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Give a kitty the best cat toys and you'll hear banging and clattering long after you've left the room. That's because cats love to play and, if you buy something that mentally stimulates them, they'll continue to get the most out of the toys whenever they decide to have some fun.
Playtime is certainly a key part of a cat's life. It helps them with coordination and physical development and it also taps into their innate desire to stalk, pounce and chase moving objects.
So what should you buy? Pop into any pet shop or look online and you'll be faced with a bewildering choice. You may even be tempted to simply get them a ball of string and have done with it – not a bad option but you can do a lot better. After all, there are toys out there which stimulate the senses, help to keep claws healthy and allow you to bond.
Toys are certainly important if you have an indoor cat. Without them, kitties can miss out on all manner of opportunities to socialize, climb, chase and explore so it's worth buying a variety. Among them should be some of the best interactive cat toys or automated cat toys that your kitty can use independently. These will help when you're not around or if you're otherwise too busy. You should also consider the best catnip toys. Cats go crazy for this common herb and they'll become hyperactive, rolling and rubbing like mad!
Even so, don't be afraid to go hi-tech, even if it's simply buying a laser toy, directing the pointer to the ground and watching as your kitty chases the beam. Just be careful that the laser doesn't shine directly into the cat's eyes – the higher the wattage, the greater potential for danger – and don't overdo it, though. When cats chase, they do like an end-game but with lasers, your kitty won't be able to catch their prey and that is likely to frustrate them.
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PetsRadar's pick of the best cat toys
- Best overall cat toy: PAWZ Road Sisal Rope Scratching Post
- Best budget cat toy: GingerUP Cat Toy Cat Feather Toys
- Best cat toy for kittens: Pawaboo cat tunnel tube collapsible play tent
- Best cat toy for multiple cats: PetSafe FroliCat Dart Duo
- Best cat toy for cats who are home alone: ORSDA Electronic Cat Toy
- Best cat toy for curious cats: Smart Cat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box
- Best cat toy for solo play: Senneny Electric Moving Fish Cat Toy
- Best cat toy for chasing: Vealind GiGwi Automatic Moving Mouse Cat Toy
- Best toy starter pack for cats: Youngever 24 Cat Toys and Assortments
PAWZ Road Sisal Rope Scratching Post
Best overall cat toy
Primary exercise: Scratching and claw health | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
All cats scratch. Scratching is primarily used to sharpen claws, and to shed older claws (just as we cut our nails), but it can also be a way for cats to establish territory and to simply entertain themselves. Sadly, this often means they scratch our couches, footstools, rugs and curtains, and can quickly ruin these furnishings. The way to control this is to buy a scratching post, or even a cat tree, which allows your mog to exercise their claws without taking it out on your fabrics.
We class scratching posts as toys as they are often accompanied by some kind of teaser-toy, they can be laced with catnip, and they will keep your pet entertained for months if you get the right one. You can also get scratching posts as part of cat trees, which are indoor structures that let your pet practice climbing as well as giving them a high vantage-point (which they love) and often a hidey-hole to get some privacy.
The best scratching posts really come down to budget and style, as they achieve the same purpose regardless of which one you get. Simple posts with a toy on top can be bought for around £10-20, whereas elaborate cat trees can run to £100s. They come in all shapes and sizes too, but we find the simple ‘post’ design works best, especially when paired with a simple teaser toy dangling from the top.
GingerUP Cat Toy Cat Feather Toys
Best budget cat toy
Primary exercise: Pouncing and jumping | Average price: Cheap | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
The teaser wand is basically just a small toy on the end of a stick (usually suspended by elastic or a piece of string). Think of them as a fishing rod for cats. You can get one for just a few pounds, and they’re almost always a success with all types of cat.
Kittens especially love them, as they’re perfect for practicing jumping, pouncing, and even biting. If you’re really tight on budget, you could even make a teaser wand yourself with a stick, string, and some kind of makeshift toy – they are that simple.
We recommend looking for a teaser wand with a decent pole, which isn’t going to break, so choose either a wooden or metal pole for sturdiness. Elastic is probably the best attachment for the toy, as it will flick further when your cat grabs it and lets go.
The type of teaser really depends on your personal preference, or what your cat prefers. Ours likes a mouse-shaped attachment, although you can also get ones with colorful feathers or stringy tassels too.
