We didn't domesticate cats, they domesticated us
September 2, 2016 5:48 AM   Subscribe

I need a cat toy for my little killing machine who easily grows bored of toys. Obligatory cat pics inside.

My precious Violet has spent most of summer killing small mice and birds and bringing them inside to play with them. The killing I don't mind, since I know it's in their nature, but I wish she'd stop bringing them inside. I've woken up a few mornings to find she's gone out after breakfast and brought back something to bat around for a few hours, and I don't always put my glasses on until I'm more awake...

I thought maybe if she had a fun indoor toy to play with she'd stop bringing the dead things inside. She grows easily bored of balls, stuffed animals, and danglers. She has a rolling circuit ball she sometimes plays with and cat scratcher towers she uses regularly. Her favourite indoor toys have been a laser pointer and my flatmate's cats, who are not always happy to be pounced upon, but I'd prefer something she can play with on her own when I'm at work or tired.

posted by toerinishuman to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think she'll stop bringing dead things inside, even if she has the most awesome coolest most amazing indoor toy ever. The only way that'll happen is if you keep her indoors.

I speak from experience. My killing machine continued to kill even when we found her the toy that she LIVED FOR indoors.
posted by cooker girl at 6:12 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

What you need to do is start making (safe) cat toys out of whatever you have to hand, so that there are new toys appearing.

I'd start with an empty tissue box that you put a little fur mouse inside. Try hard to get one with real fur on it (kind of gross, but she'll definitely know the difference). Show her the mouse, get her to watch you putting it in the box, and then let her fish it out.

You can also try food treat puzzles, including homemade ones made out of any little box you have, with different-sized holes made to make it easier/harder for her to get the food out. Start with a hole that's large enough for her to stick her paw in and still see inside, and that's located along a bottom edge so she can use her paw to drag the treat out.

The killing I don't mind

FWIW, I'm pretty sure other people do -- especially if _anybody_ in your vicinity loves birds (and they do -- there are so many people who do that there are _two_ chain stores dedicated to wild birds in my small town.) I had a neighbor give me a really hard time about it when my cat used to go outside; actually she was very polite, considering, but she loved birds, and had put up a special post feeder for them (non-trivial when you're older), and I think that my cats' scaring away the birds made her really sad...
posted by amtho at 6:37 AM on September 2, 2016 [10 favorites]

Another vote for food puzzles. And another vote for the only way your cat won't bring her kills inside is if she has no kills to bring in. So, either keep her inside or make her a cat run to minimize her interaction with prey.

We had a cat who was such a good hunter, he would stalk things from inside--through the picture window--shoot out the door when a person was coming in or out, and be back inside with the kill before you could react.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:54 AM on September 2, 2016

Although neither of you would like it, keeping her inside is one approach.

I don't pretend to understand the cat mind. We've had cats that methodically, bloodily, try to eradicate all life within their range. Others spend their time outside just soaking up the sun. Changing the behavior of either is almost certainly impossible without removing the animal from the environment that triggers that behavior.
posted by justcorbly at 6:59 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to the above, try rotating her toys - if she gets bored of one put it away for a few months, bring out something else she hasn't seen in a while. Try spritzing them with catnip spray to encourage her to play with them, if she's into that.
posted by lizbunny at 7:27 AM on September 2, 2016

For most cats, killing things is more of a feature than a bug. The only way to prevent it is to keep your cat inside.

Violet brings you dead animals as a gesture of love and companionship. You take care of her, she tries to take care of you by bringing you dinner. She means well.

The problem with most toys is that they're dead prey. Until someone tosses them, they just lie there. Most indoor cats need regular sessions of interactive play with you on one end of something like this or this or this. (I saw that she ignores "danglies," but most cats will go for these toys if someone is moving them.) Finding the right toy(s) for your cat takes some trial and error -- for example, my cat immediately chews through string and thus needs something attached with wire -- but it's worth it when you find one they love. My cat loves the hiding and planning as much as attacking -- I lead her all over the apartment and through her little tunnel and nylon pop-up cube with her toys.

As amtho mentioned above, you can also make toys out of all sorts of things. A small bowl of water with a couple of ping pong balls inside can be remarkably entertaining. Socks stuffed with catnip and some kind of safe filling make good kicker toys for her to grab and "disembowel." I'm a huge fan of food puzzles as well (crush-onastick's link is great).

