Cinder’s Advice: The Right Cat Toy

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell cat from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: My cat doesn’t play with toys. Is something wrong?

“Cinder, have you lost your mouse again?” Allison asked.

I was sitting beside the front closet door, waiting for my pet parents to fetch my mouse for me. I’ve more than a dozen toys to choose from, but will only play with my leopard-spotted gray mouse. It’s my favorite mouse of all time.

When Allison found it, she didn’t just hand it back to me. She walked over to a round wooden puzzle toy and dropped my mouse into it.

I hid behind our recliner. When Allison left the living room, I ran and pounced on the puzzle. Then I started digging into puzzle’s holes. I pushed plastic balls and other mice to the side until I found my mouse. I hooked it with my claws and pulled it out. Victory!

One of my sisters peered into the room. I gripped the mouse in my jaws and, with my head low, I growled at her and scared her away. This is my mouse!

Back and forth, I batted my mouse. It slid under a woven basket in the living room and I pulled it out by its nose. Back and forth, I batted my mouse again. It slipped underneath the recliner and I dragged it back out by its tail.

When Allison returned to the living room, she laughed at me rolling around on the floor with my mouse I was rolling around on the floor with my mouse. I stopped in mid-roll to look at Allison, and she laughed at me. Harumph. I went back to playing. I tossed the mouse in the air. I shoved it under a pillow. And then I lost it again under the front closet door. “It’s nice to see you enjoying toys again,” Allison said.

You might think your cat doesn’t like to play, but you just might need to find the right toy.

  • Some of us like plush toys that we can sink our teeth into, instead of hard plastic toys; others prefer balls that roll and can be chased.
  • Some of us like small toys because remind us of smaller prey like mice; others prefer larger toys that remind us of larger prey or other cats
  • Some of us like toys that sound or feel like real animals; there are some that making a rustling sound like a squirrel, whereas others might be made with feathers or fur.
  • Finally, while some of us don’t care what type of toy you offer as long as it’s in motion, others might be pickier because of being less mobile due to older age.

Cat toys can be divided into two broad categories: self-play and interactive.

  • Self-play toys are good if you need to leave us alone. The cheapest ones are plastic rings from milk jugs and empty toilet paper rolls. Other low-cost toys are furry mice and crinkle balls. These can be made more challenging by placing them in objects such as empty tissue boxes or by hiding them around the house.
  • Interactive toys are great for strengthening the bond between you and your cats, because they require your involvement. When using a dangler or wand with your cat, be sure to try different kinds of actions to keep your cat from getting bored. Hide the lure, make it quiver, slide it across the floor, and whip it through the air. Be creative. Your cat will appreciate the chance to practice its hunting skills. And you may find that your cat prefers some actions to others.

The year that my parents adopted me, they bought me all kinds of toys. A wand toy shaped like a snake quickly became my favorite. My parents bought three more like it and put them in storage as backups, because danglers can break.

The problem with that toy is that I can only play with it when my parents have time to play with me. They don’t leave it out because if I play with it on my own the string could become wrapped around my neck and strangle me.

I love my puzzle toy, because I don’t need my pet parents around when I’m in the mood to play. I just dig through the puzzle toy or throw around my polka-dotted play mouse.

My mouse is now so worn that the eyes are gone, the nose is faded, and the fabric is worn. But it won’t last forever. I hope my parents can get me some more.

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