These days, the term “interactive cat toys” best describes a variety of products from battery operated toys, toys for owners to interact with their felines such as wands, as well as general cat-nip infused toys for cats to play with by themselves and each other. Consequently, there is lots of scope for retailers to create a special interactive section, possibly even special play bundles by working with manufacturers to promote the category and boost sales.
For the past 35 years, cats have been enjoying the popular Cat Dancer wand to initiate play. And, in this timeframe, Jim Boelke, the company’s president, reported its Original Cat Dancer wand toy still remains a top seller. A recent addition to the product line-up is the Cat Dancer Deluxe. It’s best described as a holder for the wand toys that can be attached to a wall so that it can dangle freely, allowing cats to interact with it and play when their owner is busy.
“Wand toys are always a firm favorite for interaction between cats and owners,” said Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe in Nashville, Tennessee. “Some cats will even carry the wand around to initiate games if the toy part is lightweight enough. The Cat Dancer Charmer, which is a four- foot long strip of material on a wand that makes a slinky movement when waved about and the original wired toy with corrugated cardboard attachment on the end are definitely still firm favorites with my feline-owning customers.”
New from Worldwise’s Petlinks line is the Lion Launcher and the Foxy Flyer, toys that owners can launch with an attached elastic so that the toys fly a short distance before landing to initiate feline engagement. They are filled with the company’s HappyNip, a proprietary blend of catnip and silvervine to rev up the feline interactive fun. The Fly Wild wand joins the line-up with the Happy Flyer and the Wild Waver. It’s a feathery concoction of luxurious faux fur, ribbons and jute rope on a wand handle that extends to 24 inches.
Also from Petlinks is The HappyNip Meerkat, a kicker toy with crinkle sounds, long pile plush and dangly arms that is designed to get cats into an active hunt mode and further stimulated by the catnip silvervine blend. In electronic toys, the company introduced the Rowdy Rustler, an electronic toy with a soft fabric cover that has three play modes designed to mimic prey hiding in a bush. It comes with an erratically twirling ball that rustles and jitters inside its tent to grab feline attention and get cats pouncing, swatting and leaping. The ball features a raffia top so it keeps cats engaged even when it’s not spinning. It can also be tossed to offer feline exercise.
There is no question that catnip (as well as silvervine and valerian) is an important component of the interactive toy category.
Apart from winning numerous American awards for its catnip products stuffed with locally grown catnip, and a loyal local following, Meowijuana also exports its high-quality catnip toys to more than 40 countries, with Australia and Singapore being among its biggest markets.
“Our current inventory of ’nip is sourced from Arkansas and Nebraska as well as from California and Washington,” said Marc Adams, chief of business development for Meowijuana. “However, we now also own close to 40 acres of catnip currently under cultivation. These farms will soon start delivering some wickedly-potent catnip!”
Meowijuana has capitalized on the growing trend of legal recreational marijuana countrywide by making its products replicate real “weed.” Cat owners can apply for Medical Meowijuana ID cards for their felines that features the cat’s photograph, name, sex and date of birth, designed to be a fun gift idea.
Adams confirmed that its most popular toy in its line-up is the catnip blunt.
“It’s a perfect size that allows the cat to hold it with their hind legs as they rub and enjoy it with their front legs,” he said. “The product is stuffed with our premium catnip, but we’ve also upgraded it with other all-natural herbs like silvervine and valerian root to make it really potent. And our sales reflect that cats really approve.”
When it comes to battery-operated toys, PetSafe has produced a variety of electronic toys that allow cats to play interactively on their own. Many have the feature that allows the toy to switch off automatically and many have a motion sensor so that the toy can reactivate itself.
At this year’s Global Pet Expo, the company added two new additions to its line-up. The new PetSafe Laser Chase is an automated laser toy that moves around randomly and is able to navigate out of corners and from underneath furniture. It also includes an automatic shut-off after 10 minutes of playtime. And the PetSafe ZOOM has two lasers for double the fun. ZOOM rotates 360 degrees and creates random patterns and also automatically shuts off after 15 minutes of playtime.
In terms of manual toys, the company reports perennial success with its SlimCat Interactive Feeder, a ball toy that can be filled with either treats or toys. It’s dishwasher safe and BPA-free and ideal to make cats interactively work for their food and simultaneously offers mental stimulation.
Paper: A Cat’s Love
According to Lynn Bahr, the veterinarian-turned cat toy innovator behind the Dezi & Roo line and a Pet Age Women of Influence honoree, her Hide and Sneak tunnel made from strong brown paper remains her top interactive seller.
“The Hide and Sneak taps into a myriad of basic needs cats have for self-play as well as security, comfort, marking, chewing, sleeping and living,” Bahr said. “It combines the three things they love best: paper bags, cardboard boxes and tunnels. Paper naturally attracts cats. Several studies document the need all cats have to hide, and the Hide and Sneak fulfills this basic instinct in an innovative and unique way.”
The best thing about tunnels is that cat owners can increase the amusement by throwing small toys into the tunnel and also dangling wands on the ends to entice further engagement.
Bahr’s Wiggly ball collection works well as “accessories” for the Hide and Sneak tunnel and, according to Bahr, are quickly catching up in sales as each toy brings a different element of enrichment for cats to enjoy.
“All of them help cats cope with the stresses of living indoors and provide owners with ways in which to keep their cats happy and healthy and playful,” she said.