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Best cat toys: Keep your feline friend occupied with these great toys

Best cat toys
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best cat toys for your kitty will vary depending on your pet’s personality. Frustratingly, your cat’s mood will often change too, so a cat toy that works one week will be totally ignored the next, so when you’re considering the best cat toy for your needs, you may have to get a variety to see what sticks. Having a handful of toys is definitely better as it allows you to rotate your play regularly, to keep your pet entertained more effectively.

Choosing the best cat toy is fairly simple, although the wealth of choice can be intimidating. Typing ‘cat toy’ into a retailer like Amazon or Chewy will bring up thousands of items, all seemingly very similar, so knowing what features to look for is the key. When buying a laser pen, for example, you want something that is rechargeable, so you don’t spend a fortune on batteries. Similarly, if you’re getting a teaser wand, we recommend something with interchangeable heads, as most cats will chew through the toy part of it within a few weeks. We have a number of guides that can help in the decision, along with this one, that include the best interactive toys, the best laser toys and the best catnip toys too.

Why get any of the best cat toys at all? Especially if you have an outdoor cat? Well, play is still important for your cat, even if they prefer to range and hunt out of the house. Play enhances the bond between you and your pet, and when the weather turns bad, most cats won’t get much activity outside. So you always need something to keep them entertained, even if it’s just a scratching post with a few dangling items that your kitty can swipe at in the night.

1. Scratching post: Best cat toy overall

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

PAWZ Road Sisal Rope Scratching Post

A scratching post is the best cat toy you can buy, and it’ll save your home from claw-rips

Primary exercise: Scratching and claw health | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Universally loved
Cats will use independently
Saves your couch
Cats can ignore scratching posts

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.

2. Laser pointer: Best cat toy for play

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Getty Images)

DIWUJI LED Pointer

A perfect cat toy for playing with your pet, and it’s often nice and cheap too

Primary exercise: Pouncing and jumping | Average price: Cheap | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Relatively cheap
Good bonding experience
Lasts months
Lots of poorly-made versions
Batteries get expensive

Cats love a laser pointer. There’s something about a red dot flickering around a floor or wall that drives most mogs crazy. We’ve yet to find a cat that didn’t respond in some way, but we have tested a whole bunch of poorly-made laser pointers that broke after a handful of uses. This is perhaps the biggest drawback of the laser pen – finding a reputable one, among a sea of cheaply-made products, is tough.

After testing a handful from several leading retailers, we discovered the best laser pointer via Amazon. When choosing it, we knew it needed to have certain features: it had to be USB rechargeable, or we’d spend a small fortune in batteries. 

Rechargeable laser pens are a little more expensive, but they will save you so much more money in the long run, as they don’t need batteries. Get a reliable one, like the pointer we recommend, and you will get months of entertainment for your cat for around £10.

We also appreciate a pointer with adjustable displays, so you can turn the simple laser dot into another shape like a mouse, a bird, or a butterfly. A wrist-strap is handy too, in case you throw the toy at your cat or into your TV when you’re flicking the laser dot around. 

Most vital of all, however, is if you’re getting a random pointer from an online store is to check the user reviews, as they will tell you about the consistency of the build quality, which is incredibly important.

3. Cat peek and play box: Best for curious cats

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

Smart Cat Peek and Play Toy Box

If your cat loves to poke their paws into places, this toy is perfect.

Primary exercise: Paw fishing | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Encourages curiosity
Often sturdy
Some cats won’t be interested
Not much variety in play

If your cat is curious and active, consider getting them a ‘Peek and Play’ box, or something similar. This is the general term for a box with holes in that cats can climb onto and ‘fish’ things out of. It plays to the curious nature of some cats, and will not only entertain your pet but also reward them, if they can fish the item out of the box.

The choice with peek and play boxes comes from the configuration of each box, and the items that your cat can pull out of them. While most come with simple balls, some have teaser-toys included, and a handful can even be used to reward your cat with treats if they figure out how to remove them from the box.

Peek and Play toys are often a little larger than other cat toys, and can be slightly more expensive than the likes of laser pointers and realistic fish, but you can often find ones with nice wooden designs that won’t look out of place in a well-furnished living room.

4. Teaser wand: Best budget cat toy

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

GingerUP Cat Toy Cat Feather Toys

Want to save money and keep your kitty busy? This is the toy for you.

Primary exercise: Pouncing and jumping | Average price: Cheap | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Inexpensive
Good play between you and cat
They don’t last long
You may get scratched

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.

5. Flapping fish: Best for solo play

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

Senneny Electric Moving Fish Cat Toy

A realistic fish that flaps when touched? It’s good fun, if your cat likes it

Primary exercise: Pouncing and kicking | Average price: Medium | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Great exercise
Fun to watch
Some cats won’t touch them
Build quality is inconsistent

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.

6. Motorized mouse: Good fun for chasing

Best Cat Toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

Vealind GiGwi Automatic Moving Mouse Cat Toy

If you want to simulate classic cat and mouse chases, this will do the trick

Primary exercise: Chasing and stalking | Average price: Cheap | Kitten-friendly?: Yes

Cheap toys
Fun to use
Won’t entertain for as long
Some cats will ignore them

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.

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.