The only downside is that they don’t last long. An active cat will claw through even the most well-made teaser toy in a handful of weeks, so be prepared to either change the attachment regularly or buy new ones every couple of months.
Pawaboo cat tunnel tube collapsible play tent
Best toy for kittens
Primary exercise: Chasing and playing | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
If you have a playful kitten who loves peek-a-boo or hide and seek, this tunnel toy is the perfect pick. The Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube is a simple, 3-way tunnel that will provide a maze of fun for your kitties. With a peep hole at the top to poke their heads out, it also comes with hanging ball bell toys in the middle to keep them entertained.
It has a diameter of 25cm x 35cm so has sufficient space for kittens to move and turn around in, the downside is it might be a tight squeeze for tubby or adult cats. Overall, it is strong and durable and your kitten will be able to spend hours playing, hiding, scratching or even taking a cat nap in it! The material also makes a slight rustling noise when moving around in which adds to the sensory experience.
Designed to be light and portable, the tubes easily pop into place. In addition, they are collapsible and fold back securely after use, making it simple to pack up, carry around the home and store away.
More suitable for kittens and small pets, this Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube is ideal for keeping them occupied and active. The best thing is, it’s simple, hassle-free and doesn’t even need batteries!
Best for multi-cat playtime
Primary exercise: Chasing/Hunting | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
The PetSafe FroliCat Dart Duo Interactive Dual Laser is an automated toy featuring two lasers that rotate and create unpredictable paths for kitties to chase. The patterns are traced over 360 degrees and there are 16 play combinations and four variable speed settings to ensure your cat never knows what’s coming next.
What sets the PetSafe FroliCat Dart Duo Interactive Dual apart from other cat toys in this class is the dual rotating lasers. Most of the best laser toys for cats on the market only have one, but PetSafe’s randomized dual beams are guaranteed to get cats darting and charging around the room in pursuit of them. If you have limited space, don’t worry, there are three distance settings which are easily adjustable for smaller or larger rooms. The dual lasers are also perfect if you have more than one cat as they make group play possible.
If you have an excitable cat or multiple cats in need of constant entertainment the PetSafe FroliCat Dart Duo, Interactive, Dual Laser Cat Toy will make the ideal purchase. It’s only drawback is the lack of a manual timer to set if you need to be away for more than 15 mins.
ORSDA Electronic Cat Toy
Best for home-alone cats
Primary exercise: Pounce, bat and grab | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
With feathers to hunt, balls to bat and flashing lights to attract attention, this three-in-one electronic toy from Orsda is guaranteed to get even the most disinterested moggie up and playing. It's programmable too, so you can set it to come on at set intervals, to ensure your kitty is getting much needed distraction when you aren't there to play with them.
Featuring a ball on a circular track your moggy will spend ages trying to catch and an unpredictable feather playing peekaboo from various apertures, this is one cat toy that's hard to ignore. It does make a noise when in operation, but users have said this acts as a great signal for their cats to come running ready to catch that bothersome feather. And with various modes to choose from, including a random one, variety is guaranteed to keep them interested, and ready to exercise those hunting instincts.
Because of its constant movement in and out the feather lasts longer than on other cat toys, and it comes with replacement feathers to ensure if it is destroyed by your crafty cat, they are easily replaced. One slight issue is that some owners have reported that the feather can get stuck inside – although it's simple enough to fix just by dislodging it with a pencil.
You can set it so the toy comes to life every four hours, perfect for stimulating a cat left on its own during the day. And even when it's off, the ball on the track still works, so it can provide amusement even when unpowered. With users saying that even cats that are usually uninterested by toys are drawn to this one, this is a great toy to keep your moggie amused and stimulated while you are out and about.
Smart Cat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box
Best for curious cats
Primary exercise: Paw fishing and hunting | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
Curious cats have an instinctual desire to hunt. That’s why they love to watch cracks and crevices, especially when they know something is hiding inside! The Smart Cat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box comes with two toys inside, and designed to develop and encourage your cat’s natural, predatory instincts. Simply hide some of their toys inside the box and your cat will have fun fishing them out. Not only will this stimulate them physically but provide mental stimulation in working out how to get to the objects.
You can swap around the toys in the box for more exciting variety, but only smaller toys would work. If you wanted to treat your feline pals, you could always swap the toys for treats, which will be a delicious incentive.
