best kitten/cat toys?
June 5, 2017 10:29 AM   Subscribe

My dad has a new kitten (about 6 weeks old, we think). It's been 10 years or so since he has had a cat, and that cat was 18. What are some fabulous kitten/cat toys / furniture / etc that you can share?

So my dad found this tiny kitten outside (under/behind a portapotty he was moving over, for the construction next door) and he kept her, as he couldn't find her mom. (plus, tiny kitten!).

It's been a long time since any of us have had kittens - what are the best toys/furniture? Any tips on protecting leather furniture? He has a scratching pad and post for her, and is currently unwilling to trim her nails or put the nail caps on her.

We also have balls with bells, a couple of soft toys for her to snuggle, and sticks with things attached.

Obligatory picture - he thinks he is going to name her Meriwether.
posted by needlegrrl to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Our cat loves the Cat Dancer. It's inexpensive and doesn't look like much - a few pieces of cardboard on a wire. But it moves very erratically, like good prey should. She also really likes their Cat Charmer.
posted by Cranialtorque at 10:34 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

2nd Cat Dancer. Also, I don't have any direct experience with it because it's seriously expensive ($46!) but the Ripple Rug is supposed to be incredible.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

My cats really like the Bergan Turbo Scratcher and all Yeowww! brand soft toys.
posted by neushoorn at 10:47 AM on June 5, 2017

My two kids (eight weeks old or thereabouts) have two favorites: colored mylar balls that make crinkly noises when the kittens bat them around; and a Turbo Scratcher. Literally hours of fun!
posted by holborne at 10:47 AM on June 5, 2017

She is adorable!!

Thirding the Cat Dancer. Also, something similar to the Turbo Scratcher: the Crazy Circle. My friends have a crinkle cat tunnel that their kitten loves.

Just out of curiosity, is there a specific reason he doesn't want to trim her claws? He knows it doesn't hurt them if you do it properly, right? Claws are needle sharp on kittens...I'm worried your dad, not just his furniture, might end up getting hurt if they're not trimmed--I speak from experience as someone who also was initially reluctant to clip my kitten's claws, but then had to carefully detach the kitten from my own chin at one point. (She got a trim right after that incident, believe me!) Can someone else do it for him, if he's worried about slipping up with the clippers?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:52 AM on June 5, 2017

Things on Sticks are always appreciated.

My boys are cuckoobananapantscrazy for the sparkle balls. I always find a couple of them abandoned in the kibble bowl each morning.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2017

Response by poster: I meant to say she also has a series of interconnected tunnels to play in.

I asked him about the nails, and he said that he wants her to get used to using the scratching post, and he thought if he trimmed her nails, she wouldn't. I suggested it because if he wants to get her used to it, now might be the time! He may change his mind later - he has a lot of scratches from her play killing his hands. She seems to respond well to the high pitched "ouch"! when she gets too rough though.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2017

Add a lowish basket to any of the above as a collection location = a place where the kitten will remove each one and choose a winner each time, you then collect, rinse and repeat.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2017

I meant to add that OMG she has the most bewitching eyes! And the vet can trim her nails when she goes in for her shots and subsequent spaying.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:00 AM on June 5, 2017

Yes to cat dancer, yes to turbo scratcher-- my cat never gets sick of those.

My nomination is these particular mice. They really satisfy my cat's hunting instinct; I think because they're small so can be gripped by small kitty mouths, and the tails are flat so they're easily picked up as well (unlike slippery string tails.) They also make a satisfying rattle when she dashes them against furniture to murder them.
posted by kapers at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even if he doesn't trim her nails now, I recommend he touch and massage her toes as a routine part of cuddling so if he ever decides he does want to start trimming her nails she won't hate it and it will be easy.

As for toys: My cats love these springs. They break reasonably quick (especially if you also have a roomba) but they're super duper cheap.
posted by aubilenon at 11:02 AM on June 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pioneer Pet SmartCat The Ultimate Scratching Post is sturdy as all get out, tall enough for them to really stretch out against. SmartCat Bootsie's Three-in-One Cat Scratcher is compact but similarly sturdy and stays put on the floor, good for cats that prefer scratching rugs.

