8 of the Best Interactive Cat Toys for Mental Stimulation
Your cat’s mental stimulation is a vital part of their overall health, and daily play and engagement can even support a long lifespan for your furry friend. Your feline’s need for play and stimulation doesn’t change – it’s a consistent daily need that you might not always have time for. That’s why interactive cat toys are an indispensable part of your pet’s lifestyle.
Even if you have time to play every day, electronic and interactive cat toys can stimulate your cat in a different way and provide variety in their day. Here are the reasons you should buy an interactive cat toy and our choices for the best toys to use when you’re away from home, as well as the best toys for small and large cats.
Why Your Cat Needs Interactive Toys
Getting an interactive cat toy is beneficial for both you and your kitty companion in many ways:
- They help you bond with your cat
- They keep your cat mentally stimulated throughout the day
- They promote physical health and hygiene for cats
Toys Support Bonding and Socialization
One of the best things about interactive cat toys is that your cat can play with them when you’re busy or away. But they can also support the bond between you and your animal when you and your cat engage with the toy at the same time.
Bonds are built over playtime, and kittens are socialized by playing with humans. This is a vital part of your cat’s lifestyle. Despite their perceived aloofness, cats are inherently social creatures and they need attention. One of the best ways to give that attention to them is by playing with a toy together. This kind of play and engagement has also been shown to reduce aggressive behaviors like biting and scratching later in life.
Mental Stimulation and Play Are Crucial to Cat Wellness
Your cat’s overall health is directly related to how much play and engagement they get on a daily basis. The Anti-Cruelty Society reports that adult cats need a half hour of play each day and kittens need between 45 and 60 minutes. Kittens will typically play in smaller increments, while your adult cat can handle a full half hour of play.
By incorporating an interactive cat toy into your pet’s environment, you ensure that this daily need is being met even when you are away or busy. While you should always try to make time to play with your cat, you don’t want them to suffer if your schedule doesn’t allow for it. By creating a stimulating environment for them with plenty of electronic toys that can simulate human interaction, you can keep your pet’s brain healthy and happy.
Toys Can Promote Physical Health and Grooming
Movement and exercise are almost always a part of play with your cat, and these components are crucial to ensuring your cat doesn’t become overweight and maintains a healthy activity level. Your cat needs exercise – they need to get their heart rate up and stretch their legs while running and jumping. Playing with toys is an excellent way to achieve this.
Furthermore, many interactive cat toys will help your feline with hygiene and grooming. Toys that initiate scratching can keep your cat’s nails healthy, and toys that inspire your cat to chew can support their dental health.
The Best Interactive Cat Toys for When You’re Away
Some interactive cat toys are best suited for when you’re going to be away from home for a while. These toys are characterized by your cat’s ability to play with them independently for long periods of time. Alternatively, some cat toys will allow you to engage remotely and stimulate your cat while you’re waiting in line at the DMV or the airport!
Interactive Cat Laser
Laser play tends to be a feline favorite – even if it can be frustrating for your cat to never “catch” anything!. But, for a brief time, interactive lasers can be a wonderful way to stimulate your cat while they’re alone.
Many electronic cat laser toys will have multiple speed settings, so you can adapt to your cat’s needs or change it up for variety. They also often have an automatic shut-off timer so your cat doesn’t get tired or overstimulated and stressed out.
Robotic Feather Chaser
Most of playtime with cats is intended to simulate the predator-and-prey relationship. The toy is the prey, and your cat can let their hunting instincts come to the surface. Few toys are better for imitating this natural behavior than a small, feathery item that your cat can chase.
A robotic feather chaser is a little like a remote-controlled car without the remote control. Sensors allow the little car to detect your cat’s movement so the toy is truly interactive, responding to where your cat runs and how they chase the moving object. A feathery toy at the end of a wire dances and jumps around, stimulating your cat’s predatory instincts to hunt birds and small animals.
Many robotic feather chaser toys will have multiple speed settings for different kinds of cats. Some also come with different types of feathery attachments so you can change them out and keep your cat engaged. You can also program some of them to rotate through a series of options, playing for 20 minutes and then restarting an hour or two later for a day full of fun, even when you’re away.
Fling-AMA-String Cat Toy
Another excellent cat toy for when you’re away from home is the Fling-AMA-String by Moody Pet. If your cat loves string and yarn play while you’re home, this interactive cat toy will keep them engaged for hours while you’re gone.
The toy is simple and appropriate for all ages and sizes of cat. It hangs on any standard doorknob, and a strong cord attached to a conveyor belt flings about at randomized intervals and directions until your cat catches it. The string stops when they’ve made contact, but the second they let go it starts moving again. This truly simulates play with a human being and is, therefore, an excellent interactive cat toy for when you’re out of the house.
