The best kitten toys are inexpensive and widely available but, much like the best kitten food they can make a huge difference to how your little cat grows up. Play is incredibly important in kittens, more so than in fully grown cats, because they’re exploring and testing the world around them through interaction. Making sure your kitten has the right toys gives them a far better chance at being well socially adjusted, satisfied, and as free from anxiety as possible. What’s more, you’ll bond far better with your juvenile cat if you actually play with them every day. If you do find yourself in need of toys for adult cats as they get older, you'll find a great selection in our guide to the best cat toys.
What are the best kitten toys for you? Essentially, this depends on the personality of your kitten, but there are several different types you can try, which tend to entertain cats more often than not. Anything with a tease or dangling element will help your young cat develop their jumping and pouncing, while anything with a rough surface or climbable frame will develop their scratching and exploration. How do kitten toys differ from regular cat toys? Well, in many ways they don’t - what’s good for a young cat is often good for an older one. What we’d prioritize with kitten toys, however, is anything that gets your cat moving and learning skills, rather than anything that they can play with from a stationary position.
We’d also recommend finding toys that won’t scare or overwhelm your kitten - something like a flapping fish, which many adult cats love, will be too large and physical for a kitten. In our experience, teasers, lasers, and other toys that make your cat move and sprint around are perfect.
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1. Cat teaser wand: Best overall kitten toy
The teaser wand is a classic design, and is inexpensive too
Average price: $5-15 | Helps to develop: Pouncing, kicking, jumping | Suitable for: 8 weeks+
The classic cat teaser wand is as close to a ‘guaranteed toy’ as you can get with cats. While there’s no such thing as a universally loved toy, the teaser wand has entertained every single cat we’ve known. It’s perfect for kittens too, because you get to control how high they jump, how rough they get with their play, and how fast they run and pounce.
Most teaser wands come with a tempting toy at the end of a piece of elastic, which encourages your kitten to chase, jump, and generally attack. Make sure you do get one with an elastic string, which flexes when your kitten sinks in their claws - not only is it more fun for your kitty if the teaser keeps stretching when they play with it, but it’s safer if they get wrapped up in it too.
Many teasers come with spare attachments, either for variety, or to replace when your cat destroys or loses the first one. While this is useful to have, we don’t think you lose much by having one with a single attachment, as it’s often the wand or elastic that breaks before the toy itself. And, given how inexpensive the average teaser toy is… you can just buy a new one very easily.
2. Laser pointer: Best value kitten toy
Get a good laser pointer toy, and you’ve got months of entertainment for very little cost
Average price: $10-20 | Helps to develop: Pouncing, running, jumping | Suitable for: 12 weeks+
The laser pointer is a great toy for cats of all ages, and kittens especially love playing with them. While adult cats may eventually get wise to chasing a laser dot around your living room, kittens love to explore and chase it, and you can have hours of fun making them sprint around the room, or watching them learn to pounce.
When you’re looking for a laser toy, you can go cheap and cheerful by just getting one that projects a laser dot onto whatever surface you point it at. Simple. You’ll probably only pay about $10 here. However, we find that cheaper laser pointers have weaker beams, are more prone to breaking, and will often chew through batteries alarmingly quickly. We recommend you spend a little more on a laser pointer that offers a few different filters for the beam, and that is rechargeable, saving you a fortune on batteries. Pick a laser pointer with either a keychain or a wrist-strap too - you don’t want to lose control of it when you’re playing with your kitten.
While we think lasers are great for young cats, we wouldn’t recommend them for kittens under 12 weeks. Play with a pointer can see your kitten crashing into objects and walls, as they lack the control to stop themselves when chasing the dot. You don’t want younger kittens to hurt themselves playing like this.
3. Scratching tree: Best kitten toy for all-round development
A scratching post or tree is perfect for climbing and general kitten development
Average price: $15-150 | Helps to develop: Climbing, balance, jumping | Suitable for: 12 weeks+
You’ll need to give your kitten some kind of outlet for climbing and scratching. That’s a fact. If you’re ok with them scratching your sofa and carpet to ribbons… that’s cool. If not, you should get them a scratching post or, even better, a full-on cat tree. Kittens won’t always take to regular scratching posts, and may just choose to ignore it and eviscerate your couch instead. However, they will need something to not only keep their claws sharp and remove old nails, but also to keep them amused too.
The best scratching posts come with some kind of toy attached to entice your kitten to use it. Often teasers and dangling balls will be enough to get them interested. However, sometimes even that won’t work, which is when you definitely need a cat tree.
