With the Holidays rearing their inevitable heads, it’s good time to talk about toys, and not the Toys-R-Us consumerist free-for-all, but – what else? – toys for cats. I’ll skip the standard “Do you buy your cats presents?” question – if you’re reading this blog, it’s a given. I’ll try to be more practical: What’s good; what’s not; and how to keep the magic.
But first a story.
My cats open their own Christmas presents. It’s as fun to watch them sniff, bite, and finally tear away the wrapping to find the toy hidden within. My old cat, Harry, who is now 16, knows all about it; the other two are a little more hesitant, but with each passing year, get more enthusiastic. My newest addition had her first Christmas two years ago. She didn’t have a clue. Last year was better; I’m looking forward to this one.
There are lots of cat toys for sale this time of year, all of them cute and attractive, all touting their merits. So what to buy? Know your cat. Attraction to catnip is hereditary, so for some cats, the stinkiest catnip on earth won’t get a rise. For those, find something they can chase. For a sedentary fellow, a treat ball is an entertaining, interesting way to get exercise and earn treats, one kibble at a time. Many cats like chasing laser lights but may find it frustrating when there’s nothing to catch; land the light on a chewable toy and let kitty take it from there. There are many fancy – and expensive – interactive toys as well, some better than others. Before you spend your wad on something kitty may or may not shun, think about whether your cat might be just as happy with a cardboard box.
Because of enthusiastic advertising, it’s important to know what’s safe and what’s not. Like children, kitties chew small parts. (Sometimes not so small) That lovely, lifelike tail on your catnip mouse won’t be so cute stuck in kitty’s colon. Ditto the hard plastic googley eye, though that may pass on its own. Ribbon toys, a favorite with my clowder, can cause problems as well. Choose one with heavy ribbon that can’t easily be torn away by sharp kitty teeth. And make sure they are soft; some ribbons have razor edges that can cut kitty’s mouth.
So you’ve spent many hard-earned dollars on just the perfect toy, and after kitty has played with the wrapping, the ribbon, and – yes – even the toy itself, she begins to ignore it as if it were doggie-do. Does she hate it? In your human ineptitude, did you choose the wrong thing? The answer is no. And the solution could be as simple as a time out. (For the toy, not your cat) We have a toy box. It’s on the floor so the cats can get something if they want it, but usually it’s just a matter of switching out. Put a few toys out at a time, and when you notice them gathering dust in the corner, replace them with something else. Tired of the round mouse? Swap with the catnip body pillow, etc.
And remember the most important ingredient to your cat’s play is you.
Happy happy from Dirty Harry, Big Red, Little, Tinkerbelle and Mollie!