What toys would you suggest for a cat that needs exercise but...
January 22, 2013 2:26 PM   Subscribe

What toys would you suggest for a cat that needs exercise but isn't motivated by treats? She does like scratching posts/beds and chin scritches, but I don't know how to work those into an active toy.
posted by Evilspork to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
My cats like to chase marbles around. We have wood floors, so they roll far.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:31 PM on January 22, 2013

Laser pointer! Our cats also go nuts for little catnip stuffed toys.
posted by leslies at 2:31 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You want a hexbug. I have personally known no fewer than three cats (I don't spend a lot of time with cats) go absolutely shitballs crazy chasing after these things, even one who was lethargic and chubby and had a bad attitude.

A word of warning: cordon off an area where it won't skitter off under furniture or appliances, or you'll have to listen to it rattle around under your fridge until the batteries kick out. Or until you move the fridge. But fridges are heavy.
posted by phunniemee at 2:31 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Is she motivated by the red dot? There's also an automated version for people who don't want to wave a pointer around for 15 minutes.
posted by jamaro at 2:33 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

All the cats I've had love the 99-cent fake mice they have at pet stores.

My current cat loves these chew toys (not sure if she chews them, but she loves tossing them and running after).

She also has 2 favorite fake mice. Both have rough outer surfaces designed for her claws to stick in them; for whatever reason she adores these. One has fabric loops, the other is ropy. She loses both within minutes of me finding them, so I recommend getting a lot of whatever small toy is successful.

And the laser pointer. Oh, yes.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:35 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Behold the Cat Dancer. I have yet to meet a cat whose mind isn't utterly blown by some compressed bits of cardboard on the end of a springy wire. Cats are weird.
posted by bcwinters at 2:36 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

On closer review, it appears that the cats I have known have all had hexbug nanos, not the larger remote controlled thingies.
posted by phunniemee at 2:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

The feline flyer or similar toy on a string. Mine especially love the mylar attachment because of the noise it makes. Just remember to put it away when done playing so that they don't eat the attachment or hurt themselves with the string.
posted by oneear at 2:42 PM on January 22, 2013

+1 laser pointer.

We have a ginger battleaxe who has spent most of her 17 years ignoring every toy brought into the house. She goes nuts for the laser pointer though and grumps loudly when it doesn't come out in the evening.

She's not been weighed since we bought it, but she's noticeably sleeker and more energetic since we've been playing with her.
posted by bonehead at 2:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Da Bird is the word around my house. My little boy especially goes nuts for the whirly feathers.

(And I'm going to try the auto red dot as well as a hexbug to keep them amused in my absence! I was just recently wondering how to find an automatic cat toy they'll play with...)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

Cat Dancers do work. It's so strange.

You can mount them on a wall (or possibly build them into the top of a scratching post?) if you don't feel like playing all the time. But the human action definitely helps, especially because it adds unpredictability.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:46 PM on January 22, 2013

This solar powered rainbow maker has worked well as a cat toy - so I'm told by the people I've given them to, who have kitties.
posted by raztaj at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a cat toy like "Da Bird" linked above - our foster cat leaps to get it. The bird action on ours is very awesome looking - it flutters and spins through through the air. We got ours at a local pet shop. You just sit in a chair and wave it around.
posted by jb at 2:58 PM on January 22, 2013

Milk rings and the pull-tab closures from milk cartons that have small round openings.

Ping-pong balls

Bendy Straw Triangles: Take a bendy straw, bend it into four sections - three about the length of the top part (above the bend), one shorter, about 1/2"-3/4" long, at the bottom. Squeeze the short section to make a longitudinal crease, and tuck it into the open end of the top section, thus holding the whole thing in a triangle shape. Cheap and easy, so you can make more when they get batted under the fridge.

Our cat got a Play N Squeak toy bunny and LOOOOOVES it.

Kong Kickeroo has also been a hit, though it's for stationary kicking, not for chasing.

