While indoor cats don’t have to “hunt” for food, the instinct is still ingrained in their DNA.
For this reason, the importance of playtime for indoor cats cannot be overestimated. Cats are natural predators and in a domestic situation, regular playtime should be substituted for the rigorous, “hunt, eat, sleep” schedule they would normally experience in the wild.
“Many behavioral problems can be eliminated through a program of purposeful play and activity,” Kate Benjamin, owner of Hauspanther, said. “By fostering a cat’s instinctual activities, we enable them to live in a way that is natural to them, eliminating anxiety.”
A cat’s hunt revolves around a four-step process, observe, stalk, chase and pounce. A simulated hunt can be easily created with realistic toys and activities. But remember that felines can be as finicky about playtime as they are about their diets.
“No one toy will appeal to all cats,” Benjamin said. “Manufacturers understand this and have created toys for cats that will appeal to any different personalities and play styles.”
With clear packaging that enables consumers to select a specific type of toy addressing a characteristic of play, manufacturers continue to prove they understand not only the instinctual needs of pets, but the educational needs of retailers and consumers.
Plush, Rollers and Catnip Toys
“We’re seeing a big increase in interactive toys that contain catnip this year,” Kristen Le, from Petsport USA, said. “Toys like our Kitty freak Ladybug, Mouse Ball and motion-activated Kitty Flash toys are gaining in popularity.”
From crinkle balls to sisal rollers, simple toys are always a feline favorite.
Companies like OurPet’s and Kong offer fun toys that are packed with catnip and include a crinkle or realistic sound, such as a bird call or mouse squeak, to help stimulate play. Made from ultra-soft plush fabric, these are great for low-activity level cats that prefer a good roll and cuddle.
Recently, Petmate unveiled its new line of interactive toys, which include plush birds, butterflies and pom-poms filled with high quality catnip. The Cataction cat toy line will be available in September, 2013.
“The Cataction cat toy line is designed to exercise a cat’s body and mind,” Chad Lee, JW product manager for Petmate, said. “Cat guardians are more in tune with the primal needs of their cats, and at JW it is our goal to develop innovative toys that activate a cat’s natural instinct to play. Intelligent ideas. Happy pets.”
Wands, Tech and More
Popular wands toys include daBird and Neko Flies, both of which are fishing pole style toys that can be “baited” with realistic lures ranging from a fancy fur mouse that can be made to realistically scamper across a room, to lifelike insects that are guaranteed to get cats jumping.
These interactive toys are a perfect selection for high energy cats.
“When I created the Neko Flies toy, my goal was to create a toy that could simulate a realistic hunting experience,” Ellen Tsyuaki, owner of Nekochan Enterprises, said. “Our toy encourages all elements of a hunt – such as stalking, chasing and jumping – and has improved the lives of cats around the world.”
If your cat prefers to hunt when you’re not at home, there are many battery-operated toys that function on their own. Lasers have fascinated cats since their invention, and the FroliCat DART and BOLT both offer automatic rotating lasers that be set up on a timer to keep cats on their toes while a pet owner is away.
Other fun, automated toys include the Crazy Tail Spinning String cat toy from PetLinks and the FlingAma String cat toy. Both are designed to simulate the movement of prey, encouraging cats to observe and stalk.
Foraging toys are increasing in popularity by focusing felines on scavenging, a natural occurring trait in cats.
The Aikiou Feeding Station from Stimulo encourages the cat to “hunt” for their kibble by fostering this instinct. Cats must identify, and then reach into, tube-like holes to retrieve their kibble. Each tube can be easily interchanged and lengthened or shortened.
BPA-free, this product uses only human-food grade plastics to make their feeding stations.
Other popular foraging toys include the Nina Ottoson Treat Maze, the Trixie Snack Box and various treat balls and puzzle boxes. Each of them caters to a cat’s natural instinct to forage for food, while keeping them entertained and providing them with extra exercise.
Track toys focus on activity and movement, encouraging a cat’s natural response to observe and chase.
Bergan Turbo Scratcher toys offer scratcher replacement pads made from recycled material, while the Turbo Track can be easily reshaped for cats that prefer new shapes and designs on a regular basis.
Thrill of the Chase is a classic in the Play n’ Squeak line from OurPet’s, and CatIt now offers a Play Circuit and a Speed Circuit in their popular line of track toys.
For the easily bored cat, an appeal to all of their senses is the best enrichment exercise. Catit’s Senses Comfort Zone is the latest in the Senses modules, which combine water, grass, and a variety of textures, sounds and movement that is guaranteed to provide the ultimate in enrichment experiences.
“Cat products have skyrocketed in the past several years,” Abby Bishop, manager of Only Natural Pet Store in Boulder, Colo., said. “The selection has increased and guardians of even the pickiest of cats can now find toys that appeal to them.”
Whichever brands of toys a retailer chooses to carry, be certain they carrying a wide selection that appeals to cats of all personalities.