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10 Best Cat Toys for Exercise in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Nicole Cosgrove

Two cats playing with laser pointer

Indoor cats are more vulnerable to obesity than outside felines, and they need exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and active. Exercising your cat seems challenging since cats are notoriously stubborn and picky about their toys, and sometimes, you have to experiment with a few toys before you find one your cat loves. We’ve tried to save you hours of search time by featuring a diverse group of toys and reviews. After reading the descriptions, you can check out our handy buyer’s guide for additional advice.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy
  • Three levels of play
  • Non-slip pads to prevent sliding
  • For multiple cats
  • Best Value
    Second place
    KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy
  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Great for solo play
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    PetFusion Electronic Cat Toy PetFusion Electronic Cat Toy
  • Great for solo play
  • LED light
  • Feather stimulates prey drive
  • Best for Kittens/Puppies
    Frisco Bouncy Mouse Cat Toy Frisco Bouncy Mouse Cat Toy
  • Encourages leaping
  • Filled with catnip
  • Affordable
  • Frisco Scratch & Roll with Catnip Frisco Scratch & Roll with Catnip
  • For multiple cats
  • Great for solo play
  • Cardboard scratching pad
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    The 10 Best Cat Toys for Exercise in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

    1. Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy – Best Overall

    Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy

    Toy type: Track with balls
    Features: Balls and toy butterfly
    Material: Plastic

    The Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy was our best overall cat toy for exercise. It serves as a private amusement park for your cat, and your feline is sure to burn off calories playing with this toy. It has three tracks with colorful balls that your cat can knock around and watch them spin. It also has a toy butterfly hanging from the top of the unit to tempt your kitty. Non-slip pads on the bottom of the toy keep the toy in place and prevent sliding. One of the advantages of this toy compared to competitors is its ability to entertain multiple cats.

    With three different tracks, your cats do not have to take turns playing with the toy, and you will not have to spend more money on buying toys for other cats. The Cat Tracks is a solo toy that cats can play with when you’re not at home. Cats ignore some solo toys after a few minutes of play, but the Cat Tracks keeps cats stimulated much longer. A wild feline may be able to tear off the butterfly toy, but Frisco anticipated that and included an extra butterfly.

    Pros
    • Three levels of play
    • Non-slip pads to prevent sliding
    • For multiple cats
    • Inexpensive
    Cons
    • Butterfly toy can come off

    2. KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy – Best Value

    KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy

    Toy type: Ball
    Features: Exercise ball
    Material: Polyester

    If you’re looking for an inexpensive toy for your cat that entertains it when you’re away, you can try out the KONG Active Treat Ball Toy. It won our best cat toy for the money award, and it packs in a lot of fun for such a low price. It doubles as an exercise ball and a treat dispenser. You can load up the toy with your kitty’s favorite treats and watch your cat chase the ball around the room. The ball moves around unpredictably and drops treats out of a small hole.

    Although it’s inexpensive, the polyester ball is tough enough to take abuse from an excited feline. We liked that the KONG ball is a solo toy that your cat plays with when you’re away, and the treat dispenser encourages felines to exercise. Most customers are thrilled with the KONG ball, but we noticed that some cats become bored with the toy after a few days.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Durable
    • Great for solo play
    Cons
    • Some cats lose interest

    3. PetFusion Ambush Interactive Electronic Cat Toy – Premium Choice

    PetFusion Ambush Interactive Electronic

    Toy type: Electronic
    Features: Glowing light, feather
    Material: Plastic

    Another excellent product for solo exercise is the PetFusion Ambush Interactive Electronic Cat Toy. It’s our premium pick, and it’s large enough to entertain multiple cats. The Ambush has a colorful turkey feather that pops out of six different holes to stimulate your cat’s love of hunting prey. A bright LED light attracts felines to the toy, and its anti-skid pads on the bottom keep it firmly attached to the ground.

    If your cat succeeds in its toy hunt, the feather falls off, but you can reattach it for more fun. Destructive cats can rip up the feather, but PetFusion provides a backup feather when the original is destroyed. It resembles a robotic vacuum cleaner, but it only stays in one place and does not move around the floor. Although it’s much cheaper than the top-of-the-line cat toys, it’s a bit more expensive than a standard toy. It comes with 4 AA batteries, and it’s ready to go right out of the box.

    Pros
    • Great for solo play
    • LED light
    • Feather stimulates prey drive
    Cons
    • Expensive

    4. Frisco Bouncy Mouse Cat Toy – Best for Kittens or Puppies

    Frisco Bouncy Mouse Cat Toy

    Toy type: String toy
    Features: Catnip
    Material: Polyester

    Selecting the first toy for a young cat is challenging, but with the Frisco Bouncy Mouse Toy, you can watch your little furball reach new heights while it leaps into the air. You hold the toy with a small loop and bounce the mouse up and down to stimulate your cat’s love of hunting. The toy is filled with catnip to keep felines stimulated, but it’s more effective for cats over six to eight months old. Kittens typically begin to react to catnip after six months.

