I have defeated your pathetic catnip mouse army and demand a worthier foe.
October 15, 2010 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Needed: cat toys suitable for the energizer kitty. Type: solo play, stalking/pouncing, door hangers, ??? Must be safe for chewing/licking-type cats. Source: internet or Montreal area.

We've taken in a 3rd cat, and socialization is going well. The only problem is that new kitty has INSANE AMOUNTS OF ENERGY and needs to play hard 3-4 times a day; if she can't play herself out, she stalks and jumps one of our other cats, who only finds that fun up to a point and gets twitchy and sad if it goes on for too long. If I'm home I put new kitty in a timeout in the bathroom when she gets overexcited, but husband and I are both about to start new full-time jobs next week (I've been home most days until now), and I'm worried about making sure the new beastie gets enough play so our other cats can get enough rest.
She can self-play (our hall rugs are fearsome foes), but floor toys get lost or stop fighting back. Her favorite is a human being and a length of string, but we won't be around for that.
Also, having her play so much has gotten the older cats all wanting to play again, so I'd want a couple of play areas so that they can all frolic without fighting over toys.

I'm thinking of some sort of door-hanging toy, so it can move and not get lost, but the local pet store only had some nasty cheap thing with feathers on it that would just get eaten, and I wasn't impressed by the small selection of hanging toys on etsy (though I do order catnip eyeballs on a regular basis). Bells are okay, but feathers etc always give me worries about choking. Maximum movement, as little one like to run and chase and pounce.
Ideas? Suggestions?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My cats love the Cat Dancer. It has a sticky thingie, so you can attach it to the wall. And when you're in the mood to play with them yourself, you can pop the Cat Dancer out of the sticky thingie. Really very clever!

I know it looks like just a coiled bit of wire with a wad of paper at the end. To you and I, that is all it is. To cats... damned if I know, but they want it. BAD.
posted by ErikaB at 4:20 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: This captive ball track has been the single most-used cat toy in our 4 cat household, none of them has ever gotten tired of it. Get the large diameter version so two cats can play at once: mine often pair off and play hockey with it. I often find cats asleep in the center of it too. This particular design, with the paw-sized openings cut into the sides, holds their attention much longer than the kind where the ball can be clearly seen. Note: this is a noisy toy, the sound of the ball rocketing around the track at 3 am will drive you insane if it's anywhere near your bedroom.

FWIW, we've tried the kind of doorway hanging toys where there's a furry thing at the end of an elastic. The elastic tends to last about 5 minutes before cat teeth efficiently scissor them in half and the toy lost under the fridge. Fortunately, no one has choked on the string but we can't leave this kind of toy out unattended for this very reason.
posted by jamaro at 4:26 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Speaking from the experience of owning (or being owned by?) kittehs for many decades, this site really does a good job listing the best toys for cats. Here are my top two suggestions from the list for toys when you aren't around, in order:

1. Fur mice. Get lots. Cats never, ever get tired of these, which is why they can always be found under your couch and chairs and fridge.

2. Crinkly balls. Almost every cat adores these. Again, sweep under your furniture periodically to retrieve.

3. Maybe, depending on kitty, the crazy circle for cats. Over the years, our stupider cats who are good hunters have been most enthused about this toy.

And, when you are around, the three best toys, bar none, are these. Play with first two by dragging slowly around corner. Will make kitty wild with enthusiasm! (When small kids visit, I give them these toys for the kitties. Kittties always sleep a long time afterward.)

1. Cat dancer.

2. Cat charmer.

3. Laser pet toy.
posted by bearwife at 4:32 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips, keep 'em coming!
I've spent the half hourish since posting this standing in the middle of the three of them with a bit of string, giving each of them one cast-and-pounce in turn while the others waited, wiggling. I've managed to tire myself out, at least....
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:45 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: My cat is a super active, chewer/licker too and she loooooves this catnip mouse. I refill it with the potent dried catnip from Whole Foods, which she really loves. Something about the feather tail makes it really easy for her to play with by herself. She sort of kicks it away from herself then pounces on it.
posted by apricot at 4:55 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: We took in a half-Coon kitten last year, and after he did the perimeter and has since caught several mice, taken out many refrigerator magnets, we've found he LOVES a little superball in a small space (i.e., our front entryway, which is 3' x 3' square, if that).

I throw the superball or any toy down there, and he goes to town!

