It takes more than just food, water and shelter to keep your cat healthy and happy. It also requires exercise and mental stimulation. From the time they are kittens to the time they are considered senior felines, cats need toys! Especially now that it is wise to keep your cats indoors, play and interaction with people have become far more important.
Get Them Moving!
Active play is a form of exercise helping to prevent your cat from becoming overweight, which in turn can cause problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And like people, cats that have adequate mental stimulation throughout their lives, have a better chance of avoiding the onset of cognitive dysfunction disorder, i.e., dementia.
Toys that encourage your cat to run and jump are appropriate for active play. These can be ones that an owner uses while playing with his cat, or ones that can entice your cat into activity when home alone. This type of toy helps release a cat’s natural aggression and provide an outlet for her instinctive prey-chasing behavior.
As with children, safety needs to be a primary consideration. Any item that can be ingested must be avoided, such as: string, ribbon, yarn, rubber bands, plastic milk jug rings, paper clips, pins, needles and dental floss. Even feathers on store bought cat items are undesirable, unless used with supervision. Basic rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t give it to a child three years of age or younger, then don’t give it to your cat.
For Comfort Sake
Comfort toys, such as soft stuffed animals, are also important items to have in your cat’s toy box. Many cats like to carry them around and they help give them a sense of security. It’s been found that cats favor stuffed toys with ears and long tails.
Boredom afflicts our animal companions, just as much as it does us, and toys help relieve this problem. But you need to rotate the toys to help keep your felines interested in them. Although, you may want to always keep out their favorite comfort item.
Money No Object
You do not need to spend a fortune on keeping your cat spoiled with playthings. For example, put a brightly colored golf or ping-pong ball in the bathtub and watch your cat try to get it out. (The bright color is for you, not your cat, so that you don’t step on it when you later get into the tub.)
When the grocery store clerk asks you, “Plastic or paper?” say, “Paper, please.” Take off any handles and give it to your cat for some fun.
Recycle your old shower rings. Use one at a time or link multiple rings together and hang them up for your cat to swat.
On your next visit to the craft store, purchase a bag of bells; ones large enough that your cat won’t swallow. Add one of these bells to the hanging chain of shower rings.
Just like your kid, your feline is likely to prefer the box a toy comes in than the toy itself. Skip the purchase and turn one of the small boxes you’ve accumulated from various gift-giving occasions and turn it into a kitty toy. Take one of those bells you purchased, put it in the box, cut holes into the sides large enough for a paw to fit into and seal the lid onto the top of the box. Miss Kitty will enjoy trying to get that bell out of the box.
Get the Kids Involved
Help teach your kids responsible pet ownership and get them involved in creating some of these toys. Use child safe paints and have them add a little color to the play box or paper bag.
Take unshelled walnuts and add a little paint for an instant roll toy.
The list is endless – scrunched up wrapping paper, empty toilet rolls, plastic medicine bottles (thoroughly cleaned) with bells inside, etc. Loose catnip can be purchased and used with many of these toys. Try putting it in the center of the scrunched-up ball of paper or rubbing it onto the shoulder pad mouse. Not all cats respond to catnip and often not before the age of six months. The age and brand of catnip affects your feline’s response, which can vary from heightened aggressive play to complete relaxation.
The most important play toy in your cat’s life is you. Try to find time in your hectic schedule for two 15-minute play sessions a day. While you watch the evening news, settle on the floor and swat the ball around with them. Playtime is as important for you as it is for them.