    Although you have to be present to make the mouse bounce, some cat owners mentioned that their kittens enjoyed playing with the toy by themselves. After a few months or possibly weeks (with a destructive kitten), you’ll have to replace the toy, but since it’s so inexpensive, you can buy several to keep your little one entertained throughout the year.

    Pros
    • Encourages leaping
    • Filled with catnip
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Not durable
    • Catnip will not work on young kittens

    5. Frisco Scratch & Roll Scratcher Cat Toy with Catnip

    Frisco Cat Scratch

    Toy type: Track with ball
    Features: Catnip, cardboard scratcher
    Material: Plastic, cardboard

    The Frisco Scratch and Roll Scratcher Cat Toy provides two vital activities for your curious cat. It encourages exercise with a ball that rolls around the track, and it includes a large cardboard scratching pad in the center to keep your cat’s claws honed and healthy. The toy comes with a packet of catnip that you can sprinkle on the cardboard to entice your feline to exercise. Whether you have multiple cats or just one, the Frisco Scratcher can provide hours of mental stimulation and physical fitness.

    We liked the addition of the cardboard for scratching, but it’s not likely to last very long if you have a destructive cat. Luckily, cardboard isn’t difficult or expensive to replace.

    Pros
    • For multiple cats
    • Great for solo play
    • Cardboard scratching pad
    Cons
    • Cardboard must be replaced

    6. Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser Original 2 in 1 Dog & Cat Toy

    Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser

    Toy type: Laser
    Features: Laser light
    Material: Coated metal

    If you prefer to relax on the couch while your cat runs around the room, the Ethical Pet Laser is the perfect toy for you. Although most toys encourage cats to exercise, the Pet Laser is more effective in keeping your cat fit because it tempts them to run and leap around the house. The LED light is safe around pets and humans, but be sure not to shine the light in your kitty’s eyes. The light is bright enough to use outdoors and indoors.

    Our biggest complaint with the laser is the cheap construction. Several customers complained that the laser was damaged during delivery, and some complained that the laser did not last very long. However, you could buy three or four lasers for the same price as a track toy. The batteries do not last very long, but that’s a common complaint of laser toys.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Effective for exercise
    • Great for lazy owners
    Cons
    • Not durable
    • Batteries do not last long

    7. SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Electronic Concealed Motion Cat Toy

    SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Electronic

    Toy type: Electronic
    Features: Lights up, feather toy
    Material: Plastic

    Have you ever seen your kitty attack your hand when it’s hidden under a blanket? Most cats love to play with concealed objects, and if your cat is in that group, it’s sure to enjoy the SmartyKat Hot Pursuit Electronic Cat Toy. An electronic arm, hidden by a plastic cover, moves around the floor erratically and tempts your cat to grab the toy. It has variable speeds that you can change, and the toy shuts off automatically when it’s not being used.

    The toy is great for solo exercise, but it’s not as durable as some of the competitors with similar prices. The toy makes a slight humming noise when it’s turned on, but several customers complained about the abrupt sound it makes when a cat grabs the toy. You can replace the arm if it breaks, but the motor doesn’t seem to last very long, and it’s cheaper to buy a new toy than order a replacement motor.

    Pros
    • Great for solo play
    • Variable speeds
    Cons
    • Not durable
    • Loud
    • Arm comes off easily

    8. Frisco Mythical Mates Gnome Teaser Cat Toy with Catnip

    Frisco Mythical Mates Gnome Teaser Cat Toy with Catnip

    Toy type: String toy
    Features: Catnip
    Material: Polyester

    If you’re searching for a string toy with a much larger target, you can use the Frisco Mythical Mates Gnome Teaser Cat Toy. It features a toy gnome with incredibly long legs for your cat to latch onto and pull to the floor. Unlike other string toys, it does not have feathers or long strips of ribbons. It may be too large or frightening for kittens, but adult cats will enjoy pouncing on the friendly gnome.

    Although it’s inexpensive, the string isn’t very durable, and several cat owners complained that it broke after a few weeks of play. Also, the manufacturer claims that the toy is filled with catnip, but some cats that sniffed the toy didn’t react to it. Numerous string toys are available, but this one is a nice change from the typical mouse and ribbon toys.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Unique gnome toy
    Cons
    • String breaks easily
    • Gnome can scare kittens
    • Catnip is ineffective

    9. SereneLife Automatic Laser Cat Toy

    Toy type: Laser
    Features: Preset laser settings
    Material: Plastic

    Laser toys are helpful when you do not feel like exercising with your cat, and the SereneLife Automatic Laser Cat Toy makes your job even easier. You can set it on the floor or table and watch it display a laser dot in unpredictable patterns around your home. It has preset settings so you can alternate the patterns to keep your cat from becoming disinterested. It automatically shuts off when it’s not in use.