He should definitely be handling kitty feet--I have a cat whose nails will grow straight into her paw pads if we don't trim them, but because she's so anxious about being held still and having her feet handled, it's a trial for everyone. Also, part of the reason cats use scratching posts is to SHARPEN their claws, not dull them; trimming my cats' claws hasn't discouraged them from using that big scratching post with vigor.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Cat Dancer. The Cat Charmer, one of their other products, has always been a hit too.

My 4 week kitten LOVED (still loves as an adult) cardboard boxes so if you get any shipment, leave it out in a way that she can crawl in and see how she responds.

About her nails - I left my kitten's nails untrimmed because he would play rough with the other cats who would play even rougher. What I ended up doing was making sure there were at least 2-3 scratching pads out. My cat has never once used the scratching post on his cat tree but if I put 2-3 pads around, he will use them daily and not scratch anything else of importance.

If you notice the kitten's nails are getting stuck on things more often than not, then it's usually time for a trim. I did get my kitten's claws slightly trimmed when he got his shots.

I will say that in addition to some scratching posts, he also has something like this. You can find one slightly cheaper at Walmart (which is where I got mine) or a major pet store chain. This is easily a staple of my cat's life and when it breaks down after a few months, I just take it apart and use the individual scratching pads and get another hammock scratcher.

It depends on your kitten but with mine (who was and still is very social), I needed to actually get down and play with him. For instance, those balls with bells hardly ever interested him until I started throwing them around, waited for him to throw around himself and then continued like it was soccer. Now, he'll entertain himself with it but in the beginning, he wouldn't have.

It's generally reccomended that you cycle throughout the toys so they don't get bored.

She is so cute! I miss having a kitten. -sigh-
posted by thischarmingirl at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2017

and he thought if he trimmed her nails, she wouldn't.

Sorry, that is crazy talk. Completely off base. It's far more important to get a cat used to having nails trimmed. She'll still want to scratch. But it's practically speaking very rare to impossible for her to ever wear her nails down so much on her own that she won't need some supplemental trimming.

The best cat toys are a ball of yarn and table tennis balls.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Our current cats will chase The Red Dot until they are breathless. Get yourself a laser pointer, pronto.
posted by briank at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Great ideas above!
My cat LOVES the little plastic rings that are around the top of plastic milk jugs. Slip it off, toss it across the floor, and watch the fun. My cat especially likes it when I whip them across the linoleum floor--she chases them and then skids across the floor.
posted by bookmammal at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, along the lines of milk jug rings: hair elastics, bottle caps. I don't think I ever bought a cat toy sold as a cat toy. The world is full of cheap/free things that are secretly cat toys even though you may know them by another name :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2017

Response by poster: these are all great ideas - I will make sure I am massaging kitty paws (I am so lucky - I work close enough I can have kitten lunch a couple times a week), and will encourage him to get a nail trimmer. He may have already ordered one, but if not, I may gift him one!

thanks, all!
posted by needlegrrl at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2017

Got a linoleum kitchen floor? My cats were nuts about ice cube hockey as kittens. (As adult cats, only one still enjoys playing on a regular basis.)

I also have a cat who is bonkers for bottle caps (like the kind that come on glass Coke bottles). The down side is that I can never open a bottle without her racing from all corners of creation to beg me for the bottle cap.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2017

I've got one who likes crinkly mylar balls, one who likes jingly balls (but only a certain kind that have wider slots that he can get his teeth into well) and a third who likes long feathery boa-like toys. Boa Cat used to like catnip mice but his allegiances have shifted. Everyone likes the Turbo Scratcher or a cheap laser pointer.

Which is to say, I'd get a wide variety of cheap toys now and figure out this particular cat's preferences and then go from there.

