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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 one of the best automated cat toys, a feather toy.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Too tired to play? Have a ton of work that needs to get done? Well never fear because the best automated cat toys will keep your kitty company when you don’t have the time to play, giving them the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive.

While the pet parents of a canine companion generally have plenty of the best dog toys lying around, as the owners of feline furkids we can sometimes forget that these independent little creatures need to play just as much as their doggy friends do.

Automated or interactive cat toys are the perfect way to tap into your kitty’s natural hunting instincts, allowing them to stalk, crouch, and pounce on their ‘prey’. Designed to be both enthralling and challenging, these toys provide a great mind-body workout.

While the best cat toys tend to be made with safe, durable, and high-quality materials, it always pays to do a few precautionary checks before you let your kitty play with it. Make sure there are no small parts that can easily come loose or be swallowed, and choose toys that are appropriate for your cat’s age and stage.

Young cats typically enjoy toys that are unpredictable and fast-moving, while older cats may prefer something a bit slower but still engaging. While some pet parents worry about using automated toys with lasers, rest assured that these are perfectly safe and most include a power-down function that turns the toy off after 15 minutes of play.

If there are days when you’re out and about a lot or simply don’t have time to play with your kitty as much as you’d like, the best automated cat toys can be a real lifesaver. Here are a few of our top picks stocking the shelves in 2021...

PetsRadar's pick of the best automated cat toys

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

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
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

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.

Migipaws interactive cat toy

(Image credit: Amazon)

Migipaws interactive cat toy

Best rechargeable automated cat toy

Batteries: Rechargeable | Materials: Plastic and feathers | Best for: All ages

Built-in rechargeable batteries
Infrared pproach sensor and auto-off
Great for multi-cat households
Short 5-minute program

Cat toys don’t come much more fun than this smart interactive box from Migipaws with automatic moving feathers that will unpredictable movements that will delight and entertain your kitty for hours.

The box features seven holes spread across the top and sides and contains three durable multi-colored feathers that pop out at random, stirring your cat’s hunting instincts and allowing them to pounce and play for up to five minutes at a time.

We love the infrared sensor which detects when your kitty is within 5-10 inches and switches the box on, and the built-in rechargeable battery means you’ll never be caught short. 

Pet parents are raving about this fun toy with one reviewer writing: “I've recently brought an almost 100% outdoor cat indoors, so I'm trying extra hard to keep him entertained. I tried another electronic toy, but it only went in circles, and he lost interest very quickly. This thing's randomized movements kept him entertained for a solid 40 minutes upon introduction!”

A great choice for single or multi-cat households, this durable cat toy will provide your furkid with all the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive. All the materials are safe and cat-friendly and there are three replacement feathers included ensuring this cool cat box goes the distance. 

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
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. 

Tamara Hinson

Tamara Hinson is a freelance writer who grew up with huskies but unfortunately now has a husband who is allergic to dogs. Luckily she has a neighbour who lets her dog-sit her Maltese terrier and a nearby greyhound rescue centre where she can walk the residents.