In serach of tried and true cat toys!
March 21, 2016 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My lovely cat is now an only cat. What toys does she want to keep her amused during the day when I'm at work?

My 10 year old cat, Miss Maggie, became an only cat about 3 months ago when my other 18 year old cat peacefully passed away. The two of them weren't exactly BFFs, but they did interact quite a bit and I worry that Miss Maggie needs some extra toys to occupy her when I'm away at work during the day. What toys or other amusements keep your cats occupied when you're not around?
She already has access to a scratching post, a window with a great view of a very busy bird feeder, and various little toy mice, etc. She's never really been into empty bags or boxes, but she does like to chase things. Please tell me about the toys your cats love! Links are welcome!
And . . . before anyone suggests getting another cat . . . that will most likely be happening in the next several months. I'm just not ready quite yet!
posted by bookmammal to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The best toy is you interacting with her. You probably do this already, but of course not when you're at work. That's probably OK! She likely sleeps almost all day.

What she might miss is comfort and companionship. For that, I'd make her some extra snuggly beds - blankets mounded up on one side, extra squishy on the low part - and maybe play a radio, softly, while you're gone. Some cats like different kinds of music, but I always played NPR so the cat could hear people talking, softly, during the day.

(She looks so sweet! I'd want to make her all the toys too!)
posted by amtho at 11:49 AM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

My cat really digs my wife and I both working from home during the day and also the dog.

Yeah, I have to say, while the cat wasn't chummy chummy with the dog at the start they are chummy now.

So, work from home, get a dog...

Because our cat doesn't really dig toys. Sure - he likes to sleep at the top of the post, and he likes those ring scratchers with the ball that runs around in the track and the square scratcher is also fantastic... but if we didn't have those things, he'd just be looking for food, his litter box, a way into the basement for some random mischief, a good view of birds and wildlife outside, or a great place to take a nap. Seriously... a nap. 90% of the time napping, 5% of the time looking for food. 4% of the time looking for us to get him some food or to make sure that we know that we should get him some food later, and 1% of the time totally spazzing out and playing with a scratcher or launching himself through various rooms of the house.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Amused is better with a happy rested cat = low power heated bed[s]
posted by Freedomboy at 11:54 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ping pong balls and those plastic rings that you tear off when you open a gallon of milk.
posted by bondcliff at 11:56 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

For interactive play when you are with her:

- A little box with a hole at one edge of the top: hide a treat in there and let her fish it out. Food puzzles are great! You can make the puzzle very easy at first, then gradually increase the difficulty over time with successive boxes/puzzles.

- Little fur mice are very fun for most cats. Let her smell it, drool on it, bat it around; if she seems into it, you can try tossing it a short distance (maybe 1 foot at first) and work up to longer distances -- if you throw it too far the first time she may not get that she's supposed to chase it, or she might not be able to follow it visually.

- Almost zero cats can resist this toy: a shoelace. It's about the right length for you pulling it across the floor in front of her - there's something primal about "snake" like toys that is very effective. Don't leave the shoelace out, though, ever! Cats eating string == very very bad.

- You've seen those toys that are a plastic stick, with a string, with toy attached to the end? Hold the toy and the string in your hand and move the end of the stick around on the floor in front of her. Most cats like this better!
posted by amtho at 12:00 PM on March 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

My cats really love the big Kong kick pillows, this scratching thing with a ball, and catnip bananas.
posted by neushoorn at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If music is appealing, when this is available for purchase you might want to try Music for Cats. I joined the kickstarter, which is now closed. No idea if it's going to appeal to my cat, but it looks pretty cool and worth a little effort.

My cats have always mostly spent the day sleeping, but my current lad is pretty self-entertaining. He likes to basically play fetch with himself, throwing his toys a distance from himself and pouncing. His favorite toy is a fuzzy jacks-shaped item that takes wildly unexpected bounces.

(Upon preview, looks like that one is dog-sized. I have the same thing very small, maybe 2"? for cats. Came packaged with a fuzzy ball, too.)
posted by clone boulevard at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2016

My kitty loves his kicker toy and lovingly destroyed his catnip kicker. He uses this as his base of operations to launch a full scale attacks on catnip mice and crinkle balls.

I keep his favorite toys out and rotate through a cache of other toys weekly/biweekly. Toys not in use go into the freezer in a gallon ziplock bag along with a lot of catnip to marinate.

Da Bird is a huuuge hit in my house, but I don't leave it out when I'm not home because he'll eat it all up.

Googling "cat enrichment" and "environment enrichment" for tips will help you get started with a lot of other ideas. Think Like a Cat has a really good chapter on play.
posted by pumpkinlatte at 12:05 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding the ball-in-a-track toys, like this one. We got our cat one almost a year ago and she still plays with it daily nightly. It's the toy that has had the longest staying power yet, besides things that require human interaction like sticks and strings and such.
posted by lydhre at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cat really likes felt mice, riding in a "boat" (cardboard box with a string attached to it that we pull around the house), back scratchers and tin foil balls.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:18 PM on March 21, 2016

Our cat is pretty picky about toys, but he looooves the fuzzy little poof balls (can't find the exact ones we have but they look kind of like this). Some pets stores sell them in a giant (cheap) bag that also has cat-nip in it and those have been the biggest hit. The ones we have are like, feather-lightweight and so they can be batted around pretty easily; our kitty is a lazy chubster most of the time but he always jumps up to 'play soccer' with these. (Fair warning, you WILL end up with 20+ of them under your couch.)
posted by lovableiago at 12:19 PM on March 21, 2016