I would also, if you have a tablet, look at downloading some cat apps. Cat Playground is my cats' preferred one (specifically the mouse or fish games) but it's older and not well supported, there are probably newer ones now. Watching your cat rage-flip a tablet to get at the mouse inside is great fun as long as you do it on a soft surface.
posted by Stacey at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2017

My cats are obsessed with looking out the windows, so try to maximize their opportunities to do so. Some day, I am going to build my pretties a catio!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:04 PM on June 5, 2017

My now-grown kitten loved the Kong Kickeroo.
posted by mogget at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2017

No! No yarn or string! Cats, kittens especially, will eat it and it can destroy their intestines. I have had new cat owners learn this the hard way. :(

If my own cats are getting too hyper, I find making them work for their treats is always a fun way to keep them out of my hair for an hour or so. Kong sells a few good products.
posted by Wossname at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Easiest, cheapest and most available kitty toys: Small balls of aluminum foil. They skitter around like crazy, make scratchy noises, and you can always make more when you need them. I used to buy a 20-pack of small (3 or 4-inch?) rubber/plastic lizards from a dollar store for my cat. Something about the long tails and spindly legs that got him crazy. He'd play fetch with them and carry them around.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:33 PM on June 5, 2017

when wrestling with kittens, I suggest having a thick pair of balled socks nearby (like wool or hiking socks) -- when the play gets bitey or scratchy, you can exchange the socks for your hand. this has the advantages that

1) kitten doesn't learn that biting is ok
2) you can still "wrestle" with the cat (it attacks/bites the socks while you push back from the other side/end), which is good social play.

also, yes to the springs! a favorite at our house, for the 7 minutes before they're all inaccessible under furniture...
posted by acm at 12:34 PM on June 5, 2017

My cats are obsessed with looking out the windows

I've also had cats who played with The Kitty In The Mirror, but that's highly variable from cat to cat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2017

Just chiming in to say that yarn has to be supervised if it is played with, speaking from personal experience. A neighbor's kitten that my father was taking care of got all tangled up in a way that nearly had cut off blood-flow to her leg, so... just... be advised.
posted by a good beginning at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2017

The little foam soccer balls are a big hit with kittens I've known (and watched via online kitten cams). Rattly fake mice are also good bets, not just the realistic looking kind but even more so a bright green plastic wire mouse found at PetCo seems to be extra eyecatching and easier to pick up with their tiny teeth.

Please take care to avoid the toys that come with catnip -- this can be surprisingly difficult, but kittens shouldn't get catnip until at least 6 months.

And laser pointers ARE exciting but I've heard that it can be a bit cruel for their tiny kitty brains to never be able to actually catch and kill the dot. I've seen this in action once when a brief accidental glimpse at a laser pointer resulted in over an hour of crazy obsessive hunting behavior. I've read that it helps to end a laser pointer play session by aiming it at a physical toy they can really kill, but I wasn't able to pull this off so YMMV.
posted by KatlaDragon at 1:35 PM on June 5, 2017

Please be careful with grooming "arches" and things with bristles. We have one cat that thinks brooms and bristles are for eating and that's dangerous.
posted by agregoli at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2017

(Also you can end laser toy sessions by making the laser escape under a door)
posted by agregoli at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2017

I trim my cat's nails while he's eating and he doesn't care, as long as his food is still there! My cat likes any toys on string
posted by the twistinside at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2017

I bought a big bag of "craft" buttons at the local dollar tree a few months ago. My cat loves chasing them around and batting them down the (uncarpeted) stairs. The house is now basically completely covered in buttons.

Other things that have been a big hit: Dry uncooked spaghetti rolled around on the floor. Watching a cat try to pick up dry noodles with goofy mitten paws = comedy.
posted by janepanic at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2017

All our cats have universally loved these felt balls.

They also love unwrapped non-applicator tampons. I don't know, but trust me... they LOVE them, I think it's something about the way they roll irregularly and sort of scoot across the floor in their wrapping. Also good if you pick the string out so it's kind of mouse-like.

Sparkle balls from the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee are good too.

Our young cat also really likes used balled up socks (esp toddler socks) and soft baby rattles (he carries one around that's similar to these - his is just a cheapo reindeer one my mom got for the baby, probably at Target).

String only supervised, and I generally use something quite sturdy like shoelaces or rope rather than anything very thin. I've had a couple cats who compulsively try to swallow string so they don't get it at all, even supervised.

