How to Pick the Best Toys for Cats: Vet Tips 2024

gray kitten sitting on floor

Last Updated on 3 weeks by Dr. Shannon Barrett

Anyone that has watched their cat pounce on a plastic bag knows they have a hunting instinct.

As a veterinarian, I am often asked which cat toys are best? How do you decide?

Here is my assessment of the best cat toys with examples.

This site only contains items I love and highly recommend.  It is reader supported and contains affiliate links.  Read more

The right toys can prevent boredom, encourage exercise, and provide a healthy outlet for their hunting instincts.

When choosing toys for cats, it’s important to consider variety and realism.

Toys that move unpredictably, resemble prey, and engage multiple senses will often be the most appealing. From feather wands to motorized mice, these toys tap into your cat’s innate desire to hunt.

Materials also play a key role in the selection process. Non-toxic, durable materials are preferable for longevity and safety. Additionally, the size of the toy should be appropriate for your cat to handle and bite without posing a choking hazard.

Some toys also incorporate catnip, which can enhance playtime for your pet.

A toy that’s engaging and safe will foster a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in your cat as they “hunt”.

This behavior traces back to their ancestors who relied on hunting for survival. Today, house cats still show this natural urge, often seen when they chase toys or bring home “gifts” of birds and mice.

These actions are not just play; they’re expressions of deep-rooted predatory habits.

Cats need mental stimulation, especially our indoor kitty friends. We want cats to live their best life indoors. Studies have shown that indoor cats live longer with less injuries. As a vet, I’ve seen this first-hand.

To meet these instincts, pet owners should provide an enriching indoor environment. Interactive toys that mimic prey can redirect their natural behaviors into healthy playtime.

This approach satisfies their hunting desires while keeping them physically and mentally stimulated, preventing boredom and possible destructive behaviors indoors.

The Importance of Hunting Toys for Cats

cat, kitten, orange cat-5830643.jpg

  • Mental stimulation
  • Increases activity which decreases obesity
  • Decreases destructive behaviors
  • Satisfies their instinct to hunt

Hunting toys for cats play a crucial role in keeping our feline friends mentally stimulated and physically active. These toys tap into a cat’s natural instinct to hunt, providing an outlet for their predatory behaviors without harming real prey.

This not only prevents boredom but also reduces potential behavior problems caused by pent-up energy and frustration. With the right hunting toy, cats enjoy hours of engaging playtime that satisfies their innate desires to stalk, chase, pounce, and capture.

Selecting the best toys for your cat means understanding their unique preferences and needs. Toys filled with catnip or silvervine can excite cats and spark intense interest, encouraging even the most indifferent hunters.

Interactive puzzles challenge them mentally, pushing them to think creatively to reach their ‘prey’. For indoor cats especially, these hunting simulations are vital—keeping them agile, entertained, and preventing unwanted weight gain through exercise.

Check out our Favorite Toys for Cats that like to Hunt

Our Favorite Types of Cat Toys

cat, bury cat, animal-3038243.jpg

From feather wands to laser pointers—there’s a thrilling variety of hunting toys for cats, each promising endless fun.

Interactive Toys for Playtime Together

Interactive toys offer a fun way for cats and their owners to bond during playtime. Wand toys, also known as teasers, are perfect for mimicking the movements of prey, tapping into your cat’s hunting instincts.

Feather wands are a classic among cats and their parents.

Cats show diverse preferences in their choice of toys, and feather wands are no exception. Some felines favor large feathers that flutter effortlessly with each flick of the wand. Others may find smaller, more intricate designs more enticing.

This feather cat toy has multiple attachments to keep you and your cat entertained. With it’s 4.6 star rating from 35,000 fellow cat parents, it must be a hit.

child playing with feather toy and cat
Photo Courtesy MeoHui

These toys require an owner’s participation, making each play session unique and exciting. Not only do they keep your cat physically active, but they also provide mental stimulation by engaging their natural behaviors.

We would love to stay home and play with our cats all day. This is not a practical option. Consider toys that move on their own so they can play even when you are making dinner.

Potaroma makes several interactive bird toys that move and chirp like real birds.

cat playing with 2 furry bird toys
Photo Courtesy Potaroma

Some of these toys are remote controlled where others are motion activated. Both are great to keep your cat engaged while you are away or busy. These include battery-operated mice or fluttering butterfly toys that move unpredictably, stimulating your cat’s interest and encouraging active play.

Making DIY cat toys is a fun and affordable way to keep your feline friend entertained. With materials like fabric, cardboard, and old socks, you can create toys that stimulate their natural hunting instincts.

What cat can resist a box for playtime.

Cat in a box playing with toys hanging off box
Photo Courtesy Lauren Webster

Think about making toilet paper roll toys or a simple string toy. Try creating a homemade wand by tying a string to a stick and attaching feathers or fabric at the end.

For those who enjoy crafts, design interactive toys using boxes with holes cut out to poke through toys or treats. This engages your cat’s natural hunting instincts as they try to capture their “prey”.

Catnip-filled socks or homemade scratching posts can make for hours of enjoyment. Crafting these toys gives you the chance to offer their cats a variety of playthings without breaking the bank.

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Laser pointers are another purrfect option. This type of toy taps into a cat’s instinct to stalk and pounce on moving prey.

The red dot mimics small animals, instantly grabbing a cat’s attention. Yet, the lack of physical catch at the end can leave some cats feeling frustrated.

laser toy and cat playing with it
Photo Courtesy YVE Life

Despite their popularity, constant use might lead to compulsive behaviors or even psychological issues due to unfulfilled hunting instincts. It shows that while laser toys can be part of playtime, they shouldn’t be the only option for your feline friend.

