Toy mouse

Young cats are still kittens at heart, and will enjoy playing with you and with toys. Not only does such play provide good mental and physical exercise and stimulation, but it also helps cement bonding between you and your cat. Cat toys can be simple or complex, store-bought or homemade — but all must be safe.

Some cat toys you just have to buy from the store. Remote-controlled battery mice, for example, may be great fun for both of you. But be careful that you don't leave any devices with batteries in them where your cat could possibly get the batteries out. Laser light toys are also good fun for some cats to chase, although other cats just ignore them. Be sure not to shine the light into anyone's eyes. Stores offer a huge assortment of toys calculated to make your cat go wild, including plush toys, feather toys, catnip toys and fishing toys.

Toys You Can Make at Home

But some cat toys don't need to be bought at the store. These include:

  • Paper bags: Just open one or more up and you have an instant cave and hiding place. Be sure the bag isn't where somebody could step on it, though.
  • Cardboard boxes: Cut various openings into the sides, and set some upside down and others right side up.
  • Fleece pulls: Thick soft pulls, such as the belt from a bathrobe, give cats something to chase and hold onto once they've caught it — and they're too big to be swallowed easily.
  • Fishing pole-type toys: You can buy a fancy fishing pole toy made for cats, or you can make your own out of a stick, a rope and a toy on the end. Better than a stick, use something with some flexibility, like a short horse-lunging whip. Place these toys out of reach when you can't supervise.
  • Climbing toys: Every cat should have a cat tree. You can buy one  — which is actually usually your best choice — or you can make one out of cat scratch posts and ledges. Make sure it can't topple over or come apart.

Common Toys That Can Be Dangerous

Beware: Many items that people think of as traditional cat toys are also some of the most dangerous. String, ribbon, yarn and rubber bands are fun to play with, but potentially deadly if swallowed. And they are very easily swallowed because cats have tongues covered with rearward-facing barbs that make it hard for them to spit out string, yarn and similar things. Such long objects, if ingested, tend to travel lengthwise along the intestines.They can cause the intestines to scrunch up accordion-style, even turning in on itself just like a sock. This is a life-threatening medical condition that usually requires surgery to correct. You can play with such toys with your cat, but always put them away in a safe place that your cat can't reach once playtime is over.

Also be careful about toys you give your cat that might have strings, yarn, ribbons, feathers or plastic eyes or ornaments on them. Many furry mice on the market have plastic eyes and noses glued on them. The cat could chew these off and swallow them. If you buy these, pull the eyes and nose off before giving the toy to your cat.

Balls and toys should not be small enough to be inhaled or swallowed. Ping pong or practice golf balls (the ones with holes in them) are a good size and weight for cats. Place the balls in a captive area, such as in a bathtub, for maximum fun. Or put one in an empty tissue box so your cat can fish for it.

Catnip toys appeal to many cats to various extents, whereas others get no kick at all from them. About half of all cats are affected by catnip, and young kittens frequently aren't able to enjoy its effects.