Often, your cat’s preferred method of hunting will be reflected in his choice of favorite toys. Understanding the feline play drive will help you select the best cat toy.
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. We receive a small commission on goods purchased via this link, at no additional cost to you.
Your Cat’s Inner Wild Nature
Sometimes, cat toy preferences can be passed down through feline generations. A cat in the wild might hunt as his mother taught him to hunt. If the mom’s a mouser, the kittens tend to grow up to be mousers as well.
Hunting can be a dangerous situation for them, so a hungry cat in the wild might pursue the easiest prey. That’s one reason cats play with their prey — and their toys. It’s safer for them to tire out their prey before moving in for the kill.
Playing With Your Cat
Identifying your cat’s prey preference will make play more fun and save you from wasting money on the wrong toys.
Invest in an assortment of toys to try with your cat. Select toys that mimic birds, perhaps flying through the air or making chirping sounds, and toys that stand in for prey that is hunted on the ground.
Try a stuffed animal or a cat toy like the Tickle Pickle for a cat that likes kicking his prey. This type of toy can be a redirection tool for a cat that likes to chase and bite hands. Imitate the movement of a bug using a string with a knot on the end or by tossing some kibble across the floor.
Observe what grabs his attention and select toys that cater to those behaviors. Once you have a set of toys he enjoys, change them out often so he doesn’t become bored with them.
Play Like Prey
Once you’ve selected toys for your cat, there are ways to make the most of play sessions. It helps to see the world through your cat’s eyes, it’s even better to think like prey when you play. Try these techniques:
- Change movements. “The movements you do are most important when it comes to enticing your little hunter,” says certified cat behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett. “Some cats enjoy erratic, jerky movements, and some are more enticed by fluid, smooth movements.”
- Be less obvious. “Cats want to chase things that are sitting, twitching, cowering in fear and barely moving,” says Johnson-Bennett. “Cats like their prey to be slinky and mysterious.”
- Use smaller objects. Smaller toys appeal more to cats because your cat might view a large toy as an opponent rather than prey, explains Johnson-Bennett.
- Don’t attack your cat. “People playing with toys will throw them at cats,” says Johnson. No mouse with any sense of self-preservation is going to run at your cat. “Prey always goes away from the predator — never back toward the cat,” explains Krieger.
- Let your cat win. The satisfaction of the hunt, after all, is to subdue the prey. “At some point, your cat needs to capture whatever it is your cat is trying to capture,” she says. “Culminate play with a catch.”
- Understand your cat’s personality. How your cat plays depends on his personality and confidence, explains Johnson-Bennett. “A shy, unsure cat might prefer a smaller toy,” she says. “An athletic cat might go for a toy that flies through the air.”
Keep It Simple
You don’t have to buy an elaborate cat toy to engage your feline friend. He might enjoy batting around a ping-pong ball or crinkled paper. When you’re playing with your cat and experimenting with different types of toys, keep your pet’s age and mobility in mind, don’t overdo it. The most important thing to remember is to make the experience fun for both you and your cat.