird
- “Fishing pole” type toys
- Peacock feathers from a craft store
Balls are also very attractive to many cats. Their movement along the floor mimics the movement of scampering mice or other prey animals, which will entice cats to chase. You can insert treats or catnip into some balls to make playing with them more rewarding and exciting for your cat. Other balls have bells or other small objects inside them that make noise to attract your cat’s attention. The only downside to ball toys is that they often end up under the couch or other furniture!