Can you set up a box that you can throw a bouncy ball or a mouse-like toy into and let him play? Mine got sick of regular cat toys after a while (we even had the mouse hanging from the ceiling, do you have that one?), but he loved the superball and any fuzzy mouse with a bell thrown into his "pit." Cats just love things whipped into small spaces.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:00 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Marie Mon Dieu's comment just reminded me of the other perennial favorite at our house: ping pong ball in the (empty) bathtub. Again, this will drive you nuts at 3 am if you don't hide the ball before you go to bed.
posted by jamaro at 5:03 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Marie Mon Dieu is right -- superballs are great. My husband periodically throws one around in our basement, which has suitably hard floors and walls, and our kitties do acrobatics going after it. This is a great attended toy in our house, though -- not one the kitties do much with on their own.
posted by bearwife at 5:23 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Pipe cleaners twisted into springy shapes (bend the ends to turn the poky metal ends away from swatting paws) are good bang for the cat-toy buck. I did not know this until I saw a lady on a bus making them. Twisting up dozens and dozens... "They're waiting for them at home. Don't ask me how many I have!"

And the captive ball thing is great.
posted by kmennie at 5:32 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A personal favorite in our house are some hand sized strips of rabbit fur that I had meant to use to make hair clips from, but have become the favorites of the kitty world. They are quiet, safe, and well, the cats seem to love hunting their "rabbits".

The ball tracks are great, but if you have a very smart cat, he will figure out how to get the ball out. Our poly did, and oh did we ever have a time getting it back in, only to have him fish it out again. He thought it was great fun.
posted by strixus at 5:35 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: My cats go nuts for bottlecaps and plastic drinking straws. The straws are great for chewing, the caps for chasing, tossing and pouncing. Free!
posted by Corvid at 5:50 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Other free fabulous found toys include twist-ties and the plastic rind from a milk jug cap. Both move unpredictably, slide on most floor surfaces and are easy to carry: win.
posted by carmicha at 6:37 PM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: Currently available toys include twisted pipecleaners, nerf balls, small catnip cloth toys (animals and eyeballs), a coiled plastic spring (a toy, not a real one), a string on a doorknob, the hall rugs, the boy cat's fluffy tail, and a scratching post with a jingly egg.
What I'm looking for are things that will be sufficiently absorbing that she can play herself out while I'm at work and unavailable to throw the ball down the hallway or trail the string around. So far the wall cat-dancer, the bouncy-ball-inna-box and the captive ball track/crazy circle sound like winners. I've always paused by the ball tracks but never knew if cats really liked them, so it's good to get the endorsement. And I think I can make a peek-a-prize box with materials to hand.
All other floor toys noted and will likely be added to the collection under the fridge and bed (and desk and feet and couch and...) in short order.
Thanks everyone! Still always happy to get more ideas. :D
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:47 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Catnip banana. Catnip banana. Catnip banana.

It's $6.99, which may seem like a steep price for a canvas banana filled with catnip, but it's totally worth it. You will be AMAZED at how intensely a cat can love a canvas banana filled with catnip. Something about the satisfying texture/strength of the canvas, and the shape, and the catnip, I don't know. We have a foster mom cat staying with us who carried it around and just loved the heck out of it -- while she was nursing kittens and generally not that playful. Several other younger cats would not leave it alone either. It's an amazing, amazing toy for some reason.

You should be able to find it at a good pet supply store, or of course you can buy it online. The brand is "Yeowww!". They also make other shapes, but the apple, at least, isn't as loved as the banana.

Also, there now exist devices that will animate a laser beam for you, in non-predictable patterns, so that you can just set the device up in a room with your cat and it will play with your cat for you. I haven't tried this myself, but it sounds like exactly what you need.
posted by amtho at 6:50 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also: cats usually _adore_ the ball-in-a-track toys, but you will get a lot more mileage out of it (and catnip banana) if you put it away in a closet between play sessions. The cat will get very excited whenever you get the toy out, and play that much harder, and the toy will stay fun for more than a few days.

One other toy our cats can be occupied by for a long time: a small box, like a 4-chocolate-candy box, printer toner box, or even a fairly standard Kleenex box (try different sizes to see what's best), with a hole cut in one face such that the edges of the hole don't go all the way to the edges of the face -- in other words, there's a significant lip/overhang, but the cat can get her whole paw inside. While the cat is watching, drop a small toy like a fur mouse or a puff ball or a tiny wad of paper inside, something the cat has already played with and considers fun and desirable. A treat can also work. The cat can then spend a very fun time working on getting the treat or toy out of the box.

I suggest starting with a relatively "easy" box (small box, large hole). The cat will get better and faster at extracting the prize, then you can make a more difficult box.

Finally, we got a cheap "crinkle tunnel" at Target that's a huge, huge hit, but some cats like tunnels and hidey holes better than others.
posted by amtho at 6:57 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Good suggestions above, just wanted to mention some that have worked for us that I don't see above -

I've recently had success with taking a paper towel (or tp) cardboard tube, cut into sections of tube about 2" long, with the ends slightly folded in on both sides, to make a lightly-reinforced ring. It skitters and rolls and is easy for him to pick up with paw or mouth.

Crinkly plastic ring from around the lid of a pint container of ice-cream, if you take it off carefully by breaking it just at the perforations so it retains its ring-shape

Long hard-plastic strips which go around boxes of office paper, or lawn bags - he loves these, they whip around nicely, but he can't get them stuck on his tongue and swallow them.

