Cat play time — or more accurately, hunting time — is crucial. If you’ve ever watched or listened to cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy (http://jacksongalaxy.com), you’ll know it’s one of the most important activities for kitkats’ health and well-being.
Cats can be finicky and particular about what they’ll hunt. So it’s good to have a variety of options to mix things up. And unfortunately, it’s often a testing process as to what will strike your munchkin’s fancy. But you don’t need to spend a lot of money. You can re-purpose many household items or even make play things yourself.
I asked my clients what got their furry felines frisky and flying around. Here are some favorites:
1. Cat Dancer.
By far, this is the most popular toy I’ve experienced. The ingenious design of a thin wire with pieces of stiff twisted cardboard at the end really gets cats’ attention. Maybe because their eyes focus on the cardboard ends dancing and leaping as the wire bounces? One person said it seems her cat thinks the end bits act like a moth flitting around in space. For the more creative, this is a toy that can be easily made. Or if you’re at PetCo or shopping on Amazon, I’ve found the Cat Dancer can typically be found for $2.99.
2. Cat Catcher.
I’m not sure why it’s called a Catcher, when it’s the kitkat usually doing the catching not being caught. No matter, this toy for many cats is like chasing a live mouse. I think it has something to do with the mouse material and size. I’ve seen some munchkins get that toy in their mouth and carry it around howling or hissing, proud that they’ve just caught dinner and no one is going to take it away from them. The Cat Catcher is more pricey, running around $9. I’m sure you can make your own variant with a small catnip mouse attached to thin wire or tough twine.
3. Da Bird.
Like the Cat Catcher, this toy seems to resonate with many kitkats. It may have to do with the way the feathers sound and flicker as they move through the air, simulating a bird. The nice thing about this toy is you can buy replacement feathers, which get some good wear and tear, making it less expensive than replacing the whole wand. I’ve seen Da Bird priced around $8.
Some cats get excited by the little red dot as it scurries across the floor. I’ve even seen kitkats jump up the walls to chase that light! After running around with the laser, I’ll typically get a soft toy for the cat to touch and attack, so they feel they’ve hunted something tangible. Or give them some treats to feel rewarded for the chase. Laser toy prices vary considerably, on the low end around $3 and up to $20 for ones that are programmable.
5. The Kickaroo.
Not all cats take to this, but for those that get a little aggressive during play, this is a great way to let off steam. Typically the cat wraps its front paws around one end, cradles the length along its stomach, then kicks away at the other end with the back paws. If you give this one a go, try putting some catnip on it to give the action a jumpstart. Kickaroos run about $4 or $5.
I highly recommend having at least one wand toy that gets your munchkin running. They’ll bat around soft little catnips toys, but as soon as it goes under a couch, coffee table or bed, the fun is done. Try hanging a wand toy from inside a closet door, off a cat perch or sticking out of couch cushions when you’re not using it to get your minx to play while you’re away.
For more ideas, check out this gallery on Mashable: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/cat-tech-toys/
And have fun!