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The best cat toy

Most cat toys are designed to stimulate a cat’s natural instincts, such as pouncing, stalking, or climbing.
Most cat toys are designed to stimulate a cat’s natural instincts, such as pouncing, stalking, or climbing.(BestReviews)

As many cat owners have discovered, most cat toys are only as good as the boxes they arrive in. Cats are naturally playful, and they will often invent games that challenge their natural pouncing, chasing, and trapping instincts. The best cat toys made by humans are the ones that engage kittens and cats in the same way. Every cat has different preferences when it comes to play, but pet experts agree that a domestic feline needs the mental stimulation of a toy in order to maintain good mental health.

Cat toys can take many forms, from plush toys to mechanized mice to track balls. The point is to provide both kittens and cats with enough stimulation to burn off any excess energy and stave off boredom (a bored cat tends to overeat, exhibit bad behavior, and develop poor hygiene habits).

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If you are in search of the best toy for your cat, read our helpful shopping guide. Our top pick is the Moody Pet Fling-AMA-String Cat Toy, a kinetic toy that fits most standard doors and keeps cats and kittens engaged because of its unpredictable play.

Considerations when choosing cat toys

Types of engagement

Most cats retain their natural hunting instincts, but many domesticated cats develop their own personal preferences when it comes to play. Some cats prefer toys that encourage pouncing or trapping, such as a plush toy on a string. Others prefer to bat at their "prey," which is why roller ball tracks can be so appealing. Some cats respond to aural stimulation, such as the crinkling of a bag or the squeak of a small rodent.

When choosing the ideal cat toy, owners should assess their feline's natural behavior and find a toy that matches it. If a cat likes to bat bottle caps across the floor, a small plush or plastic toy would be a good fit. If it prefers to take the high ground and pounce on moving targets, then a string toy might be a better fit. Predictability is also a consideration, because some cats respond better to random movements while others prefer stationary targets.

Interactivity

Cats are known for their independent nature, but this doesn't mean they prefer to play by themselves. Some cat toys encourage owners to interact with their pet in order to maintain interest. Others are designed to be more passive, allowing the cat to engage with the toy on its own terms and schedule. Some cats may become too aggressive if the toy is too interactive, while other cats may lose interest in a toy that is too passive.

Construction materials

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As many owners have learned the hard way, many cats are not subtle when it comes to play. They will employ their teeth, claws, and paws to destroy their artificial prey if possible. This means a cat toy needs to be constructed from heavy-duty materials that still encourage interaction. Common construction materials include plastic, treated wood, natural twine, fleece, and ripstop nylon.

Features

Designs

A dedicated cat toy aisle in a pet store offers a dizzying array of options. There are laser pointers that project a small dot and encourage pouncing or stalking. Tunnels allow cats to explore a new environment or take shelter. Wand toys are interactive, with the owner providing unpredictable play action. Plush toys can appeal to a cat's hunting instincts, while small plastic balls encourage batting. Owners may want to experiment with different types of cat toys before investing in one particular model.

Catnip

Catnip is a natural herb that many cats crave instinctively, primarily because it creates a temporary sensation of euphoria followed by relaxation. Some cat toys are infused with catnip by the manufacturer, while others incorporate compartments for owners to fill on their own if they choose. Not all cats respond favorably to catnip, however.

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Price

Because smaller cat toys, such as balls, wands, and plush toys, tend to require frequent replacement, the average price point is between $1 and $5. Higher-quality plush toys can cost between $5 and $15, especially if they are infused with catnip. High-end electronic chasers and laser pointers can retail for $20 or more, depending on complexity and quality.

FAQ

Q. Do I have to watch my cat at all times while he plays with a toy?

A. It depends on the design of the toy, but most cat toys should be played with under human supervision to reduce the risk of choking or overexertion. Some mechanized toys can be set to automatically start while the owner is out of the house, however.

Q. Why won't my cat play with the new plush toy I just bought?

A. Different cats have different responses to toys. Some prefer a more interactive toy that encourages pouncing or trapping. Others respond to toys infused with catnip. Sometimes attaching a string or fishing line to a toy will make it more interesting, or the removal of a squeak mechanism could help.

Cat toys we recommend

Our take: This interactive cat toy provides the unpredictable action many cats respond to instinctively. Be sure to keep replacement batteries on hand, however.

What we like: Arrives fully assembled. Fits on most doors with knobs. Provides kinetic interaction with active cats. Appeals to multiple natural instincts.

What we dislike: High drain on batteries limits play time. Cats can swallow string and other small parts.

Our take: This multipack of small cat toys is ideal for households with multiple cats or spaces where toys tend to get lost under furniture.

What we like: Includes 20 different toys. Designs are varied, appeal to different cats. Some toys include catnip, bells, or other attractive add-ons.

What we dislike: Cats may not respond to every toy in the large assortment. Some toys break easily, creating sharp edges.

Our take: While adult cats may not engage as much with this toy, kittens and smaller breeds should respond well to the fast play.

What we like: Promotes hunting and pouncing instincts. Non-skid base provides security during rough play. Heavy-duty material is easy to clean between sessions.

What we dislike: Larger, older cats may lose interest quickly. Smaller than expected.

Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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