Celia Haddon gives advice on ways to keep a cat occupied playing by himself.
Q: What are the best interactive toys for my indoor cat to keep him busy during the day?
Celia says: A: I am assuming that you are out during the day, so you need toys that your cat can play with by himself.
The easiest way to motivate him is to throw away the food bowl and scatter or hide food for him, or buy or make some food dispensers. The Cat Activity Funboard works with both wet and dry food, and can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but it is too small for large breeds like Maine Coons. There are upright food dispensers too that might work for your cat, but mine learned how to get the food by simply pushing them over!
Other items to keep your cat busy are food dispensing balls, such as the Catit Treat Ball or the Ancol Small Animal Treat and Activity Ball. There are quite a few on the market, but it’s worth buying them in a shop, rather than online, so that you can make sure they are not too heavy or too difficult for your individual cat. Cats that have never used a food dispenser will benefit from being taught by you how the food falls out. You can also make your own food dispensers out of toilet roll tubes, cardboard boxes, or tennis balls.
Cats are individual in their tastes but on the whole, prefer moving toys rather than static ones. There are now battery-operated toys that are activated by movement for instance. They tend to be rather larger than normal cat toys and my cats have found some of them frightening. So, take into account whether your cat is confident or nervous. There are automatic laser toys, but the danger with these is that they might make your cat very frustrated at being unable to catch the light.
Toys without a battery but activated by a paw often work well. Catit Senses Play Circuit, with a ball inside a circuit, worked for mine. Some cats like little balls that light up, others prefer squeaky toys. Dangling toys might work too but be careful about safety. Toys on a string, which could be caught up and strangle your cat, should only be used when you are there to supervise. Although it seems unlikely, accidents like this can happen.
Regularly rotating your cat’s toys will help to keep them novel and interesting for your cat.
Solo play is a topic that behaviourist Clare Hemington will be covering in her new series ‘Power of Play’ series so keep an eye out for it in a future issue.
Before leaving your cat alone with a toy, supervise them playing with it so you’re happy it is safe for them to play with alone.