On the expensive end: self-powered toy mice and wifi-operated laser toys with cameras. I can't recommend one camera/laser over another; I'm just getting my first one set up (it's a Kittyo -- I backed them on Kickstarter a few years ago).

You could also consider getting another playful cat as a companion. Many playful cats are happy to have cat friends who enjoy tussling and racing around the house, then flopping down and grooming each other until they fall asleep. You might try the other ideas first, but sometimes it's the best answer. Good luck!
posted by swerve at 7:34 AM on September 2, 2016

You don't just need *a* toy, you need a changing array of toys. Take a barrette or other small plastic object, tie it to a door handle on a string, makes a good toy to bat about. Change it out regularly. Something with feathers is a big hit, as are ping pong balls, soda bottle caps, and I've never met a cat who didn't love the plastic ring from a plastic milk jug. Aluminum foil balls. Get a stick - yardstick, dowel, branch - tie a toy to the end with string, and you can entertain kitty for quite a while and satisfy that need to predate. Make sure kitty has a good scratching post. My cat ignored hers until I used catnip spray. Consider a cat tower for climbing. Every couple of months, plant a tray of grass, especially if you live someplace with a long winter. amtho's comments are spot on.
posted by theora55 at 7:34 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, yes, definitely store most of her toys in a closet or box so they'll stay novel. Also, if you get interactive string toys (including toy-on-a-string-on-a-stick toys - actually, you can make good ones too), you really have to store these where the cat can't get to them for safety reasons.

Here's the famous catnip banana. Almost all cats absolutely adore it. Seriously, it's a truly amazing toy. Cats sometimes carry it all over the house.
posted by amtho at 7:38 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

We added food puzzles to our 2 indoor cats and they are intrigued and interested. Especially the nebelung appropriately named "Beast". Gizmodo juuust had an article about what a good idea they are: http://gizmodo.com/cats-are-happier-and-healthier-when-you-make-them-work-1786057743
posted by alchemist at 7:48 AM on September 2, 2016

Nthing puzzle boxes. If you're not sure, start cheap. It took mine a little while to figure out this was the easiest solution for a cardboard one.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:19 AM on September 2, 2016

These are all great suggestions, but unfortunately catnip has no effect on her! But I love the idea of puzzles.
posted by toerinishuman at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2016

[Folks, notes about bird love and indoor vs. outdoor notwithstanding, this shouldn't wander further away from the question asked into general cat ownership opinions etc. Please focus on the thrust of the question asked.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:56 AM on September 2, 2016

Play-n-squeak toys. I fostered a cat that completely lost her mind over this toy, I had to take it away from her at night so I could sleep.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 10:01 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Our cat used to bring prey in to the house. We weren't keen so would take it from him and release it or put it out of its misery while keeping him in for a bit. I know he still catches things but he stopped bringing them in.
posted by biffa at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2016

I bought my cat a bunch of toys but all she wants to play with is rubber bands and pen caps. So maybe just leave a bit more clutter out and her choose her own toys from the mess.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:08 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just bought my cats a fluttering butterfly on a wire toy: Moving Butterfly! It's about $10 on Amazon and is battery operated. I expect it will last the weekend... maybe longer if I hide it on Sunday.

I bought this one because I bought a solar-powered one for a planter on the balcony - the cats loved it! So much so that they pulled it out of the planter and knocked it off the balcony. *le sigh*
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

We shoot hair ties for our cat and she goes zooming off to capture them. She especially likes it when we aim it through the crinkly tunnel (e.g.) and will sometimes get so excited she'll speed through the tunnel before we have even shot off the band. I'll also shoot thicker rubber bands up the stairs for her (hair ties are too likely to skid off the wooden steps into purgatory), but she likes the hair ties the best.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:25 AM on September 3, 2016

Seconding the play-n-squeak toys that txtwinkletoes recommended. Also, getting her a playmate. Both worked for me. You could foster a second cat to see how it goes.
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:43 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cats absolutely love playing with toy springs (something like this). I think the key is that the springs are small and light so they bounce and skitter around in a prey-like way, rather than rolling like a ball. My cats aren't really into balls or toy mice etc unless I throw them, but they'll happily play with the springs on their own.
posted by badmoonrising at 10:40 AM on September 3, 2016

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