My cats love love love playing with plastic springs. They're not very durable to humans stepping on them, but they are really cheap so it doesn't matter much.
posted by aubilenon at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2016

rosie rat toys last about 500 times longer than the cheapie tiny fur mice with the plastic endoskeleton that get chewed up immediately.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2016

Our cat loves Da Bird. Best when swung by a human, but we leave it propped up between couch cushions and routinely find it on our bed when we get home. She also loves crumpled Post-It notes and Skitter Critters.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2016

I can't believe I forgot to mention this (but unfortunately, it's only for when you're home): The Aeromax Sky Scraper. I'm not sure how I found this, but our cat loooooooved to chase the discs around the house.
posted by onecircleaday at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of my cats is super into Crinkle Puffs. It's one of the few things she will play with that doesn't require human interaction. Fair warning: it's an annoying sound to hear at 3:30 in the morning.
posted by just_ducky at 1:24 PM on March 21, 2016

My cat is mostly indifferent to toys, but he goes bonkers for his Cat Dancer, the best cat toy in the world. It bounces around so much that I can just hold it and ignore him if I want. It's super simple (just a springy wire and some pieces of cardboard), so it doesn't get gross, it takes up almost no space, and weighs nothing. They sell one with a wall mount or you can just figure out some way to attach it yourself.
posted by theodolite at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hercule Purrrrrr-ot is young, active, smart, and incredibly food motivated. After trying many cat toys that bored him silly, we turned to dog toys.

The small Kong wobbler has been a big hit and it took him less than two seconds to figure out how to whap it around to get the treats out. He's a big guy (15+ pounds), so its size is fine for him but I can see how it might be too big for a smaller kitty. Non-food-motivated cats might just ignore it.
posted by jesourie at 2:06 PM on March 21, 2016

2nd the cat dancer. I have no idea why but it's freaking magic. Plus, it's absurdly cheap.

Also, have you tried playing any of those cat-TV videos? I know it's sort of silly, but I've known cats who really get into watching a video of a birdbath or whatever.
posted by R a c h e l at 2:13 PM on March 21, 2016

My cats love these springs the best, and will occasionally even play fetch with me with them!
posted by 168 at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2016

My cats like Da Bird and Cat Dancer, when I can play with them. Their favorite no-humans toy is the Cosmic Carrot. All three of them love the Cosmic Carrot. I buy a new one now and then because it's so much fun to see how much they love it.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 3:53 PM on March 21, 2016

My cat loves these soccer balls and also the big kong kick toy. I brought home some large acorns from a hike and my cat has been hiding them under the couch and in closets ever since. She also likes bouncy balls.
posted by arachnidette at 4:09 PM on March 21, 2016

My kitties are obsessed with their drug fish.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:13 PM on March 21, 2016

Thanks for all the great ideas! I'll be referring to your answers when I go cat toy shopping this week.
To clarify just a bit --Miss Maggie does have plenty of soft, cuddly places to nap, and of course I do play with her, talk to her, etc when I'm home. I'm mainly concerned with her being all alone during my work hours now that our other cat is gone. But then again, maybe I am just projecting my own emotions onto her! I do know that she's an expert at napping so I'm sure there's a lot of that going on when I'm at work. Anyway--Miss Maggie and I both thank you for all the great suggestions!
posted by bookmammal at 4:26 PM on March 21, 2016

DaBird is a favorite with the wrecking crew that rule my abode. Just be sure that if you get any toy with a string to put it safely away when you're not at home because emergency surgery isn't a good outcome.

I find that if I totally wear mine out, they do spend more of their free time sleeping (if that's even possible.) And anything that stimulates their brains seems to tire them out more. I ofen wonder if by playing them to panting stage if I'm simply building up their endurance, but brain tired is a happy tired kitty.

Leave fresh boxes around when you go out; get creative and cut holes in shoeboxes and put a jingle bell in it, or something that rattles. Oh, and my crew is also crazy for unshelled pecans to bat about. Don't be predictable with where you leave the toys - make it an adventure.
posted by mightshould at 5:04 PM on March 21, 2016

A Catch feeder. Our cats LOVE it.

We put their kibble in it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:05 PM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cat goes absolutely insane for yeowww catnip toys. Every other catnip toy I've ever tried she just ignored even if dangled, thrown, etc - the yeowwwv toy she actively goes for by herself. She'll pass by it lying on the floor and just fling herself on it. I've had to patch it and reinforce seams she loves it so much.

Also, on the much more low tech end - the only other "toy" she goes for by herself are those plastic containers from the inside of kinder eggs. If you're in the USA and can't get them, Google search will give you an idea of what they look like so you can maybe find something similar. She prefers them to balls - I think it's because they are so erratic in movement, since they're not round.
posted by sailoreagle at 5:56 PM on March 21, 2016

Hm. I bet you could put a small super ball into a plastic Easter egg and make a very fun wobbly cat ball.
posted by Night_owl at 6:23 PM on March 21, 2016

Our cats love pipe cleaners/chenille sticks. Bend the ends over so no sharp bits. They spend hours pouncing and chasing them. They are young though--some older cats 'get over' toys. My sister's older cat loved this squeaky toy The squeak is very realistic. You might want to put it away at night.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:36 PM on March 21, 2016

If she likes chasing things, maybe the Frolicat Bolt? It's a laser pointer that moves on its own. You just set it up on a table or something & the laser darts around the room.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:07 AM on March 23, 2016

Like sailoreagle, I have a cat who loves the Yeowww catnip toys, especially the balls.
posted by jeri at 8:59 PM on March 26, 2016

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