Cat playing with wand

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Wands or feather dancers from 14 toys your cat might actually play with

14 Toys Your Cat Might Actually Play With

Cat playing with wand

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If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that the struggle is real: You go to Petco and spend your hard-earned cash on a perfect new toy for Sparkles, only to take it home, toss it at the kitty, and be met with a resounding “meh.” A couple of halfhearted swats later, it’s doomed to spend eternity under the couch.

Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, so when they’re awake it’s important to make sure that they get some exercise. In the wild, this comes from hunting, but when they’re inside, it’s all about tapping into their natural instincts to keep their brains sharp and to keep them in good shape. Needless to say, some toys accomplish this better than others.

All cats are different, but no matter what breed you choose, there are indeed some toys that your kitty is more likely to play with than others. A little fake mouse? That’s gonna be a “one and done.” A battery-powered squeaky fake mouse on wheels? Now that’s more like it. We tracked down some super-popular playthings for cats, both top sellers from Amazon and toys that have simply been tested by time and experience, and we can safely say that these are likely to distract even the most ambivalent feline.

Wands or feather dancers

Wands or feather dancers

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It is known: Cats are physically incapable of resisting springing up onto their hind legs and pawing at whatever is dangling over their heads, especially if it’s close to touching them. Wands come in lots of shapes and sizes (some even have fishing lures attached to the end) but any brightly-colored wand will do; we’re especially fond of simple strips of rainbow-colored fleece.

Laser pointers

Laser pointers

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Lasers are a constant source of mystery and confusion for a cat, which makes them even more fun for humans. They see the dot, they chase after it, they catch it, and then it reappears on top of their paw! Not only are laser pointers loads of fun, they’re also a great way to give your kitty some exercise (and to test how far up a wall they can run). Older cats tend to lose interest in them once the novelty wears off, but seeing a cat experience a laser pointer for the first time is always a hoot. Just make sure that once playtime is over, you reward them with a treat; all that "hunting" needs to result in capturing some "prey"! 

Catnip banana

Catnip banana

For a cat, catnip is like, well, catnip, and a banana is the perfect shape and color to grab their attention and hold onto it. Only about 80 percent of cats get excited by catnip, but if they do, they’re going to love the “Chi-CAT-a Banana.”

Thing on a spring

Thing on a spring

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Carpeted panels with spring-loaded mice sprouting from them are great for cats; not only can they use the carpet for scratching and stretching, they can swat at the mouse to their heart’s content.

Ball with a bell

Ball with a bell

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Not all cats will fall in love with the little ball-shaped cage with a bell inside (because like fake mice, they don’t move on their own), but once they swat at it and see (and hear) it bouncing across the room, they won’t let up until it’s firmly lodged under a large piece of furniture.

String-flinging machine

String-flinging machine

This toy is pretty brilliant: You hang it on a doorknob, and a conveyor belt flings out a piece of colored string before sucking it back up, over and over again. Frustrating, mesmerizing, repetitive, stringy, automatic… this one checks off all the boxes.

Catit Digger

Catit Digger

This toy actually lets your cat dig for its own food. You drop some treats or dry food into the tubes, and let your cat paw at them in order to remove them. Once they do, they get a snack!

Paper bags

Paper bags

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The simplest things can sometimes provide cats with hours of fun. Case in point? Some cats just can’t resist the temptation of a paper bag on its side.

Mice on wheels

Mice on wheels

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If a cat toy is just sitting on the floor, your cat will most likely just swat at it for a little while before losing interest. But if it moves on its own, then kitty’s innate hunting skills will kick in, and it’ll turn into a, well, a cat-and-mouse game. A battery-powered mouse than can scoot around on its own will tap into your cat’s instincts and provide it with endless fun. Extra points if it squeaks as well.

A ball spinning around a track

A ball spinning around a track

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If it moves, a cat will be intrigued by it. If it spins around a track when they swat at it, a cat will be mesmerized by it. Especially if there’s also a thing on a spring coming out of it.

A tower of tracks

A tower of tracks

This is actually the highest-rated cat toy on Amazon, and it makes a lot of sense: If one track excites a cat, imagine how successful three will be. Not only does this give your cat (or cats) a few different things to chase simultaneously, if you get the balls spinning yourself it’s a great way to bond with your cat.

SlimCat feeder ball

SlimCat feeder ball

This is another way to active your cat’s hunting instincts, promote exercise, and reward it for hard work: You fill the ball up with dry food, and as your cat chases it across the floor the food slowly falls out of adjustable openings.

Hidden prey toys

Hidden prey toys

There are a few different varieties of this kind of toy on the market, and they’ll all great. It’s a round mat with a toy attacked to the center; it spins around at random, occasionally sticking its “tail” out of the mat, and your cat will do everything in its power to get at it.

Cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes

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What is it about cardboard boxes that are so attractive to cats? It’s one of those eternal mysteries, but we have yet to meet a cat that turns up its nose at the opportunity to hop into one. Sometimes, the best cat toys are simple household items; it’s just one life hack that every cat owner should know.

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