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Best automated cat toys: Keep your cat amused when you’ve no time to play

Brown kitten with blue eyes playing with feather toy.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best automated cat toys are perfect if you’re a busy pet parent who isn’t always able to play with your feline furkid as much as you’d like. Automated cat toys can help keep your kitty engaged for hours and they’re a great way of providing mental and physical stimulation.

Just like the best dog toys that keep our canine companions occupied, automated cat toys come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors, so it can be worth investing in a few to see which ones your cat likes best. If you have a younger cat or one who loves a good chase, choose something with fast and unpredictable movements that will tap into your kitty’s instinct to crouch, stalk, and pounce. For older cats or those with mobility issues, there are plenty of toys that are slower but still engaging. 

While you might think that the best cat toys are going to set you back a small fortune, the good news is that there are plenty of affordable options that come with feathers, lasers, and all of the other usual suspects that cats go crazy for. Simple toys are often just as effective as their more expensive counterparts, which is good news if you’re on a budget.

Automated and interactive cat toys are a great way of preventing boredom and unwanted behavior, providing vital enrichment and enabling your kitty to expend their energy appropriately. In this guide, you’ll find the best automated cat toys to suit every age, stage, and budget, including our best pick for cats who are home alone.

PetsRadar's pick of the best automated cat toys

  • Best overall automated cat toy: PetSafe Dancing Dot Laser Toy
  • Best automated cat toy for cats who are home alone: Petsafe Peek-a-Bird Electronic Cat Toy
  • Best automated cat toy for all ages: PetSafe FroliCat Cheese Automatic Cat Teaser
  • Best automated cat toy for mobility issues: PetSafe Frolicat Fox Den Toy Automatic Cat Teaser
  • Best battery-free automated cat toy: Ferplast Tornado Circuit
  • Best compact automated cat toy: EaMien Catnip Fish Toy
  • Best automated cat toy for outdoor use: Cheerble Wicked Ball
  • Best automated cat toy for energetic cats: Moody Pet Fling-Ama-String Cat Toy
  • Best automated cat toy for agile cats: Yami Windmill Cat Toy
  • Best concealed automated cat toy: SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy

Automated cat toys: PetSafe Dancing Dot Laser Toy product shot

(Image credit: Amazon)

PetSafe Dancing Dot Laser Toy

Best overall automated cat toy

Batteries: Three AAA batteries | Material: Plastic | Best for: Cats of all ages

A laser toy that doesn’t need human intervention
A timer enables it to be pre-programmed
Not mains powered
Potential for loop to catch on items

Let’s face it, nothing beats a laser toy when it comes to keeping a cat’s attention for longer periods of time. The beauty of this standalone laser is that it can be placed on any flat surface, or hung from a doorknob – no human intervention required. The 15-minute setting is great for a short burst of laser-powered fun, while the all-day play mode is perfect if you’re leaving your cat on its own for longer periods of time – the laser will turn on for 15 minutes every two hours. It’s also perfectly safe – like most laser toys, it uses a Class 1 laser, which is the least hazardous type.

Automated cat toys: Petsafe Peek-a-Bird Electronic Cat Toy product shot

(Image credit: Amazon)

Petsafe Peek-a-Bird Electronic Cat Toy

Best automated cat toy for cats who are home alone

Batteries: Three AA batteries | Materials: Plastic and artificial feather | Best for: Kittens

Auto shut-off feature saves battery life
Ultra-reactive motion sensor
Limited movements
Noisy

Although this toy is a pretty simple one – a brightly colored feather on the side of this duck-shaped toy moves from side to side – various added extras will certainly prevent boredom setting in. To start with, there are two modes. One-time-play will prompt the feather to flutter back and forth for 10 minutes, while play-all-day mode will fire up the toy for 10-minute sessions every two hours, although a handy motion sensor will always kick-start the toy when your cat’s nearby.

Automated cat toys: PetSafe FroliCat Cheese Automatic Cat Teaser

(Image credit: Amazon)

PetSafe FroliCat Cheese Automatic Cat Teaser

Best automated cat toy for all ages

Batteries: Three AA batteries | Materials: Plastic | Best for: Cats of all ages

Great price
Compact
We’d like to have seen more moving parts
The shape of the plastic mice makes them tricky to grab

Even the coolest of cats won’t be able to resist this ridiculously cute toy. The premise is simple – plastic mice pop out from holes on either side of the cheese wedge, only to (hopefully) disappear once your cat makes a lunge. An auto shut-off feature kicks in after 15 minutes of play to help preserve battery life, and the play-while-you-are-away mode will keep boredom at bay when you’re not around.

Automated cat toys: PetSafe Frolicat Fox Den Toy Automatic Cat Teaser product shot

(Image credit: Amazon)

PetSafe Frolicat Fox Den Toy Automatic Cat Teaser

Best automated cat toy for mobility issues

Batteries: Three AA batteries | Materials: Plastic and faux fur | Best for: Older cats

Sleek and compact
Bright colors to catch your cat’s attention
Limited range of movement
High price tag for a relatively simple toy

The low profile of this toy makes it perfect for cats whose jumping days are behind them. That said, the swishing fox tail will still give your pet a decent workout, and the two-tone design means the tail is easy to spot, too. It’s another toy with a mode designed especially for when you’re not at home, and the random pattern of the tail’s movement does a wonderful job of capturing and holding your pet’s attention for longer periods of time.