    It’s a suitable option for solo play since most lasers require your participation, but the product has design problems. Several customers complained that the laser does not work for long before it burns out. Also, it’s not very durable, and if it’s knocked off a table, you’ll have to replace it. Replacing a cheap toy isn’t too uncommon, but the SereneLife is more expensive than any of the products we reviewed. However, it costs half as much as it did a few years ago.

    Pros
    • Great for solo play
    • Variable laser settings
    Cons
    • Laser light burns out
    • Casing is not durable
    • Very expensive

    10. Frisco Peek-a-Boo Cat Chute Cat Toy, Colorful Tri-Tunnel

    Frisco Peek-a-Boo Cat Chute Cat Toy

    Toy type: Tunnel
    Features: Tunnels and toys
    Material: Polyester

    Cats enjoy exploring enclosed spaces, and they’re sure to have fun in the Frisco Peek-a-Boo Cat Chute. This colorful tri-tunnel is ideal for multi-cat families.  Cats can run into the tunnel and attack the hanging toys for a bit of exercise. Unlike most of the other cat toys, the Cat Chute does not include a catnip option.

    The tunnel is easy to fold down for storage or travel, but wild cats with long claws can have problems getting their paws caught in the fabric. The biggest problem with the toy’s design is that it doesn’t hold a cat’s attention for very long. Perhaps, if the toys were filled with catnip, the tunnel would be more attractive to cats.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • For multiple cats
    Cons
    • Too large for small rooms
    • Fabric is not durable
    • No catnip in the toys

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Choosing a toy that keeps your cat engaged and physically fit is more challenging than selecting a toy for a dog. As you probably know, cats are particular about their play things, and some lose interest after a few spiriting sessions. We tried to include a broad selection of products in our reviews, but we did not include any ultra-expensive products that cost as much as a television. Before trying out one of the toys, you can look at some of the factors that come into play when you’re shopping for the perfect toy.

    Price

    Our reviews include products that are reasonably priced, but some toys last longer than others. Replacing a toy that only lasts a few weeks is frustrating, but when you only have to spend three or four dollars, the expense is less painful to your wallet. If your feline mutilates toys quickly, you should focus on the lower-priced items that are easy to replace.

    Feline Preferences

    Does your cat like to be stationary when it plays with a toy, or does the animal enjoy sprinting around the room? Toys designed for solo play are more suitable for lazy cats, but hyperactive kitties may prefer a string toy or a laser that encourages them to run and leap. Although we did not perform a scientific analysis of which toys provide the most exercise, it seems like lasers and mobile catnip balls are more effective in burning calories than track systems.

    tabby cat playing an interactive toy outdoor
    Image Credit: Penderis, Pixabay

    Space Restrictions

    Tunnels and track toys designed for multiple cats are suited for larger rooms, and your cat may feel cramped if the toys are kept in an enclosed space. Catnip toys and lasers are ideal for small apartments, and they’re inexpensive to replace.

    Replacement Parts

    If you read the product descriptions of different cat toy manufacturers, you’ll notice that every company includes a disclaimer stating the toys are not indestructible. Practically every cat toy will wear out and fall apart, but the product’s lifespan depends on your cat’s behavior. Some cats can use a toy for several years, and others manage to destroy the product in a few weeks. When you take care of a destructive cat, it’s wise to purchase toys that come with or offer replacement parts. For instance, our top pick includes an additional butterfly if your cat wrecks the original.

    cat playing
    Image Credit: Flensshot, Pixabay

    Multiple Cats

    With more than one cat in the house, playtime can be more complicated. Some cats will fight over a single toy, but you can solve that problem by buying several cheap toys or using one large toy for all of them. Track toys like our top pick are excellent for entertaining multiple cats, and since you don’t have to participate in the fun, your felines can continue to play when you’re not around.

    Safety Concerns

    Cat toys eventually break or fall apart, and it’s vital to discard them promptly before your cat ingests a load of plastic or rubber. Every toy maker includes a warning that their products should not be used when they’re damaged, and that’s valuable advice. The toys are made of non-toxic materials, but the real danger of chewing on a broken toy is the choking hazard. Also, some toys are safe for cats but not for children. If you have young ones running around the house, be sure to keep the cat toys separate from the human products.

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    Conclusion

    We discussed ten cat toys, but our best overall pick is the Frisco Cat Tracks Butterfly Cat Toy. It entertains multiple cats with three tracks of rolling ball toys and includes an additional butterfly toy if one of your frisky cats rips it to shreds. Our next selection, the KONG Active Treat Ball Cat Toy, impressed us with its durability and unique way of distributing cat treats. There is an almost infinite number of cat toys available, but hopefully, our reviews and guide will help make your decision a little less agonizing.


    Featured Image Credit: Wanda Lizm, Shutterstock

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.