A cat tree is a scratching post, platform, and series of modules designed to be a ‘full home’ for your kitten. They’ll climb it, scratch it, hide in it, and probably sleep in and on it too. Cats love these trees, as they enjoy (and feel safe) being at height. The only downsides are that cat trees are a) fairly expensive, and b) fairly large, and can take up a lot of space in your living room. We highly recommend a cat tree, as it’ll stay with you for years and actually work out as good value in the end.
4. Motorized mouse: Best self-playing kitten toy
Motorized or wind-up mice are perfect for kittens to safely chase
Average price: $10-20 | Helps to develop: Pouncing, Chasing | Suitable for: 8 weeks+
A motorized or wind-up mouse will - if your kitten likes it - keep them occupied for decent periods of time. The problem is, they can be very hit and miss. We’ve known some young cats to really love watching and chasing a motorized mouse (or equivalent animal) toy, whereas others have zero interest at all. It’s a risk, but a low cost one.
The advantage of a battery-operated mouse (which we’d recommend over a clockwork toy) is that it keeps going indefinitely, and you don’t necessarily have to give your kitten your full attention for this kind of play. While we’d always recommend partitioning time to play with your cat every day, we do understand that waving a laser pointer for 10 fruitless minutes, while your cat simply stalks and never pounces, isn’t that fulfilling.
Wind-up mice can work, especially if you want to get involved as much as possible, but they’re less enticing for your cat. A toy that requires constant winding can only provide so much amusement, especially if your kitten is in the middle of a good stalking session.
5. Teaser ball: A great toy combo for kittens
A simple ball is good. One that moves itself is even better…
Average price: $10-20 | Helps to develop: Pouncing, Chasing | Suitable for: 8 weeks+
Animals, generally, tend to love spherical toys. If it’s shaped like a ball, and can’t be picked up by a creature with paws, it can provide endless entertainment. You could simply buy a bag of bouncy or plastic balls for a few dollars, and these will entertain any kitten for ages, but we recommend picking something with an additional teaser element.
Some cat balls come with a feather or jingling tail attached, so add a multi-sensory experience to play and entice kittens a little easier. You can also get battery operated balls that will move randomly when activated, making them unpredictable for when your kitty is chasing. This, again, adds an additional element to play and is more likely to keep your cat busy.
We like cat balls because they’re simple, they can be chased around by cats of all ages (safely), and they’re very resilient and will often last months and even years. The downside is that cats are fickle, and can be even more fickle when it comes to something so simple, but as the cost of admission is low… it’s well worth a go.
6. Milk Treats: Best treat for your kitten
Not a toy, but an essential kitten accessory they’re guaranteed to love
Average price: $5-8 per packet | Helps to develop: Bones, teeth, claws | Suitable for: 8 weeks+
Ok, this last one isn’t actually a toy, but we see it as an essential accessory for any kitten owner. Milk treats are basically small biscuits for your cat, with cat milk-infused centers, which help to give your kitten the calcium they need to develop strong bones and teeth. They allow you to give your cat milk without giving them actual milk, which they struggle to digest. Not only do they benefit development, they can also be used to reinforce behavior and supplement play.
They come in many different forms, from various manufacturers, but they all do roughly the same thing. We default to the Whiskers treats, as they seem to be the ones most enjoyed by our kitten. Whenever kittens become overwhelmed by life, or have difficult days at the vet getting inoculations or neutering operations, a milk treat or two can reaffirm their bond with you and get them remotivated.
It’s important to note that you should never exceed the recommended number of treats per day, and should always give them sparingly. You can substitute them for regular treats, but they may not confer the calcium benefit. And it’s worth noting that they’re mainly suitable for kittens and young, still-developing cats.
How to choose the best kitten toy for you
When researching kitten toys we put the needs of a developing kitten at the center of all our decisions. In other words, we looked at the various skills and behaviors kittens need to practice in order to become healthy, happy cats. So, we tried to choose a variety of toys that help with all aspects of a kitten’s physical development.
These toys all involve some kind of interaction or effort from you, the owner, which will help to improve the bond between you and your kitten. This is especially important for younger cats, as they need to feel like they’re in a safe environment away from their mother and siblings.
Kittens also get very tired playing, so most of the toys on this list can be used in short bursts, allowing you to interact with your young cat for smaller periods of time, before letting them rest. It’s important to let your kitten have time-outs between play sessions and explorations, as they can easily get overwhelmed and become hyperactive.
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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