Automated cat toys: Ferplast Tornado Circuit product shot

(Image credit: Amazon)

Ferplast Tornado Circuit

Best battery-free automated cat toy

Batteries: None required | Materials: Plastic | Best for: Fully grown cats**

Doesn’t require batteries
Grabs pets’ attention in multiple ways
Height makes it unsuitable for kittens
High price tag

This colorful creation is a welcome reminder that the best moving pet toys don’t necessarily need batteries. This toy will keep your cat entertained in two ways: with a colorful flashing ball that moves around the base unit and can be tapped and batted by your cat; and with a fishing hook-style ball suspended from the central tower. It’s also wonderfully easy to assemble and surprisingly stable.

Automated cat toys: EaMien Catnip Fish Toy product shot

(Image credit: Amazon)

EaMien Catnip Fish Toy

Best compact automated cat toy

Batteries: None required – charges via USB | Materials: Cotton and stuffing | Best for: Older cats

Lifelike design
Charges via USB
Limited movements
Sharp-clawed cats could snag their paws

Although cat owners who also keep fish might want to bypass this particular toy, it’s proof that some of the best pet toys are the simplest  – in this case, two small rechargeable fish that twitch and flap across the floor. The best bit? They’re stuffed with catnip, making them irresistible to feline friends. A word of warning – they’re also surprisingly lifelike, which means there will inevitably be a fleeting moment when you’re convinced your cat’s caught an actual fish.

Automated cat toys: Cat playing with a Cheerble Wicked Ball

(Image credit: Amazon)

Cheerble Wicked Ball

Best automated cat toy for outdoor use

Batteries: None required – charges via USB | Materials: Plastic | Best for: Fully grown cats

Waterproof
Charges via USB
Size makes it tricky for kittens to play with
Could easily be snatched by dogs when used outside

The Wicked Ball is packed with features that won’t simply keep your cat entertained, but will improve their fitness, too. This hi-tech smart toy has been designed especially for cats to play with when they’re left home alone for short periods of time, but its rugged nature means it’s one of the best outdoor cat toys, too. It’s best described as a tennis ball-sized toy that will roll around the floor, relying on sensors to avoid hard surfaces and giving its movements an unpredictability your cat will love. It will work equally well on carpets, grass or hard flooring.

Automated cat toys: A grey tabby playing with the Moody Pet Fling-Ama-String Cat Toy

(Image credit: Amazon)

Moody Pet Fling-Ama-String Cat Toy

Best automated cat toy for energetic cats

Batteries: Three AA batteries | Materials: Plastic and string | Best for: Young and middle-aged cats

Great price 
Brightly colored design
Can’t be simply placed on the floor
String could be a potential choke hazard for cats who love to chew

Although we’d urge caution when it comes to toys featuring loose lengths of string, this hi-tech teaser is an exception. It’s a battery-powered gadget that can be propped against a wall or hung from hooks and door knobs. The premise is simple but irresistible to cats. Simply turn it on (there are two speed modes), and an internal conveyor belt will start rotating. Attached to this belt is a length of brightly colored, ultra-tough cord that flings through the air as it rotates. When a cat grabs the cord, the conveyor belt stops, only to start again when kitty’s claws release.

Automated cat toys: A happy cat having fun with the Yami Windmill Cat Toy

(Image credit: Amazon)

Yami Windmill Cat Toy

Best automated cat toy for agile cats

Batteries: None required | Materials: Plastic | Best for: Kittens and young cats

Grabs your cat’s attention in multiple ways
Aids grooming
Small size means it’s less suitable for larger cats
Small openings in the pods make it tricky to fill them with treats

Another reminder that batteries aren’t always best, this turquoise cat toy ticks multiple boxes. To start with, it will give your cat a brilliant workout as they bat the spinning pods. Then there’s the central column, topped with soft bumps that are designed to enhance grooming regimes. The plastic balls can be filled with small cat treats or pieces of catnip, making it irresistible to the coolest of cats. We’re also pleasantly surprised by the strength of the suckers, which ensure that it won’t topple over during the most energetic play sessions.

SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy

(Image credit: Amazon)

SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy

Best concealed automated cat toy

Batteries: 3 x AA | Materials: Plastic wand and plush toy | Best for: All ages

Adjustable speed and direction settings
Affordable
Engages a cats natural hunting instincts
Short battery life

Playtime just got more fun with this fascinating toy that replicates the movement of hidden prey. Satisfying your cat’s natural hunting instincts, this toy contains an erratically moving wand hidden under durable fabric with moving lights. 

With adjustable speed that lets you control the fun, choose from complete circles, half-circles, or small movements. The toy takes 3 x AA batteries and gives around an hour of life, making it ideal for brief interactive play sessions. 

Cheap and cheerful, the SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Cat Toy has plenty of fans with one reviewer stating “I don’t often give five stars, but my kitty LOVES this toy. He never seems to get bored with it. Sometimes he attacks it, sometimes he sits and watches it. He has played with it pretty much daily since Christmas and waits rather impatiently every morning for me to turn it on for his morning playtime. Haven’t changed batteries yet, and he isn’t exactly gentle with it so it’s pretty sturdy.”

If you’re looking for an affordable toy that will provide your kitty with plenty of amusement, then this product from SmartyKat is well worth a go.