6 Exercise Toys for Indoor and Outdoor Cats

6 Exercise Toys for Indoor and Outdoor Cats

Helping kitty get more exercise can be a delightful way to increase and strengthen your bond with your cat. Regular exercise is just as important for cats as it is for you. Exercise not only prevents your cat from becoming overweight or obese, it keeps her physically healthy and also keeps her mentally stimulated. Regular exercise is also important for the emotional health of your pet.

Certainly, it can be challenging to get some cats to exercise for any length of time, but as with so many other things, having the right tools can make all the difference. The following toys can help get even the most reluctant kitty off the couch and help keep her interested and engaged--without knocking over houseplants, scratching walls or digging into the rubbish bins. These are all tried-and-true toy types, which can add a new dimension to your cat’s environment and pique their interest.

 1. Scratching mat/post. 

Cat stretching on a carpet

Cats need to scratch. Scratching is normal and helps to keep them healthy. Scratching posts (are intended to) spare your furniture from being scratched, but they serve a greater purpose: They help your kitty stretch his front legs and torso and strengthen his back legs.

Cats scratch to stretch the muscles and tendons from their toes to their necks, release stress and to mark territory. Also, cat claws grow in layers. Scratching removes the outer layers to reveal healthier nails underneath. It’s important for their well being that they scratch.

A quality cat scratcher may just save your household furniture! You need an appropriate cat scratcher placed in a prominent area in your house because cats use it to mark their territory and show everyone who passes that this is their home.

Cats have an innate need to scratch, and they will scratch upon household surfaces if you don't provide an alternative. Our selection of simple corrugated scratchers helps satisfy kitty's need to scratch while also keeping her claws conditioned. 

Purchase a Bergan Turbo Cat Scratcher Toy for your kitty.

2. Treat-dispensing toys. 

Cat with a cat toy

If you are looking to get your cat more active, then you might want to consider using a food-dispensing (also known as treat-dispensing) cat toy, which provides both physical and mental stimulation during snack times. Self-play toys are especially good for cats who are left home alone while people are away.

Only stuff the cat toys with healthy treats or cat kibble and consult with your veterinarian prior to making treat giving a routine. He or she may have recommendations as to the amount of calories for the treats given daily/weekly so that your cat does not become overweight or obese.

When starting to use treat-dispensing toys, make it extremely easy for your cat to get a treat out of the toy. This process will remove any fear she might have of the toy itself, and it will help her learn the association between the toy and eating. Open the toy and add kibble, fruit (banana, watermelon (no seeds) or peeled apple) or vegetable (cucumber, carrots, green beans or peas).

As soon as your cat is happy to eat out of the toy, make the situation a little more challenging. Close the toy, or reduce the size of the opening so that your cat has to interact with the toy (touching, pawing or nosing it) to get the treat to come out. However, do not use the toy for regular feedings. You don't want to overuse a food-dispensing cat toy (especially if you use cat kibble in the toy). Failure to do so may result in your cat refusing his or her regular meals.

3. Catnip toys. 

Cat looking at a catnip toy

Catnip is a member of the mint family and contains an essential oil called nepetalactone that can neurologically stimulate your cat. Adding this herb or catnip toys to play time can greatly increase your cat’s enjoyment! Reactions to catnip can vary: your cat may eat it, smell it, roll in it, get a sudden burst of energy or just mellow out and take a nap.

It's genetics that determines whether your feline friend falls for this cousin to basil and oregano. About one cat in two inherits a sensitivity to the herb. But you won't know if your kitten is one of them until sometime between ages 3 and 6 months.

Because cats do respond to catnip again and again, the herb can be a powerful training aid. One caution about catnip: Some cats become very excited when smelling or eating it, so be careful about petting or rubbing your cat until you know how he responds. When cats get overexcited, they can sometimes bite. Toys that come with catnip, preferably in a refillable vessel, are excellent for inciting very active play periods that will stimulate your cat and give them excellent exercise.

4. Wand toys. 

Cat playing with a wand toy

A wand toy usually consists of a stick (wand) with a thin piece of fabric or soft decoration tied to it. You can wave, twitch, flutter and circle the wand around randomly so that the decoration moves enticingly like an insect or bird or other prey. A key added benefit of the wand toy is that it lets you keep some distance between your cat’s claws and your skin.

The wand itself can be wire, wood or plastic. Anything pliable but firm will do. Many objects can be attached to the wand to attract your cat’s attention: feathers, leather, strings or small stuffed toys. These objects can be accented with bells or electronic noises, or with catnip scent or fur that smells good to your cat.

It’s best to put the wand toy away after playtime for three reasons:

  1. This toy should be available to your cat only when you’re playing with her, so you can build on your relationship with him.
  2. When you put the toy away after a play session, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s still safe. Watch for pieces of string or other components that might fall off the toy and get swallowed by your cat. If you notice any loose toy parts, it’s probably time to retire the old toy and get a new one.
  3. How many times have you seen mice or birds just hanging around a cat? By putting the toy away after playtime, it remains attractive and interesting when you begin the next play session.

    5. Ball toys. 

    Cat lying on grass with a ball toy

    Just like dogs, cats love to chase balls. Sure, they’re pretty simple and you could certainly use any kind at all. They have the added advantage of being highly animated without much input from you or your cat. Especially on non-carpeted floors, you can get a lot of mileage (pun intended) out of a cheap ball.

    Balls are also very attractive to many cats. Their movement along the floor mimics the movement of scampering mice or other prey animals, which will entice cats to chase. You can insert treats or catnip into some balls to make playing with them more rewarding and exciting for your cat.

    The Bergan Turbo Cat Scratcher toy combines a ball and scratch mat that encourages extended playtime as the ball spins and rolls around and around. Your cat will enjoy an action-packed afternoon even when you’re not at home. It’s also great for multiple-cat households and independent play.

    6. Random household items. 

    Cat in a box

    Cats like to play with cardboard boxes, raffia string, cotton swabs, plastic rings from plastic bottles, crumpled paper and corks. Experiment with all these "toys." When they get worn-out, lost or broken, you're not out any money!

    Items to avoid using as toys include rubber bands (and hair ties), twist ties, paper clips and plastic bags can all pose serious risks to a cat and should not be used as toys. Don't let your cats play with sharp objects, paper clips, plastic bags, string, tinsel or yarn either, as they can also be dangerous if ingested.

    Recommendations for play

    For maximum enjoyment, go at your cat’s pace. Offer several types of toys to find out which are her favourites and what style of game your cat prefers. Your cat’s instincts motivate her to bite toys while you’re playing. This is normal behaviour—but be sure you don’t encourage her to bite your fingers or hands as well. 

    Encourage play, but take a break if things get too rough. Let your cat rest a bit, and start back up when she’s calmer. Try scheduling playtime with your cat both in the morning and in the evening on different days throughout the week to find out when she’s most receptive and inclined to play.

    Choose a place to play where your cat feels safe and distractions are minimised. Give all of your cats a chance to play. You might need to separate them in different rooms and play with them individually if one tends to dominate playtime. Finally, keep in mind that it’s always wise to supervise your kitty while he plays with these toys (or all toys for that matter)! You should promptly throw away any loose or broken parts of any toy, and replace the toy as soon as possible.

    Information for this article was sourced from pets.webmd.com and heavy.com.