And any kind of fishing-rod style toy, with long snakey fleece tail the cat can chase.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, she is only intermittently fascinated by lazurs, so that's not really an option. Thanks for the great suggestions!
posted by Evilspork at 3:11 PM on January 22, 2013

Our cats don't really like cat toys that much except the Fling-ama-String. Looks strange but it really does keep them entertained.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2013

Nthing the Feline Flyer/Da Bird things. Our friends had one (they called it "Fishy Bee") and their super lazy kittehs would go NUTS for it. I'm not sure why, but it was HILARIOUS to watch. They had to hide it when not in use, those cats loved it so much.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:54 PM on January 22, 2013

A round ball-in-track toy. My six-year-old boy plays with it everyday, has since he was a kitten. It may look like a lazy-toy but you'd be surprised.

Also the Cat Dancer is recommended and, like, two bucks.
posted by wallabear at 4:36 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ribbons and hair ties and plastic bracelets and shoelaces and bottle caps and milk cap rings and wadded up paper and twist ties and shoe boxes and other assorted trash because cats are weird.
posted by oomny at 4:38 PM on January 22, 2013

Ribbons and hair ties and plastic bracelets and shoelaces and bottle caps and milk cap rings and wadded up paper and twist ties and shoe boxes and other assorted trash because cats are weird.

At surgery, I found the hair tie stuck in Pumpkin’s stomach, with lots of hair attached to it, traveling down his intestines and causing what we call a string obstruction.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:16 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

And now I am sad. So, not hair ties, guys.

My cats like the automated laser toy and anything with catnip when they're not playing with trash.
posted by oomny at 5:22 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the PlayNSqueak. Our cat will chase his little squeaky mouse for hours. If we can't find the cat, we pick up the mouse and shake it - the first squeak brings him running. We had to buy a second one because he nearly destroyed the first mouse. When it finally disintegrates, I plan on taking the squeak module and stuffing it inside another toy to keep the fun rolling.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:03 PM on January 22, 2013

- Dollar store stuffed mice (I have three cats and two of them have each adopted one mouse of their own)
- Sparkle Fish
- Crinkle Balls

I used to put out aluminum foil balls for my cats until I found pieces of aluminum foil in their poop in the litter box. I don't put out twist ties or ribbons anymore either, because as much as they love them they eat them and then it messes them up.
posted by schroedinger at 6:12 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'll second the caution that kitty should not be allowed to play with anything string-like unsupervised. It's easy for a cat to ingest string, thread, ribbon, hair ties, anything with that shape, and be unable to barf it up, and then when it goes down through the digestive system the long trailing pieces can seriously injure the intestines. Something like fleece attached to a plastic fishing rod is okay, but loose string isn't.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our cat loves the plastic rings from bottles of orange juice – I cleaned 26 of them out from under the stove recently. And a ping pong ball in the bathtub is good times. But what he really goes nuts for are the round white plastic tripods that hold the center of pizza delivery boxes up off the pizza!
posted by nicwolff at 6:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our two LOVE the Cat-Aerobics toy by SunRae Products. It's along the same lines as the Cat Dancer, but has a sort of koosh-like thing at the end of the wand. (Penny will drag it from one room to another, then drop it and sit on top of it, meowing imperiously, while looking at me with a "you're not too clever, are you?" air about her. "The toy is right here, monkey. The cat is right here. What is the problem? Why are you not picking up the toy and playing with the cat?")
posted by Lexica at 7:02 PM on January 22, 2013

Re: the cat dancer. I found, with the cat I lived with for a while, that any bike cable wire (brake/derailleur) contained the magic action needed to fascinate the cat. This was annoying while I was relacing and tensioning brakes on my bike in the living room, as she'd try to "help" me fix it by batting and gnawing the end.
However, I could also then set up a wire, dangling over a table or desk with a heavy weight on top and she'd bat at it, absent human endancifying. You can do the same thing with the cat dancer, but if you'd like I'll bring some used cables to the next meet-up.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:42 PM on January 22, 2013

You may need to try a bunch of different things before you find something that gets her interest, or periodically rotate through toys. Our cat has the opposite problem - he wants to play all the time - so we have a small arsenal of toys. Here's what he likes:

- The Hexbug: He loves it, but he mostly watches it intently, lunging or swiping at it once in a while. (We bring it out when he wants to do something and neither of us has the energy to wiggle toys around for him.) He liked the Ant even more than the Nano, but the Ant has gears that will get hopelessly clogged with cat fur after a while.

