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Cat Toy Safety

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Safe Cat Toys Cat Toy Safety Dangerous

Cats are notoriously difficult to please and will often turn their noses up at the expensive pet-store toy in favour of a crumpled bit of newspaper. While cats are generally not as destructive as dogs, it is important to select your cat's toys wisely and make sure that she doesn't have access to items which may cause harm.

All kittens are curious and love to play, and even adult cats benefit hugely from having a variety of toys to play with - in fact, some types, such as tortoiseshells, are renowned for being playful and kitten-like well into adulthood. Especially for an indoor cat, toys can help to relieve boredom, relieve stress and pent-up energy, discourage destructive behaviours such as scratching in inappropriate places and encourage natural activities, such as stalking and pouncing.

Whether a toy is dangerous depends to some extent on the individual cat. Obviously there are certain things that are definitely off-limits (eg. playing with matches) but other toys may be safe or dangerous depending on habits of your particular feline. For example, fluttering pieces of ribbon may be fine for a cat which will only bat with her paws but they may be dangerous for a cat that loves to put everything in her mouth and chew and swallow them, as they can cause a serious gastrointestinal blockage.

Household Items

As said earlier, cats often find many household items more entertaining than a commercial cat toy. In fact, what is rubbish to you can be endlessly fascinating to your cat and common items that catch feline interest include bottle caps, paper bags, pens, cardboard boxes, bits of ribbon or string, feather duster, crumpled newspaper…in fact, anything which moves, can be batted around or be crawled into for hiding.

In general, most of these things are fine for your cat to play with under supervision, although make sure you remove anything which may have small parts that could be chewed off and swallowed. Beware also that the household item is not covered in any toxic substances that the cat may inadvertently chew or lick off and ingest. Certain things are potentially very dangerous, no matter how cute your cat looks playing with them, so it is best to remove them from her environment. These include things like pins and needles and even rubber bands, which could be ingested. Be careful also of anything which can get caught on a claw and prevent retraction or become lodged in the cat's mouth or throat as a choking hazard.

Plastic bags are a definite no-no, due to the risk of suffocation but paper bags are usually safe although some may have rigid handles which may catch around the cat's neck as she wriggles in or out of the bag and then she may be terrified as the bag remains stuck around her neck, "chasing" her as she tries to run away. A panicked cat could do serious damage to herself and others. In this case, cutting off the handles is one way of avoiding the situation.

Commercial Cat Toys

These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and using them to play with your cat can provide valuable bonding time for you and your feline friend. They are generally designed with feline safety in mind, although it is still wise to "cat-proof" them by removing any bits and pieces that would be chewed or ingested.

Most cats prefer soft toys which they can easily get their claws into; versus rigid, hard toys although a small ping-pong ball which darts around and bounces erratically is very attractive to some felines. Some cats also like plastic rolling balls with bells inside. Other popular choices include little mouse-shape toys made of felt or fake fur or feathers and often embedded with catnip, a herb which drives many cats wild.

For interactive play, a wand with a long piece of ribbon and/or several fabric "fingers" is great for your cat to chase and catch. A variation on this is a hand-glove with interesting pieces dangling from each fingertip which jerk around as you move your fingers. If you have a particularly aggressive player, however, you might not want your hand that directly involved in the play!

The latest in cat toys is a machine which jerks a bait around, in random directions, via a piece of string. For a lazy or absent owner, this can be one way of providing some entertainment for kitty although interactive play between you and your cat is always best.

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