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Best toys for indoor cats: Five options to keep your furry friend active

Toys for indoor cats
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A bored cat is an unhappy cat. Having any of the best toys for indoor cats will help keep your cat busy, happy, and the bond between you and your pet strong. Indoor cat toys don’t cost much at all, and many retail for less than double-figures, but they are an important part of owning a pet. As your cat isn’t going outdoors it will need a way to burn off energy, to practice hunting, and to socialize - all of which will be achieved through play.

The best toys for indoor cats fall into different categories: there are teaser toys, balls and chasers, climbing apparatus, and various exploration devices too. Your cat will likely have a preference for one or the other - many will go for a teaser wand, and this is as close to a guaranteed entertainer as you’re likely to get with cats - but others will prefer some kind of scratching toy, or even an exploration-style maze that they can pop their paws into and fish around in.

Play between you and your cat is vital for maintaining a strong bond, so we recommend choosing toys that require some kind of interaction from you. Yes, you can get automatic laser cat toys but we would absolutely suggest you get a simple laser pen and play with the cat yourself. And if your cat doesn’t respond to the toy you get? Don’t give up, and keep trying for a few weeks. If they still don’t get it, simply keep the toy (cats tend to go through phases with toys) and buy something else that stimulates your indoor cat in a different way, we have even more suggestions in our guide to the best cat toys overall.

Best indoor cat toys

(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Laser pointer: Best overall toy for indoor cats

We’ve yet to meet a cat that can resist a laser pointer

Price range: Medium | Batteries needed?: Yes | Safe for family homes?: Yes

Good value
Lasts years
Works for most cats
Some inconsistency in quality

These are probably the best value cat accessories, especially for indoor cats, as they are virtually guaranteed to get your kitty playing. They aid with hunting and pouncing, and can get your cat running around the whole of your indoor space. 

You’ll spend a little more on a laser pointer than some other cat toys (around $12/£10), but what you get is a toy that’s durable, reusable, and can provide months (or even years) of exercise for your cat.

When choosing a laser pointer for your cat, you’ll find that there are all kinds of makers that sell them. So, while we recommend the one here from Reactionnx, here are the elements of a laser pointer you need to watch out for. 

Absolutely get one that recharges, preferably via a USB connection. You don’t want to be constantly buying batteries for a cat toy, so spending a little more upfront can save you big money later down the line. We also recommend getting a pointer with several different laser filters – the one we use has a laser dot, a mouse-shape, a buttery, and a star – which will add to the variety when you play. 

Most laser pointers include a wrist strap too, which is handy, but not essential. One thing we find is that our cat also likes to play with the wrist strap itself, which can lead to scratching, but it’s a nice way to extend the value of the toy.

Best indoor cat toys

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. GingerUP Retractable Cat Teaser Wand: Best budget cat toy

Cheap, cheerful and hours of fun for your cat

Price range: Low | Batteries needed?: No | Safe for family homes?: Yes

Cats love them
Kids can use them as well
Often break

It's tough to beat the price of teaser toys, and they’re a safe bet among all cat types. You can usually get a teaser for less than $5/£4, and it’ll entertain an indoor cat for weeks. For the uninitiated, a teaser is usually just a wooden or plastic pole with a piece of elastic attached, and various fluffy toys tied to the end. A bit like a cat fishing rod. They’re great for encouraging jumping and hunting play, and because you’re close to your cat when using a teaser, they form a more intimate bond than with a laser pointer.

When looking for the right teaser toy for your cat, we’d recommend a handful of factors. Get one with a longer, more sturdy pole. You don’t want it to break when your cat starts to grab and kick at the toy, and equally, you don’t want a short pole as this means the cat may well jump for your hand instead of the toy. 

Most teasers come with a bird or mouse attachment at the end, and we find that anything feathery and bird-like gets more use… but every cat is different. There are advantages and disadvantages to getting a teaser with a detachable head – you do get variety, and can reuse the same pole, but these types also tend to be less sturdy, so there’s a greater risk of the toy breaking altogether. The one we’ve included has a spare toy, for when the original one is no longer appealing to your cat.

Best indoor cat toys

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Easyme Catnip Fish Toy for Cats: Best workout for indoor cats

This flappy fish friend is great fun for feline wrestlers

Price range: Medium | Batteries needed?: Yes | Safe for family homes?: Yes

Good exercise for cats
Comes with catnip
Often rechargeable
Not all cats are interested
Not suitable for kittens

It may seem like a strange concept, but cats do seem to enjoy grappling with life-sized fish toys. This one will help indoor cats with their pouncing and they're grappling and kicking. 

