Are there any good robotic cat toys?
September 8, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

We have decided it's important for our cats to make the transition from outdoor cats to indoor cats - they're doing OK with it, but they want to play for hours, and we don't have the attention span to dangle a string in front of them all day. Given that we now live in the future, I assume there must exist some good robotic mice, birds or insects or something. Anyone have any good recommendations?

One of our cats disappeared a month before we moved from California to Texas, and we didn't get him back for 2.5 months due to extensive postering we did before we left. We're understandably skittish about letting them go outside again, but they clearly miss chasing bugs, birds and other vermin that we're not super interested in having in our house. About a year ago one of them saw a pincer bug come out of the drain in our shower and he still jumps in the shower and will look at the drain for 30-45 minutes at a time. The other one has gained about 50% of her body mass.

I think they'd really like a robotic mouse, bird, snake or insect. Something that we can put some batteries in or charge up and let loose in our house that'll just run around. One added difficulty is that we've got carpets in our new place, so if it's on wheels, they can't be those little hot wheels dealies, they've got to be a bit more rugged.

Have any of you had good experiences? We really want to create satisfying play time for our cats so we won't feel so bad about keeping them inside, and we'd strongly prefer that it be automated, because they have way more appetite for play than we can accommodate ourselves.
posted by 0x006DB0 to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My cats LOVE hexbug nanos. They're pretty much impossible to break. You can get them pretty cheaply on Amazon along with bulk replacement batteries.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:50 AM on September 8, 2013 [15 favorites]

They have those squeaky mouse-shaped toys that you can hang from a peg or a door. My cats will enjoy those for hours and they don't need any assistance because the mouse swings on a string.
posted by chaiminda at 11:25 AM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Not robotic but I buy boxes of live crickets from the pet store now and then and let them loose in the house. You'd think there would be a cricket or 10 left over haunting the house for weeks on end but no, that's never happened with my extra-predatory crew. Try it in an enclosed space (or a few crickets at a time) until your cats have proved their cricket hunting bonafides.

If releasing live insects in the house isn't going to happen, 2nding Hexbug Nanos. Because Hexbugs are all apparently programmed to skitter under the fridge as soon as possible, I put them in the bathtub.

I've tried various Frolicat products. They all suffer from various flaws, the primary one being that all but one requires human intervention to turn on. The Twitch is the only one that can be set up to turn on by itself at various times of the day but its flaw is its construction is no match for a 11# cat determined to yank parts of it off its suction cup base and carry it off to I don't know where. In any case, we never saw it again after the 4th day.

One of our cats likes chasing the Roomba (which can be programmed to start itself), the others hate the Roomba. YMMV.
posted by jamaro at 12:00 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't forget about those machines that shine a laser light around on the floor.
posted by vash at 12:00 PM on September 8, 2013

playnsqueak toys make some cats really freak out, just make sure you take them away before nighttime so the noise doesn't keep you up.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2013

Given that half the battle seems to be occupying their devious little minds, something like this activity center might be good, especially for the cat who needs to slim down.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:05 PM on September 8, 2013

We have a Frolicat laser toy that our cats love (as long as one of the other cats doesn't horn in on their fun).
posted by Good Brain at 1:03 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Also, I have used this automatic laser toy, although your personal feelings about laser pointers may vary. We put ours up someplace high so that the cats can't knock it over.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:04 PM on September 8, 2013

2nd the live crickets. Go to the pet store and ask the reptile gang. Our method to keep the crickets at least semi-contained is to turn them loose with the cats in the bathtub. A large Tupperware bin the crickets can't jump out of, but the cats can jump into, is also fun. Hours of hilarity ensue.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:15 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Data point: we scurried out and bought the glow-in-the-dark Hexbugs yesterday upon reading this post. My cats so far seem interested but wary; they won't engage. Observations: hexbugs don't tread well on non-flat surfaces (e.g., carpet), get stuck on various objects (e.g., computer cord) and move in a circular motion only. The humans still think they're awesome, though, and hope the cats will come around.
posted by xiaolongbao at 7:52 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My cats so far seem interested but wary; they won't engage

Try draping a sheet of tissue paper over the hexbugs or put the hex bugs into a long cardboard tube (like a gift wrap tube).
posted by jamaro at 11:17 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: jamaro speaks truth. Our winning combo with the hexbugs is the following:

Large Amazon box + the crumpled twist of brown packing paper it came in, tipped on its side, with hexbug rattling around underneath the paper.

Good for at least 20 minutes of insanity, at least if last night's new Amazon-box-offering is to be judged by.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions guys! I got a set of 5 Hexabug Nanos and the cats love to look at it, but they aren't watching. Also, these things do NOT work on carpets. I have small areas of my house uncarpeted. I put together a small track out of paper to keep the hexabugs getting anywhere where they can get stuck (they tend to get stuck in any corner, so I rounded out the edges).

I may have a bad set of batteries (got them years ago for an unrelated project), but mine only seem to last about 1 hour at a time as well. I'll try the packing paper thing.

I'm also going to get one of those laser sentinel tower things soon and add a post about how that went for posterity.
posted by 0x006DB0 at 4:59 AM on September 16, 2013

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