Winter 2012 Magazine

Cat Chat

Cats Just Need to Play

By Nancy Marano

"Black Friday" is a memory - thank goodness - but it alerts everyone that it's time to think about gift giving. While you might not stand in line at 3:00 a.m. to buy a gift for your cat, there are many products out there to delight your cat and your friends' cats. Here are a few worthy of consideration.

Cats need to play. Not only does it stimulate their brain and keep them alert but leaping, running and chasing helps tone their muscles. Indoor cats need some help from their people to stay active and to keep them from playing with things you don't want them to touch.

When kittens' play, it teaches them the skills they need to be a cat. It helps hone the coordination and timing they will need to hunt. Climbing, stalking and pouncing also develop hunting skills. Play promotes self-sufficiency, psychological and behavioral growth.

Adult cats need to exercise just as humans do. Some active breeds such as Abyssinians and Bengals do lots of exercising on their own. Other breeds like Persians or Ragdolls prefer to rest on the couch rather than run after a ball. Even couch potatoes can be enticed to play if their owner puts a little thought and effort into the game. Encourage their natural desire to stalk and leap by pulling a toy on a string in front of them. They will follow it and get exercise in the process. Put a catnip mouse close to the cat's nose until he gets excited. Then toss the toy away from the cat and watch him go after it. With patience on your part and the aid of a clicker, you can even teach your cat tricks - think those cute commercials on TV.

Here are some products you might want to investigate to keep your cat curious, playful and healthy. These are only a partial selection of the many toys available but they'll get you started. They are not in any particular order but all are cat-tested favorites.

Cat Cubes, $4.99-$11.99
The Pop-Up Play Cube for Cats is the favorite toy at our house. The cats love them for hiding in, rolling around in, playing in and popping out of to scare you. When they get exhausted, they also sleep in them. Our rescue cats' got in these immediately and haven't stopped playing in them since. They are inexpensive and easily available at Walgreen's, Wal-Mart and There is also a set of two Cat Cubes available at Target and Double the fun. It is possible to hook these cubes together to make impressive cat hideouts.

MultiVet SlimCat Interactive Toy and Food Dispenser by PetSafe, $7.95
This toy dispenses dry food as your cat plays and hunts. You adjust the hole size to accommodate the dry food. One piece of food comes out at a time so you can control how fast your cat eats. It helps your slightly overweight cat eat correctly and slim down while he exercises. Wash the FDA-approved plastic SlimCat in your dishwasher or with hot soapy water. This is available at and various pet supply stores.

SmartCat Peek-a-Prize, Pioneer Pet Products, $29.99
This is a wood toy box. You hide various toys inside to keep curious cats sharp - mentally and physically. Rotate the toys to keep your cat interested. You can also hide pieces of food in the box. It is available at, Petco and other stores.

Interactive Toys:

Using interactive toys with your cats provides wonderful bonding time and fun for both of you. Many of the best interactive toys have been around for a long time with variations. Some of the tried and true ones are

Da' Bird Feather Teaser, Go-Cat, $9.95
This is a realistic feather toy that spurs your cat's hunting instinct. Cats love to chase the feathers. There is a pull-a-part rod for easy storage. Other attachments such as Fun Fur, Mouse, Sparkly and others are interchangeable to keep your cat's interest. This toy is made in the USA.


Cat Charmer, Cat Dancer, $6.99
Twirl the strips of multicolored material and watch your cat leap and dance. Cat Dancer also comes with a wire and pieces of rawhide on the end that smell of catnip. These toys are popular with every cat I've ever known.

FroliCatT BOLTT, Brilliant Pet, $19.95
This interactive laser toy promotes healthy exercise. It can be held or set on a hard surface. Requires 4 AA batteries, not included. Cats pounce on the moving light patterns.


For those who want to get the ultimate cat gift to keep your cats interested all day long, consider the

Cat Power Tower, Wiser Pet Products, $399.95 (
This is available in different combinations of levels for different prices. The three-tier model offers one-of-a-kind features, including a motorized rotating bird carousel, a cat-powered play platform, a hunting hole platform, a lounging platform, an oversized sisal scratching post and a two-sided sisal scratching board. The tower is environmentally friendly.

Free apps

For the technologically aware cat, Friskies puts out free apps for your Ipad or Android tablet of various games. Your cat can play Piņata Fiesta, Cat Fishing, Jitter Bug, Tasty Treasures Hunt and Party Mix-Up. You can find the link to these games at

Make your own toys

You don't have to spend huge amounts of money to keep your cat happy, exercised and full of fun. You can take things you have readily available at home and turn them into exciting, interactive cat toys.

Grab a paper grocery bag, cut off the handles so your cat won't get caught in them, open it out and you've created a wonderful hiding spot for your cat. Roll a toy mouse or ball into the bag to keep things interesting or scratch a pencil over the top of the bag.

An empty cardboard box is another intriguing place for a cat. When the cat jumps in the empty box, toss in a ping pong ball or crumpled paper for extra fun. You can also turn the box over, cut and opening for the cat to get in the box and a hole in the top. Then dangle a string with wadded up paper or a feather tied to it through the hole.

How about an empty toilet paper roll? Cats can keep busy for a long time with these items that are freely available in your home.

With some imagination and household items you can have many hours of fun with your cat. However you choose to play with your cat the most important thing is to enjoy the interaction you have with your cat and the bond that forms between you.

(PETroglyphs is not connected to any of the products mentioned in this article.)

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by three cats, Sammy, Callie and Max. Callie and Max are new additions to our family. She is a member of the Cat Writers' Association and Dog Writers of America.

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