- The Cat Dancer: the best thing about this toy is the way you can create a huge range of movement just by moving your hand a little bit. You could make your own with the right wire, but make sure there's no sharp edges.

- Tennis and ping-pong balls: he's gone through phases where he's loved these and phases where he's been mostly indifferent.

- Little toy mice: we have the cheap 12-pack from Petco. Some of them are stuffed and contain catnip, others are fake-fur-covered and sort of hard with a rattly bit inside. I think he likes the rattle sound, and both kinds are a good size and weight to fling around or bat across the floor.

- Stuffed catnip toys with feathers: these are his favorite, and the toy he's most likely to play with solo. He likes feathers.

- Skinneeez mouse: Nice and floppy, and good for flinging. It doesn't skid around the floor like more solid toys, so he can't bat it around, but he's also less likely to get it lost under the couch.

- Yeowww! toys: Stuffed with nothing but catnip, so if your cat responds to catnip he'll really love these. Most of them are a good chomp-and-kick size, but there are also smaller balls you can get.

- Kickeroo and laser pointer: I mention these in passing because our cat doesn't really respond to them, but others do.

- Cardboard boxes: whenever we get a package, we save the box for a while and change its position/orientation every few days. They're good for hiding in/under/behind, and you can jiggle the flap or let a toy poke in between flaps.

- Other improvised toys: he loves floppy dangly things, so bathrobe sashes and other strips of fabric go over really well. If it's narrow enough for a cat to swallow, or long enough to go around her neck, always supervise! Something that's about an inch wide by six inches long is okay for her to play with solo. Cats can also really get into blankets/sheets: either put your hand underneath and pretend to be a mouse, or bunch up a blanket and slowly pull one corner so the whole thing moves.

In addition to experimenting with toys, try different locations and movements. Some cats are pouncers, some are jump-and-swipers. Some run after toys, some wait for them to come close. She might be more willing to jump around on a couch or bed than on the floor. She might be into hiding behind a doorway and striking from there. Nearly every cat I've known goes extra nuts if playtime goes near a table leg. Experiment and see what grabs her attention.

And, if you don't already, trim her claws regularly so she doesn't accidentally hurt you or get them caught in anything.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:18 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The ONLY toys my cat likes are those ridiculously light foam balls that move if you breathe on them, practically (I think she's too lazy to bat anything around, and is uninterested in chasing most things).

It depends on the cat, though - you'll probably just have to try a bunch of different toys to see what she likes. Most like laser pointers though so that's a great idea as well.
posted by randomnity at 1:56 PM on January 23, 2013

My cats like the rosie rat toys. They have a leather head and rabbit fur body, and are much more durable then fur-and-plastic mousies.

We freshen up the roise rats once in a while by entombing them in a metal tin with some catnip.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:28 PM on January 23, 2013

We've had a lot of cats over the years. Things that have appealed to most of them have been peacock feathers (3 footers are best but smaller is ok), marbles (very noisy but popular) and shiny, metal chains/necklaces dragged back and forth along the floor. Furry (rabbit fur?) catnip mice have also been a big hit in the past but since most I've seen come from China, I've quit buying them since there's been so many safety scares.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:09 PM on January 23, 2013

I've got two kickeroos, a hexbug nano, a cat dancer, the Frolicat automatic lazur, and a Play-n-Squeak two-mouse-pack on the way, so we'll see what she clicks with.
posted by Evilspork at 7:19 PM on January 26, 2013

(So when your Frolicat Bolt arrives, there's a very good chance it will light up but won't move the laser around. I went through two rounds of return replacements before discovering it just needs a solid dose of percussive therapy: install batteries, close battery door and give it a good sharp rap to the top of its 'head'. if you call the manufacturer's support line, they will recommend the same thing.)
posted by jamaro at 8:30 PM on January 26, 2013

Initial report:

The kickeroo is a hit with the other cats, not her so far.

She LOVES the hexbug. Hell, I love it, brilliant idea.

The lye is-- wait, that's for the drains.

I wasn't paying attention and didn't see that the Frolicat lazur didn't include batteries, so that will have to wait. I will remember to bonk it if it doesn't work.
posted by Evilspork at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing the cat dancer!!
posted by zdravo at 5:40 PM on February 19, 2013

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