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8 Common Things Cats Like to Play With – Simple Enrichment Ideas!

maine coon cat playing with toy at home

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

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Cats need regular exercise to keep them fit and ensure they stay healthy. It is generally recommended that a cat has 20–30 minutes of exercise each day, especially indoor cats that won’t be getting any exercise running around outside.

Cat owners will attest to the fact that spending a small fortune on cat toys does not, in any way, guarantee that they will enjoy or even acknowledge the existence of those toys. Sometimes, the most enjoyable toys for cats to play with are everyday items that are laying around the house.

Below are eight common things that cats like to play with, although you should remember that every cat is different, so what one cat likes, another cat might have no interest in.

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The 8 Common Things Cats Like to Play With

1. String

playful tabby cat lying on the living room floor, playing with a ball of string
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

Most of us have string or a length of wool or twine laying around the house, and this remarkably simple item can seem like heaven for a playful cat. Pull the string slowly away from your cat to get its attention. If yours is an especially reactive cat, you can pull it quicker.

Ideally, you will want a second piece of string so that you can continue the game without risking painful damage to the fingers when you try and retrieve the original piece. You shouldn’t leave the string out for your cat to play with unsupervised, however, because if it ingests the string or wool, it can cause serious problems in their gut.


2. Crumpled Paper

playful cat playing with crumpled paper balls on office desk in sunlight
Image Credit: Bondar Illia, Shutterstock

Crumpled paper is another favorite and a testament to the fact that cats really do like the texture and the noise it makes is the range of commercial cat toys that have a similarly crumpled section. Crumple up a piece of paper and throw it around for your cat to chase, but only after you’ve left the paper intact on a table, to determine whether yours is one of those cats that likes to sit on or in rectangles.


3. Balls

cat lying on the sofa playing with green ball
Image Credit: Natalya On, Shutterstock

Table tennis balls, balls from board games, or bouncy balls are great toys for cats. They are easy for you to throw and tend to be inexpensive, so it doesn’t matter if they get lost under the TV cabinet or the cat destroys them. They also fit neatly into your cat’s mouth, although you should make sure that the ball isn’t so small that it will easily slide down your cat’s throat and get stuck.

It isn’t just dogs that like to play fetch, and with some positive reinforcement and reward-based training, you could potentially teach your cat to play this rewarding game too.


4. Feathers

persian cat playing with feather toy
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

Feathers are soft and mimic the look and feel of a bird. You can pull the feather around if you’re confident of getting your fingers out of the way of the cat’s claws in time, or you can throw the feather in the air and let it waft down to the ground.

Some cats will leap up to try and grab the feather, while some will let it get close to the ground before grabbing at the makeshift toy. Some will also turn tail and walk away. You can also tie a feather onto the end of a piece of string so that you can pull it further and faster while keeping your fingers out of the way.


5. Paper Bags

cute ginger cat sitting in a paper bag and looking curious sideways
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Some cats absolutely love paper bags. You may even find it difficult to empty the groceries without your feline friend trying to climb into the bag they came from. You shouldn’t let your cat play in plastic carrier bags, but fabric bags and paper bags should be perfectly safe.

Paper bags can be especially enjoyable for your cat if it likes the sound of crumpled paper. Put the bag on a hard floor surface and throw a toy in there to see if you can encourage the cat to slide around.

Well-designed toys will keep your cat happy and engaged. For a sturdy, fun toy that will look nice in your living room, we recommend Hepper's Catnip Stick Toy! These toys are designed to look like prey and double-bagged to stand up to your cat's sharpest claws and teeth. Plus, they're filled with organic catnip and handmade in the USA.Hepper Catnip StixAt Pet Keen, we've admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!


6. Cardboard Boxes

tabby cat in a cardboard box on the floor
Image Credit: Troyan, Shutterstock

Cardboard boxes hold a similar level of appeal to paper bags and if your cat is a fan, you’ve probably endured the heartache of buying an expensive cat toy only to find your pet playing in the box rather than what came in it. Your cat may choose to sleep in a box you give them, or jump in and out like it’s the most exciting toy they’ve ever been given. If you’re struggling to get your cat to climb in and explore, you can always sprinkle a little catnip in there to pique its interest.


7. Lights

Two cats playing with laser pointer
Image Credit: Wanda Lizm, Shutterstock

There is some debate over whether it is cruel to play with laser cat toys. On the one hand, most cats love to chase the red dot around the floor. On the other hand, some pet psychologists say that you are setting them up to fail because they can never catch the light. If you’re worried, keep play sessions short and reward your cat when it catches the laser by giving it a treat.

If you don’t have to use a laser pointer, shine the reflection of your watch or your phone screen onto the floor. It has a similar effect, even if it is more difficult to control the beam. Whatever type of light or light-based toy you use, be careful not to shine the light in your cat’s eyes.


8. Screen Objects

female holding phone while kitten is looking at the screen
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

When it comes to cell phone screens, cats can enjoy them in more ways than just chasing their reflection. There are multiple apps available now that mimic the movement of fish and other objects. Try downloading one and have your cat chase the fish around the screen.

Again, you might want to consider giving your cat a little treat when it successfully manages to catch something, otherwise, you run the risk of them getting bored and frustrated.

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Conclusion

Cat toys don’t have to cost a fortune to be appealing and enjoyable. You likely have a number of the items above already in the house, and what better way to use recyclable paper and cardboard than to give them a second lease of life before they go to recycling?

Try to play with your cat every day, ideally for around 20–30 minutes. It not only keeps them active but also helps to build and reinforce the bond between you. It also sharpens a cat’s mind, not just its body.


Featured Image Credit: Grisha Bruev, Shutterstock

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