The Smart Cat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box is ideal for when busy owners have to leave the room for a while or need to pop out. The plus side is, it’s easy to use, simple and doesn’t require batteries! It is rather expensive though, but it’s designed to be sturdy and last long. Besides, once your kitty is digging around, this will keep her occupied and amused for hours.
Senneny Electric Moving Fish Cat Toy
Best for solo play
Primary exercise: Pouncing and kicking | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
The flapping fish is a love it / hate it toy for cats. We’ve seen some cats absolutely adore it, whereas others just look a little scared and confused. There are all kinds of varieties, but most flapping fishes are realistic looking plushies, often life-size, that flap around just like a fish out of water. Most are motion or pressure activated too, so they only flap around for a few seconds when pounced on or batted by a cat.
Each one is padded, so your cat can grip it with their paws, and they’re the perfect shape and size for kicking. You’ll be surprised by how actively some of the cats flap when activated, and this can be intimidating for kittens and more shy cats. However, larger and more powerful cats will love the challenge of attacking it.
Make sure you get a rechargeable flapping fish, or you’ll spend a fortune on batteries.
Some come with sachets of catnip inside them, to entice your pet to interact with them for the first time. We can’t guarantee all cats will actually play with these fish, but those that do will have a great time solo-playing.
Vealind GiGwi Automatic Moving Mouse Cat Toy
Best cat toy for chasing
Primary exercise: Chasing and stalking | Average price: Cheap | Kitten-friendly?: Yes
If your cat loves to chase toys, a mechanical or motorized mouse is a great pick. They’re cheap, often coming in packs of two or three, and they’re simple toys to operate.
While the mechanical mice, with winders, will provide limited amounts of play time, the battery-powered mice could provide decent sessions if your cat decides to stalk and chase it.
These toys are usually the size of an average mouse, so they’re perfect for smaller cats. Larger cats may not be challenged by them, and will want to stalk something a little juicier, but they’re ideal for kittens learning to hunt. They’re cheap too, so if you just want to try one out it won’t cost much. Spending a bit more will get you a mouse that squeaks too, which adds extra temptation for your kitty.
The build quality isn’t always the best with motorized mice, but the low cost makes this less of an issue. If you do go for a fully motorized mouse, make sure you go for a rechargeable battery. Obviously, the mechanical ones don’t need any power, so they’re super cheap.
Youngever 24 Cat Toys and Assortments
Best toy starter pack for cats
Primary exercise: Chasing and playing | Average price: : Low | Kitten-friendly?:: Yes
If you look at the other options here and are totally spoiled for choice, then consider taking the plunge with this amazing value-for-money set that not only gives you a wide selection of toys but also throws in a two-way tunnel for good measure. It'll be like Christmas has come at once for your kitty, with the chance of disappointment being very low. There's bound to be a good selection of toys here that your cat will love!
The collapsible tunnel is perhaps the star attraction to some degree. Users report it being a firm favorite among their furkids and it's large enough to provide fun for both cats and kittens. But then you get the heap of staple toys that will surely provide hours of enjoyment, from a cat teaser wand with a fluffy snake on the end (ideal when you're playing and bonding with your cat) to feathered items, crinkle balls and springs.
Colorfully designed, they will both mentally and physically stimulate your cat but you will have to be careful about which ones you leave out when you're not around. The manufacturer advises that you supervise kitties when they're playing because they may eat some of the small parts – one user had an issue with the red foam balls being easily torn apart.
How to choose the best cat toys
When choosing a cat toy you really need to try different things to see what your cat likes. The good thing is that most cat toys are inexpensive, so you don’t lose much if your pet takes little or no interest. If they don’t play with a toy, don’t take this as a sign that your cat isn’t playful – just keep trying different options.
We also fully suggest you persist with cat toys several times after buying them. Some don’t have instant appeal, and many cats are nervous about changes to their environment, so something like a new scratching post may intimidate them to start with. We’ve known cats ignore toys, trees, and beds for months before suddenly loving them.
If your cat stays indoors, play is an essential part of their day, so most vets recommend a minimum of 15-30 minutes of play per day. This is for exercise and bonding, so it’s very important. Try to choose toys that will give your cat a work-out and require personal input from you, so you’re more involved in your cat’s play.
Andy is an online Editor-in-Chief, a photographer, and a cat owner of 25 years. He has owned many types of cat, rescuing some and adopting others from kittens. He currently lives with Pickle, a tortie, who loves to play with Christmas wrapping bows and eat flowers.
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