Also, take a cardboard box and cut several holes in it, put toys in it and tape it up securely, let her try to figure out how to get at them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:10 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: You used to be able to get these hanging net holders at Ikea, which cats are utterly obsessed with. I might actually still have a spare one, if you cannot find them at Ikea anymore, just mefimail me. (I've found they're not useful for storage.)

I second the vote for rabbit fur (pro tip: avoid getting boots with rabbit fur on them) and I vote for a big cardboard box (like for a water heater). I also suggest those balls that you put kitty treats in that come out if they play with them a lot.
posted by jeather at 9:01 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Some advice via BlueHorse of MonkeyFilter. As a dog person, I can not vouch for anyone else's cat advice.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:31 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Thanks for this thread, I have a cat with a similar personality. Things that make him happy:
- New places to explore, including simple things like pulling off couch cushions and setting them askew so there are hiding spots between them and the couch frame.
- Leather boot laces to chew. They get totally devoured, but better that than indigestible string, my shoelaces, speaker wire and the cord to my laptop charger (just replaced for a second time at $80 a pop, and it was plugged in when chewed in half).
- Favorite floor toys are an empty thread sppol, or a whole chestnut in shell (slides across hardwood like a hockey puck)
- Squeaking mouse toy. It makes a very realistic mouse-like sound when batted.
posted by cali at 12:06 AM on October 16, 2010

Best answer: I have the laser thing amtho linked to. It is The Best Thing Ever when I am trying to cook and the cat wants to help- it has an auto shutoff, too, if you are worried about forgetting to turn it off and giving an insatiable laser chaser a heart attack.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:31 AM on October 16, 2010

Response by poster: You get a Best Answer! And YOU get a Best Answer! Everyone check under their seats for a free cat toy! (if you actually own cats the odds of their being a cat toy underneath you right now are pretty good, let's face it).
I'll be making a bunch of homecrafted toys from suggestions above, and then when I get my first paycheck (yay paychecks) there will be a ball track, or maybe even two. I like the idea of the balltrack and peekaboo boxes as they'll entice the little monkey out of her current playzone, which is the the single long corridor connecting my other cats' resting places to their eating/pooping places. Having a finkathon in that area has been occasionally stressful.
I want want want the laser toy but ThinkGeek shipping to Canada is prohibitively expensive, which is good/a pity because otherwise they would have ALL MY MONEY. And my husband would have gotten me a tauntaun sleeping bag for my birthday. CURSE YOU INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING RATES, MY ANCIENT NEMESIS.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2010

L'Estrange Fruit, if you expect to order from the States a few times this year, and if the drive/box rental aren't prohibitive, there's always this.
Tim Kropp owns a UPS store in Lewiston, N.Y., bordering the Niagara region of southern Ontario. He said the vast majority of his customers are Canadians who have discovered they can get good deals by ordering goods online from American stores and having them shipped to an American post office box.

Having a mailbox south of the border not only allows Canadians to save on shipping costs and possibly customs duties, but also lets them order items from American stores where they are often less expensive. That's because as the loonie moves higher, price drops often don't keep pace in Canada, making it cheaper for Canadians to go cross-border shopping.
posted by maudlin at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2010

(Sharing a post office box with friends and neighbours can make the whole endeavour somewhat cheaper).
posted by maudlin at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2010

Response by poster: I don't drive, but I do appreciate the thought, thanks! I used to travel for work and would have stuff shipped to the office I was visiting in the states and then fly stuff home. I miss those days.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2010

Best answer: Those laser things are sometimes in stores -- there's one in a retail store near me. It might be worth it to find the manufacturer's web site and contact them about finding a local retailer.
posted by amtho at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2010

My cat loves chasing lasers/flashlights, boxes to jump in and out of, crinkly bags, and foam golfballs.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 9:37 PM on October 16, 2010

Best answer: Laser dealiecan be found at Amazon Canada.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:26 PM on October 16, 2010

Response by poster: charmedimsure, you get my firstborn. I even looked through cat toys on amazon.ca and somehow did not see it. YAY!
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:10 AM on October 17, 2010

Response by poster: For posterity: I found this electronically squeaky mouse at my local Zellers and it is a MASSIVE hit.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:15 PM on October 19, 2010

Baby socks filled with catnip & knotted at the "ankle" end to keep the catnip inside.

All three of my furry monsters go nuts over these things. Stomping on them, licking them obsessively, clawing and biting them, chasing them all over the house.

Cheap & entertaining.

We also have great luck with needle-felted wool balls (available here) - they're about the size of tennis balls but light enough for the cats to bat around and chase maniacally. Why tennis ball sized? They don't get stuck under furniture.
posted by muirne81 at 2:04 PM on October 20, 2010

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