There are a variety of cat toys on the market, including food and puzzle toys and toys that bounce, flutter, or move in a way that entices the cat to chase. The best toys for active play are string or wand toys that look like feathers or streamers or a toy dandling from a fishing pole. Even a peacock feather makes a great interactive toy due to its length. With timid cats it's best to stay away from large or noisy toys. Some cats are more attracted to things in the air while others prefer staying closer to the ground. Knowing whether your cat prefers air or ground play hunting will be an advantage, and you may have to try several different toys and rotate them frequently before you find the ones your cat likes best.
When you play with your cat try to imitate the movement of prey-this is much more interesting to your cat than continuous movements. Sometimes just a subtle movement and twitching of the toy can catch your cat's eye, and your cat will plan its attack. Avoid dangling the toy in your cats face; no prey does that.
To be most effective, play at least twice daily for about 10 to 15 minutes each time. Include a morning play session before you go to work to prepare your cat for a day home alone; leave her with a variety of food and puzzle toys to engage in solitary play. The play session when you get home is extremely important for an indoor cat because she probably napped much of the day. If you're consistent in scheduling playtime, your cat will soon look forward to your arrival. Yet another play session can be scheduled before you go to bed; this helps some cats sleep calmly through the night.
When playtime is over, be sure to put all interactive toys away. In addition to the danger of strings being chewed, these toys should be reserved for your play sessions. Between sessions you can leave furry mice and other safe toys out for solo play. Don't leave out too many toys because they'll soon lose their appeal. Rotating a few helps prevent boredom, and your cat will think she's getting a new toy each time it reappears.
This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®