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The Best Cat-Approved Toys for Independent Play

A stand-up comedian and freelance writer, Regi loves life. He cares for two 12-year-old cats.

As I write this, I have two 12-year-old, neutered cats. They are still active, one more than the other, and neither acts like they are in the senior portion of their lives. Every day my wife plays with them, but we also catch them playing with solo-play cat toys.

Here is a look at several of their favorites—the toys that my cats would surely say, if they could, are the best. A couple of these items aren't even sold as cat toys, but our kitties play with them nonetheless.

Cats can be very picky about their toys, so choose carefully.

Cats can be very picky about their toys, so choose carefully.

The Organic Catnip Carrot

There are a number of catnip carrots on the market. I’m not sure why it’s a popular shape for cat toys. It’s not like cats eat carrots. Well, the several cats I have had in my lifetime didn’t nosh on that particular veggie, anyway. Nonetheless, cat carrots filled with catnip flourish.

Several brands exist, and you can also find them made by independent crafters on Etsy and in real life at craft fairs. I suppose it’s relatively easy to cut and sew some orange material and stuff it with catnip.

We try to go organic when we can, so we have bought and received as gifts a few Ratherbee’s brand catnip carrots over the years. These are durable in our experience, and we like having cat toys in every room, so our beloved kitties can play whenever they happen upon a toy.

Our smaller, quicker cat, Phineas, will play by himself with a catnip carrot for several minutes at a time. He has taught himself how to toss a catnip carrot up in the air with his front paws while he sits on his hind legs. Then he jumps and catches it in his mouth. He’s impressive!

We keep dozens of cat toys that have been collected over the years in a basket. Sometimes, Phineas digs his oldest catnip carrot out of the basket and carries it in his mouth like its prey. That toy is over ten years old. It’s worn out. We aren't even sure which brand it is. And he loves it!

Interestingly, we also receive other catnip-packed, fabric gifts. Some are cigar-shaped. Others are harder to categorize. One, a toy eggplant, came packaged with a toy carrot. The carrot has gotten far more attention. In our home, catnip is beloved. But it gets the most notice when it's inside something resembling Bugs Bunny's favorite food.

Of course, play sessions with these toys always end with our feline friends very mellow.

Plastic Cat Springs

Our other cat, Quentin, loves plastic springs. Sold under multiple brands, if you have never witnessed a cat chase after one of these little, colorful springs on a hard surface, you need to see it. Q for short, Quentin is a bulky kitty, but he’s surprisingly quick. He takes after me, I reckon. At least once a day, he goes completely bonkers with one of these toys.

If you ever get a bag of these cool cat springs, be willing to replace them after a few months or go hunting high and low for where your cat has hidden or knocked them.

A Simple Bootlace

Interestingly, Q also loves a bootlace. Technically, the lace works better as a guided toy, with which my wife will sit on the floor and get Q racing in circles around her. Still, he also plays with his bootlace by himself.

He’ll pounce on it and drag it around in his mouth. If he drags it toward us, drops it, and starts talking, in an act of presentation, it means he wants us to thank him and commence a play session with him.

Find toys that allow cats to use their animal instincts.

Find toys that allow cats to use their animal instincts.

The Feeder Ball

When we feed our fur babies, we put Q’s food into a green feeder ball from PetSafe. We love it because we can adjust it to dispense only one piece of dry food at a time. Q gets the food he loves and the exercise he needs, and he never eats too fast, which is what he did before we found this great cross between a cat toy and a rolling pantry.

The Food Puzzle

While Q is occupied by the feeder ball, we drop Phineas’s grub into a SmartCat Peek-a-Prize toy, which we affectionately call “The Food Puzzle.” A hollow, wooden box with holes on all sides but its bottom, this toy comes with two balls. We put a bunch of other small cat toys in there, and then we pour cat food into several of the holes. Thus, Phineas gets crucial activity for an aging cat while he dines.

Any Box

Cat owners know that cats, like toddlers, are just as likely to play with a cardboard box as they are to enjoy whatever came inside it. Unlike toddlers, cats do this out of the instinct to seek confined spaces for safety and cover. If you need your cat to play while you do something else, I recommend leaving a few boxes strewn about your home. Phineas and Q dig them!

Cats love playing in boxes.

Cats love playing in boxes.

The Unsung Paper Bag

My two little buddies also dig paper bags. Much like the box, the paper bag meets the feline need to seek a confined space. In our house, boxes lead to slow play, with some hopping in and out. Paper bags lead to periods of waiting mixed with frenzied ambushes. Delightful!

Paper bags are also another great cat play toy.

Paper bags are also another great cat play toy.

I hope you have been helped by these insights into the best cat toys, as my cats see them. Please feel free to leave the world a comment about the cat-approved toys in your home.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Regi Brittain