You can buy toy fish in all sizes, but make sure you get one that actually moves, as it adds another level of entertainment to the toy. Most will wriggle and flap about, and they’re pressure activated, so will start to move when your cat begins to paw at them. It’s actually funny seeing a cat react to a fish toy for the first time, as they’ll jump high in the air.

When you’re considering a fish toy you’ll find they’re made by all kinds of different manufacturers, so what you’re looking for here is a number of good user reviews, and specific features that make some toys better than others. The one we’ve included below has all the stuff you need in a fish toy – it has a bunch of positive user reviews (and we actually tested this model ourselves), it’s rechargeable and not battery powered, and it comes with catnip included, to encourage your kitty to take an interest in it. 

What you’ll likely find is that the flapping action is quite powerful, so these toys are less suitable for small kittens who haven’t developed fully (suggest you only get one of these for cats 12 weeks or older).

Best indoor cat toys

(Image credit: Trixie Rolanda)

4. Trixie Pet Products Rolanda Cat Tree: Best for exploration

Make sure your indoor moggy has something to climb

Price range: High | Batteries needed?: No | Safe for family homes?: Yes

Cats always enjoy them
Gives your feline some privacy
Allows them to scratch
Can be ugly

All cats love to explore, climb, and squeeze through narrow spaces – it’s in their nature. Normally, they’d do this in the great outdoors, but if you can’t or don’t want to let your cat outside, they will need a space to explore indoors. A cat tree can achieve this, and offer a handful of other benefits too. 

The size and shape you get really depends on your space, and we’ve chosen this one from Bed Bath and Beyond because it has all the zones you might need, and it doesn’t look too bad either. Cat trees take up a lot of space, so you want to try and find one in keeping with the rest of your furniture.

Make sure you get a cat tree with a scratching area, and a privacy area. These are things cats love, and could save the rest of your furniture, if your cat has somewhere to sharpen their claws and shed older claws as needed. 

The other advantage to a cat tree is that cats like height, so somewhere they can sit and watch their environment from an elevated position is something they’ll love. You can often get cat trees that are modular, so you can extend or move them as you need. Ideal for smaller apartments and houses.

Best indoor cat toys

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Kokuji Smart Interactive Ball Cat Toy: An inexpensive option

Provides stalking-and-pouncing play

Price range: Low | Batteries needed?: Yes | Safe for family homes?: Low

Low effort
Won't occupy cats for months
Can break easily

One super cheap option is a cat ball (or even a regular rubber ball). Cats love to chase things they can bat with their paws, so anything that rolls is good. But what makes a cat ball different to a regular one? Well, it comes down to several factors. Cats like different textures, so we recommend getting balls in rough, hemp-like materials, which they can get their claws into.

Another option is getting a ball that’s motorized. These battery powered cat balls will move randomly on their own, creating a target for cats to stalk and pounce at. This is particularly good for their hunting skills, as it teaches them to track moving objects. Again, we recommend getting balls that are rechargeable, so you don’t spend a fortune on replacement batteries. 

You should make sure you don’t get them in cheap plastic, as these can injure your cat if they break and get into your cat’s teeth or paw pads.

How to find the best toys for indoor cats

Cat toys are relatively inexpensive, so the best way to find them is to just try things out and see what works for your cat and its temperament. While we’d recommend a bit of research before investing in a cat tree (the most expensive item on our list) the rest can just be trialled for a few pounds or dollars. 

Be lead by how your cat behaves. If they enjoy running around your home, something like a cat ball or a laser pointer are best, as they encourage your cat to sprint and pounce. If they prefer to claw, scratch, and kick, then give the fish and the teaser a go, as these will develop those kinds of activities and skills. 

You should also think about how much you want to be involved in play. Most veterinarians recommend you play with your cat for 15-30 minutes per day, and with indoor cats you should look at doing this for twice as long, as they don’t get the added stimulation and exercise that comes from exploring outdoor spaces. 

If you don’t exercise your cat daily, this can lead to disinterest and obesity, which can have a detrimental effect on your cat’s physical and mental health. A healthy cat is happier and more affectionate.

We suggest playing with cats yourself as much as possible. As tempting as it is to leave toys lying around the home for them to interact with, cats form better bonds with their owners through play. Plus, they lose interest in items that they see frequently, so tidying them away, rotating toys, and playing with your cat directly will always be more exciting and rewarding for them than just leaving them to their own devices.