I still like laser pointers for our feline friends but make sure to mix it up with other types of toys. Mixing in tangible toys allows your cat to fully engage their hunter’s drive—catching and biting—keeping playtime both fun and fulfilling.

Interactive puzzle toys are often associated with dogs. However cats also enjoy puzzle toys.

These toys have moving parts, hidden sections, and some even dispense food. Such features encourage your pet to swipe at them, search for treats, or figure out how the toy works—much like they would stalk and hunt prey in the wild.

Cats love these interactive games because they mimic real-life hunting scenarios. A simple puzzle can keep a cat engaged for hours as they try to unlock treats or follow moving objects with their eyes and paws.

I particularly love the ones that allow you to use treats. Some cats are picky eaters and prefer to hunt and work for their food. However these aren’t just good for finicky cats, they are also great for fast eaters. If your cat regurgitates after eating, consider using one of these toys to slow your cat from eating too fast.

black and white kitten paying with cat puzzle
Photo courtesy Trixie

Ball and Track Toys

Ball and track toys engage a cat’s hunting instinct like no other. These toys feature a wrap-around track and rotating design that grabs a cat’s attention, mimicking the unpredictable movements of prey.

blue and orange cat toy with balls on tack
Photo Courtesy: Catstages

Cats find these toys irresistible because they simulate real-life hunting experiences.

Such toys are especially beneficial in multi-cat households where each feline can take turns or play together, promoting active engagement without the need for constant human interaction.

Catnip-filled toys are a big hit with cats that love to hunt. These toys often mimic the movement of prey animals, making them irresistible for playful felines. They’re packed with catnip, an herb known for its potent nepetalactone compound.

This special ingredient can trigger exciting reactions in two-thirds of cats, encouraging them to kick, carry, and rub against the toy for interactive play and mental stimulation.

orange and white kitten with stuffed mouse
Photo Courtesy SmartyKat

For both active cats and senior cats needing a bit more encouragement to move, these toys offer great benefits. They not only keep your pet engaged and there is no denying the affect of catnip on felines.

Soft kicker toy options filled with just a little catnip give your furry friend hours of self-play joy—perfect for multi-cat households where each cat seeks entertainment at different times.

Tips for Introducing Hunting Toys to Your Cat

brown tabby kitten on bed

Begin with shorter play sessions to gauge your pet’s interest and response.

It’s essential to mimic natural hunting scenarios; thus, incorporating movement that simulates prey—like dragging a feather wand slowly across the floor or activating an electronic mouse toy—can ignite their instinctual behaviors.

Engage in interactive play daily, yet vary the toys and routines to keep things fresh and stimulating for your cat.

Observing which toys they’re drawn toward helps tailor future selections, ensuring they remain engaged and mentally stimulated.

Keep safety in mind by inspecting toys regularly for wear and tear, replacing any that become hazards.

Signs That Your Cat Enjoys Hunting Toys

a cat playing with a toy on the floor

After introducing your cat to new hunting toys, you’ll soon see if they truly enjoy them. Cats that love their hunting toys often pounce on them as if they were real prey. They might hide and leap out at the toy, showcasing their stalking skills.

Enthusiastic chases around the room are common, followed by triumphant captures with their paws or mouth.

Another telltale sign is repeated play. A cat that returns to a toy again and again finds it fascinating and engaging. You may also notice your cat carrying the toy in its mouth, simulating how it would move its catch in the wild.

Intense focus while playing and showing off their ‘catch’ to you are clear indicators of enjoyment and satisfaction from these stimulating games.

Final Thoughts

selective focus photography of gray cat peeking at the table

There are so many options for cat toys. Feel free to experiment and try out different types.

A toy that seems fun to us may not be for your feline friend. Some of my patients are scared of toys that roll across the floor whereas others love the action.

Here’s wishing you and your cat hours of fun!

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a toy great for cats that love to hunt?

Great toys for hunting cats mimic real prey… think fast-moving, and sometimes furry, with an unpredictable twist. Catnip toys grab their attention; danglers keep them jumping.

Can older cats still enjoy these hunting toys?

Absolutely! Pick toys that match their pace—maybe slower, but just as engaging. It keeps their mind sharp and body active, even for the senior feline lounging on your couch.

Are these toys okay for kittens too?

Yes, kittens can join the fun! Start with smaller sizes or softer options… They’re perfect for those tiny paws learning to pounce.

What should I avoid when choosing a cat toy?

Steer clear of anything toxic or easily breakable pieces… Safety first! Also, consider your home—avoid items that won’t fare well against your carpeted surfaces or furniture.

How often should I replace my cat’s toys?

Keep things fresh and interesting by rotating their favorites and introducing new challenges occasionally… When you notice wear or loss of interest—that’s your cue!

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice from a licensed veterinarian. Read More

Dr. Shannon Barrett brings an exceptional blend of academic excellence and professional expertise to the world of veterinary medicine. With a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, where she graduated with honors, and dual Bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology, her depth of knowledge is extensive. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Barrett's insights and contributions to pet health have been featured in leading publications such as Rover, MarketWatch, and Newsweek.

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Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian with a Passion for Educating Pet Parents

Pets change our lives for the better and we are always trying to do the same for them. This site is a combination of tips and product recommendations to enhance the lives of our pets and the people owned by them.  Thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Shannon Barrett

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