Best Cat Toys of 2023 (so far)
Playtime is an essential part of life with cats. The right cat toy can provide much-needed exercise, mental stimulation, and give your cat an outlet for their natural hunting instincts, but gee whiz, there are an overwhelming number of options out there. We’ve collected some of our favorite cat toys under one roof in this guide, so you can decide what’s best for your companion.
Here at tuft + paw, we are cat experts. We're intimately familiar with the features that are most important to cats, like texture and prey simulation. To compile this list, we consulted a veterinarian, cat behaviorist, and product designer to determine which ten cat toys deliver the most feline entertainment.
Cheat Sheet: The Best Cat Toys
|Best Overall||The Wiggle Wand Cat Toy|
|Best Budget||Litterbox.com Laser Pointer|
|Best Modern||Petcube Play 2|
|Most Unique||SmartCat Peek-a-Prize Toy Box|
Why Cat Toys Are Important
Cat toys are vital to the health and happiness of your cat. After all, cats are natural born hunters, even if they are trapped in small furry bodies! In the wild, cats stalk, catch and play with prey as a form of nutrition and entertainment. Obviously this doesn’t happen as much for domestic cats. Other than the occasional bug, cats don’t get their hunting instinct satisfied as much indoors.
Credit: @pixel.siberian on Instagram
Why Cats Need Cat Toys
Without toys, cats can become restless, anxious, and more prone to destructive behavior out of boredom. Cats crave mental and physical stimulation, so it’s a great idea to play with your cat or to have objects around your house that your cat can engage with.
Here are three good reasons to provide cat toys for your friend.
Cats often bond with their owners and other cats through play. If you adopt a new cat, it’s a great idea to spend time playing with your new friend to get them excited about your presence. Play helps them learn to trust their owner and the other cats around them. Cat toys are a great way to help create positive feelings around a new cat and an existing cat.
When cats are bored, they can get moody and destructive. If your cat is often running around at night, yowling and scratching on items, they may be bored! Cat toys are a great way to alleviate that boredom and get them a little more tuckered out before bed. Try a variety of toys to see what works best.
Cats are predators, which means they have a strong hunting instinct. Toys that engage this hunting instinct, such as wands or mice, can be especially fun for cats. Engaging their hunting instinct often can keep cats alert and ready for interaction.
Cat Toy Features
To be honest, there are more types of cat toys that can be listed in one place, but most cat toys have a few common features. Some features will suit some cats better than others, so it may take some experimentation to find the perfect toy for your cat. Veterinarian Megan Teiber says “the best toys mimic prey species. Cats can pounce on toy mice or jump up and swat a toy on a string, like they would a bird.”
Here are some different features to look for so you have a better idea of how to shop.
Feather wands or other feather toys are good for engaging cats’ hunting instincts. The feathers often remind cats of birds or other prey. A cat that spends a lot of time looking at birds out the window might greatly enjoy feather toys. On the downside, feathers tend to fall out or get torn out more easily than other components.
Cats that are a fan of more intellectual games will love a puzzle feature for their new cat toy. Puzzles can be feeder puzzles, toys that require them to spend extra time catching an item or pulling an item from a space, or even balls in rings they can spin. Dr. Teiber particularly likes food puzzle toys: “Many cats eat too quickly and then beg for more food. Food puzzles allow them to interact and 'hunt' for their food.”
Many cat toys feature the herb catnip inside them. Catnip either mellows a cat out, or sometimes it can rile them up and make them excited (and goofy). Cats love catnip and are often drawn to toys that contain it. If you want to get a cat excited to play, sprinkle some catnip around or on the toy.
Credit: @irotheburmese on Instagram
Cat Toy FAQs
What is the best toy for bored cats?
Though we can’t give a definitive answer for your specific cat, we find that cat wands tend to be very versatile and popular among most cats.
What is the best cat toy to slow down eating?
Puzzle feeders are a popular way to slow down eating for cats. There are several types of puzzle feeders available and it might take some trial and error to find the right one for your cat.
What if my cat doesn’t want to play?
If your cat doesn’t seem interested in their new toy, it just might take some practice! Try sprinkling some catnip on the new toy to get them interested. If they still don’t want to play, maybe try a new type of toy.
Deep Dive: The Best Cat Toys
Best Overall: The Wiggle Wand Cat Toy
Rating: 4.8/5 with 248 Etsy reviews
Materials: cotton yarn exterior
The Wiggle Wand is a wand cat toy that does it all. Its cotton yarn exterior is satisfying to scratch and bite, the three dangling strings are endlessly enthralling, and the tip contains a small rattle to draw your cat's attention. A thoughtful detail is the green and white color palette--colors that cats can actually see. We also like that it's handmade and frankly, it's kinda cute!
Classic: Wands are a tried-and-true toy design. Most cats love them.
Motion Required: Depending on the cat, they may not be interested in it when it’s not in motion.
|Satisfies Hunting Instinct: This cat toy gets cats up and running for fun.|
|Stimulating: Every bit of the Wiggle Wand is interesting for cats: dangling strings, cotton exterior, colors, and sounds.|
Runner Up: tuft + paw Fish Bone
Rating: 5/5 with 13 reviews
Materials: linen, cotton, polyester, catnip
The Fish Bone is a great soft catnip toy. The dynamic shape is soft for cats to wrestle with, but also fun to chase and pull on. Cats will enjoy both relaxing and being riled up with the Fish Bone toy. The fabric holds onto the catnip scent since it’s made from linen and cotton.
Tip: If your cat prefers longer toys for chewing, scratching, and tug-of-warring, our snake-like Bamdoll Toy might be a better option.
Catnip: If you’re looking to get your cat goofy, or even chill, catnip toys are the perfect fit.
Price: The high quality materials make this toy more expensive.