Cardboard boxes, paper bags (with the handles snipped - this prevents their head getting stuck in and also makes a toy!), pizza box with holes cut in the top and a ball inside, toilet paper tubes... Use some wood glue to glue layers of corrugated cardboard together to make scratching mats.

No rubber bands or hair bands!!! Scrunchis (90's style covered with fabric) would be okay - maybe even good! But not the skinny hair bands most commonly used. One of my current cats tries to eat these and it is VERY bad (and expensive!) for their guts.

Hang in there with the scratching - if you keep at it, they do learn to be gentle with you, and they will learn to differentiate between hands (skin) and toys.

My grandmother bought my (large) cats one of the expensive very sturdy waist-high scratching post/cat tree things. It weighs *a ton* and it's impossible to tip over. They love it and it turned out to be totally worth it - they won't use most scratching posts (like ones from Target) because they're little and lightweight and would just tip over, so it's something to keep in mind as she gets bigger. They've always used it (and not furniture!).

The very best thing for a kitten, honestly, is another kitten...they do really well in pairs!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:54 PM on June 5, 2017

posted by superior julie at 4:52 PM on June 5, 2017

Da Bird, peacock feathers, kickers, catnip bananas and related, milk jug rings, Cat Dancer, Cat Charmer, Silvervine sticks, springs, hair ties, tunnels, crinkle balls, sparkly balls, puff balls.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:30 AM on June 6, 2017

(Re catnip: I asked my vet about catnip for my eight-week-olds, and he said that it's not dangerous for them but they won't care about it until they're a few months old, if ever. So don't stress about the catnip.)
posted by holborne at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2017

Oh, and I can confirm that uncooked dried pasta makes an excellent cat toy. My two will play with a raw piece of penne for quite a while; they like the noise, I guess.
posted by holborne at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend the Crazy Circle too: our smallest kitten liked the Turbo Scratcher but loved the Crazy Circle, as she could manipulate the ball by putting her paws through the inviting holes. (We have the small one and she also amusingly likes shoving her head through the donut hole; although looks like it got discontinued in favor of the large one.)

Two of ours go nuts for CanCor mini crinkle balls which have a mixture of crinkle and fluff that the mylar ones lack. Also, can wet them to give them a little extra weight and make them fly further when thrown. They're annoyingly hard to find in the US though; and always overpriced on Amazon.

The other prefers orange ping-pong balls; cheap, swattable and pleasingly noisy, especially if she gets a couple thrown into the bathtub for her. Also: ice cubes and pieces of kibble on the kitchen floor, although she often loses the kibbles either under the fridge or to the other cats wandering in and eating them.

Cardboard boxes with holes cut in them for peeking, swatting, and squirming through. Upside-down fruit boxes make good caves for kittens to hide in.

Bird and/or squirrel feeders that she can watch from a window.

We extend the life of wand toys by doctoring them after they lose their novelty: use gorilla-tape to attach a length of paracord, or a clothing tag, or a piece of sisal, or some strips of paper -- basically whatever new shiny has caught, or might catch, their attention.

Echoing the "no unattended string" rule: one of ours is a scissor-mouthed chewer who will happily sever and attempt to eat string from a toy if she's left out of sight with it for even a second. (And thus the paracord, which at least slows her down a bit.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:43 PM on June 6, 2017

Seconding felt balls. Our cat really enjoys this ball, in part because the ball has a tail/whiskers that makes it roll irregularly. Also nth-ing a crinkle tunnel. We throw the ball through the tunnel and she goes galumphing after it.
As for scratching options, we accidentally found that the cheapo foldable storage ottoman we got as shoe storage/seat for removing complicated boots is a great scratching post. She really can brace herself (it's against a wall) and go at it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2017

Oh and if you're handy, consider making your own cat furniture! I won't say "it's not a lot of work" but it's totally doable, and then you get something unique and can make it go all the way to the ceiling or whatever, and whenever the cat likes it you can think "hey I did that!".
posted by aubilenon at 10:48 PM on June 6, 2017

I'm not terribly handy, but the cats like the results anyway:

All the way to the ceiling.
All the way to the ceiling.
Near the ceiling.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:37 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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