The Best Toys for Active Kittens and Small Cats
Kittens and small cats might need different toys than larger and adult cats. Kittens have more intensive daily play needs, and a smaller cat simply might not be able to enjoy a toy that’s too large because they can’t get their mouth or paws around parts of the toy. With that in mind, here are our favorite interactive cat toys for kittens and small cats:
- Windmill cat toy
- Treat-dispensing puzzle toy
- Rollerball cat toy
Windmill Cat Toy
A soft, silicone windmill cat toy is a simple toy with no batteries that can keep your kitten or small cat entertained for a long time. The two arms spin on a suction-cup base, meaning the toy is portable and can be moved around the house for added variety. Just a light touch of interest from your cat gets the windmill spinning and initiates playtime.
Two clear balls attached to the spinning arm provide a spot to stuff cat treats, catnip, or even food to keep your cat motivated to play with the windmill. You can also add small bells to the balls for additional sound motivation. The soft silicone texture is also perfect for chewing and keeping up your cat’s dental health.
Treat-Dispensing Puzzle Toy for Cats
Food-motivated cats and kittens will love a treat-dispensing puzzle toy that rewards their intelligence with yummy snacks. There are plenty of different kinds of puzzle toys for cats with treat-dispensing mechanisms. You’ll need to find the best one for your cat depending on their interests and size. Small cats and kittens in particular will appreciate this slider box toy that encourages cats to scratch and paw at little boxes to hunt down bits of food and treats.
Rollerball Cat Toy
A classic interactive cat toy is the multilevel rollerball toy that provides endless entertainment for your cat or kitten. This toy is also perfect for homes with more than one cat because they all can play with it at the same time since it has multiple balls.
This interactive toy can be very rewarding because occasionally cats will be able to remove the balls from their rollers, then chase them around the house. Keep a close watch so you can retrieve the balls and return them to the toy for continued play! These toys are especially great for kittens because of their high-energy simplicity.
The Best Electronic Interactive Cat Toys for Large Cats
Size is a major consideration when choosing the best interactive cat toy for your pet. In the same way, kittens and small cats will need toys well-suited to their size and energy level, larger cats have those same needs. Here are two of our favorite cat toys for bigger cats.
Kong Figure Eight Track Cat Toy
The Kong Figure Eight Track Cat Toy is a large racetrack toy with a number of different playful components. There is a furry tail that you can fill with catnip that moves around so your cat can chase it. Additionally, two balls move around inside the roller tracks, keeping your cat stimulated from all angles. There’s also an additional feathery topper to keep your cat engaged and interested. This toy’s variety and large size – it’s about 18 inches long – will keep bigger cats entertained for hours.
Bergan Turbo Scratcher
The Bergan Turbo Scratcher is an entertaining way to keep your large cat’s nails trimmed and healthy. The center is a cardboard scratching surface that cats will find irresistible. Many pet owners sprinkle the scratch pad with catnip to get the cat drawn to the surface. The center is surrounded by a classic rollerball track to encourage your cat’s interactive play and mental engagement. Plus, the scratch pad in the center is replaceable, so your large, energetic cat can tear it up without concern.
How to Entertain a Cat with Toys
While interactive cat toys might seem easy to use – and some really are – you still might need to help your cat learn to play with these toys when they are new. Here are some tips for using interactive cat toys and bonding with your cat:
- Use catnip or treats to entice your cat to play with the toy
- Demonstrate the use of a toy before expecting your cat to play with it
- Monitor your cat’s play before leaving them alone with a toy
- Change out toys regularly
Draw Your Cat’s Interest with Food or Treats
When you introduce a new toy, your cat might not immediately understand that it’s something for them to play with. One way to quickly engage your cat with the new interactive cat toy is by using catnip, cat treats, or even a little bit of your cat’s food to draw their interest. You might sprinkle the toy with a little catnip, or fill parts of it with small cat treats. If your cat is especially food-motivated – as most cats are – this can be a wonderful way to introduce a new toy.
Model How to Play for Your Cat
It might seem strange, but modeling play can help your cat understand how they are supposed to interact with a toy. For example, bat around the ball in the rollertrack and show them how it moves, or scurry after the robotic feather toy as it runs across the room. They will watch you, and demonstrating your interest in the interactive cat toy can inspire their interest and show them how to play with it.
Always Watch Your Cat with a Toy Before Leaving
While interactive cat toys are wonderful for when your cat has to be alone, it’s important that you monitor your cat with a new toy before leaving them with it. It’s possible there is something you didn’t anticipate that could endanger your cat. Perhaps a piece of the toy is not properly attached and comes loose, posing a choking hazard for your pet. Watch your cat play with the toy for a day or two before setting it up when you leave the house.
Rotate Toys for Variety
You shouldn’t set up the same interactive cat toy every time you leave the house. Your cat needs a selection of different types of toys to stay stimulated, and rotating them can keep your feline interested and engaged. You don’t have to buy new toys every few weeks, but you should cycle through different toys with some regularity so your pet doesn’t get bored with the same string toy or laser toy.
Interactive Cat Toys Support a High Quality of Life
Even if you could spend every waking moment with your cat, interactive cat toys would still be an important purchase. Your cat experiences great benefits from engaging with a variety of toys that stimulate their brain and predatory instincts, keep them moving, and help them maintain their hygiene and health. Cat mental stimulation is just one reason for buying these toys. Keep a selection around the house and rotate them often so your feline stays engaged and happy!