Cats are, by nature, incredibly intelligent creatures, which makes them excellent companion pets. Unfortunately, when smart cats get bored, the results can be disastrous. A bored cat is an unhappy cat, and an unhappy cat is a naughty cat – and naughty cats break, claw, and worry things they know they aren’t supposed to. Especially for very smart indoor cats, it’s vital to ensure that they have a sufficient outlet for their energy and curiosity, to keep them happy and out of trouble. So if you’re keeping your cat indoors (which is a good idea and can significantly extend your kitty’s lifespan), make sure that they have something to keep them entertained all day long with a wide variety of toys tailored to keep them stimulated (and tire them out). The more toys they have, the better, but there are a few basic types of toys you should be sure to have to keep your cat’s attention.
1. Something Tall
Even the most domesticated of cats still have a little something of their jungle-cat ancestry in them, and love to be up high. For jaguars it’s treetops, for cougars it’s mountainsides, and for your cat it should be the highest pet-friendly fixture your home can comfortably accommodate. Jungle gyms like this 55″ Majestic Pet are coated in carpet and twine to make them easy to climb (and double as scratching posts you won’t have to teach them to use!). These should have several different levels, and if possible at least one should be placed so it has a view out a window. Cats love to look outside, especially if they have a view of a bird feeder, and can stay amused for hours watching the activity outdoors. They come as tall as Eighty Inches with lots of comfortable rests, but look for dangly ropes and crawlable tunnels and hidey holes to make the space extra inviting for your feline.
2. Something Self Sustaining
A single cat with working owners is a recipe for despondence and naughtiness – when cats have all day to themselves without much to do, they get, at best, bored, and at worst lonely and depressed, and are much more likely to be overactive or clingy while you’re trying to sleep. To combat this, make sure your cat has at least a few toys that don’t require your intervention to be interesting. This Pure Commotion Cat Toy has a battery operated base that can be set to spin and flip a feather birdie around at various speeds for up to two hours while you’re gone, which means your cat won’t even have to bat it to get it started, like some other models (though the cat-activated spring toys can be more fun long-term). As a bonus, the wand detaches, so when you come home, you can spend a little quality time with your cat and tease him yourself.
3. Something For Their Predatory Instincts
Feathers, fur, rattles, squeaks, shrieks, and tails all activate a cat’s predatory instincts, which is what their play is meant to hone. So look for a wide variety of smaller toys with prominent feathers, rattles, squeaks, or anything that squirms or rumbles, like this Jittery Mouse. Also, if your cat responds to catnip, don’t be afraid to give it to them – even little Catnip Mice can put your cat in a positive, playful mood. My cat’s personal favorite, though? This Screening Mouse, which makes shrill (but not human-irritating) squeaks and shrieks with every bat, bounce, or toss – next best to the real thing for your kitty.
4. Something With An Obstacle
Cats, especially smart cats, love a challenge, and will even seek out obstacles to make their play a little more difficult. I once had a kitten that would get unreasonably tangled in chair and table legs just for the sport of it. So getting your cat a closed-circuit toy is sure to keep them challenged and active. Simpler Cat Circles spin a plastic ball around in circles faster and faster the more your cat bats at them through small openings in the side, mimicking the feeling of grabbing at something small and quick. Larger ones like these Kitty Fast Tracks can be configured into different shapes or linked with additional sets to keep your cat poking, pawing, and chasing the ball across the length of the toy for hours. Any jingly toy inside a mesh ball, like this Tumble Bug Ball also works great for this, as your cat will have to work to poke a paw into the complicated ball in order to get at the toy inside.
5. Something That Moves
This one is related to your cat’s predatory instincts – the faster and more prey-like a toy moves, the more exciting it’ll be for your feline. Fuzzy, furry, Pull Back Toys that you can race across the floor are great for this (matchbox cars work, too, but these are a little more fun), and battery powered Roller Balls with attached feathers that wriggle and dance around are sure to attract your cat’s attention. As well, this Motion Activated Ball, though it doesn’t move on it’s own, gives an amazing impression of motion, with a reflective surface that casts sparkling lights, as well as a rainbow of flashing LEDs that light up every time the ball gets moved – which is sure to keep your kitty batting it all over the floor.
6. Something Fun For Both Of You
More than just about anything, it’s important that you take time to play with your cat. The interaction will help you bond and make your cat feel loved and content – and can do wonders for you, too! So have a few toys that you’ll both enjoy – whether that means a Laser Pointer if you get your kicks watching your cat run around like a maniac, or a small Remote Controlled Mouse to maneuver him all the way around your house. And I’ve never met a cat that didn’t go wild for a Cat Dancer – whether you opt for something Dangly, Fuzzy, or just a really long cloth ribbon. The built in feathers on that fuzzy one probably won’t last long, but that doesn’t lessen the appeal of the toy.
No matter what kinds of toys you get your cats, or how many, there really is no substitute for one on one interaction. For cats, play time is also bonding time, and is always more satisfying when they can do it with you, even if it’s just your cat, your toes, and a milk ring, no fancy cat toys needed. Spending good, quality face time with your cat is not only the best way to keep them entertained and exercised, but also the best way to keep you close – and can even make your cat a little more cuddly! If you have a really smart cat, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks to keeping them amused.