Dynamic Shape: The fish bone shape entices cats to play from multiple angles.
|Soft Materials: The all-natural textiles in this toy are durable and soft for cats to chew on.|
Best Budget: Litterbox.com Rechargeable Laser Pointer
Rating: 4.8/5 with 84 reviews
Laser pointers and cats have been paired together for years, and that's because cats go crazy for them! If your goal is to get your cat running around and even doing flips, the laser pointer is the way to go! And perhaps best of all, it’s an easy way to play with your cat from your couch. This specific model is rechargeable by USB, so it should last a little longer than the average laser pointer. Just remember to not shine it directly in anyone's eyes!
Instant Entertainment: Cats really do love laser pointers. They are instantly chasing it as soon as it’s on!
Eye Danger: Remember, do not shine lasers in any cat or human eyes!
Exercise: This toy gets cats up and moving the most.
|Anxiety: Laser pointers can make some cats anxious, as they can’t actually catch the laser. Be sure to offer physical rewards to bring a happy end to the game.|
|Price: Laser pointers are affordable and offer long lasting fun.||Lifespan: Laser pointers have a tendency to stop working for no reason, sometimes sooner than expected.|
Runner Up: GoCat Da Bird
Rating: 4.6/5 with 2,700 Amazon reviews
Materials: fiberglass wand, nylon string, feather
Da Bird is a true classic when it comes to cat toys, and sometimes classic is the best! For years, felines have been chasing Da Bird around the house and absolutely delighting in its feathers. The feathers look and feel similar to actual bird feathers and even make a “whooshing” noise when pulled through the air. This toy has been known to drive cats everywhere crazy for good reason.
Classic: This cat toy is an original classic for cats. With years of satisfied customers, it’s worth the buy.
|Durability: Some reviewers said it can break easily, but refills are available to replace the feather head.|
|Satisfies Hunting Instinct: This cat toy gets cats up and running for fun.||Motion Required: Depending on the cat, they may not be interested in it when it’s not in motion.|
|Price: It’s a relatively inexpensive cat toy that has a decent life.|
Best Modern: Petcube Play 2
Rating: 4.2/5 with 710 Amazon reviews
Materials: Metal, plastic
This cat toy has a lot to offer your pet. Not only is it a laser toy, but it’s also a pet cam, an Alexa, and offers two-way sound so you can talk to your pet throughout the day. If you’re a busy cat parent and your kitty is often left at home alone, the Petcube is a great way to entertain them, stave off loneliness, and keep an eye on their shenanigans.
HD Video: Keep an eye on your cat while you’re away with a video stream!
Price: This high tech toy has a high tech price tag.
Play Laser: Use the laser to play with your cat from afar.
Tech Issues: Some reviewers have had trouble with various aspects of the app.
Multi-Purpose: You can also speak to your cat and take photos!
Runner Up: HYPULY Cat Exercise Wheel
Rating: 4.5/5 with 22 Amazon reviews
Materials: Wood, carpet
The HYPULY Cat Exercise Wheel is an excellent modern toy for indoor cats. A large part of play is exercising and this wheel is all about the exercise! For cat breeds that tend to have more energy and need more activity in their life, this cat wheel is a great toy for them. Keep in mind this large piece will take up some floor space, so cat parents in small apartments will have to sacrifice some room for their cat's exercise. Another consideration is the $299 price tag, which is definitely out of budget for some.
Great for Exercise: Have a cat that loves to sprint? This cat wheel is perfect for them!
Large: It’s a big piece of cat furniture, so it’s best if you have some spare room.
Materials: The cat wheel is made of natural materials.
|Price: Since it’s such a pricey piece, you’ll want to make sure you have a cat that would like to use this.|
|Design: Though large, this wheel isn't an eyesore.|
Most Unique: SmartCat Peek-a-Prize Toy Box
Credit: Pioneer Pet
For great mental stimulation for your smarty pants cat, the SmartCat Peek-a-Prize Box is the way to go. You can hide toys or treats inside the toy box and cats can spend time playing, pawing and trying to drag them out! It can offer hours of fun for the cat that loves puzzles and it's also a great way for food-motivated cats to work for their treats. Finally, the wood construction is way more durable than the standard cat toy.
Hunting Instincts: This toy is great for satisfying those hunting instincts in cats.
Boredom: There are some cats that might lose interest in this toy fast.
|Materials: This wooden toy can stand up to even the most aggressive playtime.|
|Low Effort: Cat parents don't have to run around for their cat to enjoy this toy.|
Runner Up: Moody Pet Fling-Ama-String Cat Toy
Rating: 4/5 with 6,600 Amazon reviews
Materials: plastic, elastic
The Moody Pet Fling-ama-String is quite the innovative cat toy! This automatic cat toy features a rotating string that flings itself out at cats and reels itself back in. Cats everywhere go mad for this string toy, which is easily hung on a doorknob for play. It's perfect for those weeknight evenings when you're tired and your cat needs some thorough playtime. Just be sure to use it occasionally, because overexposure to the repetitive motion could get boring for some cats over time.
|Automatic: Since it’s battery operated, your cat can play with this solo.||
Batteries Needed: This toy requires batteries to operate, so be sure to have them on hand!
|Great Exercise: This toy will have cats running and jumping!||
Boredom: Overuse of this toy could cause some cats to lose interest.
And that concludes our list of the best cat toys! We hope you found this article helpful and got some toy recommendations that might suit your cat. Be sure to watch what objects your cat likes to interact with before you pull the trigger on a new cat toy. This list just scratches the surface of the diversity of cat toys out there, so don't be afraid to keep researching. If all else fails, there's always hair ties!
Check out some of our other educational cat content below.
How to Choose the Right Litter
Cat Lover's Gift Guide: 50+ Unique Gifts for Cat Lovers
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