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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


Exercise is important for all cats. It helps keep them fit and lean, avoiding the very common problem of obesity. And toys are probably one of the best ways to encourage your cat to exercise.

Besides providing much needed exercise for your cat, cat toys serve another purpose as well: Toys, particularly interactive toys, help provide mental stimulation for your cat. They help keep your cat entertained, keep him from becoming bored and help reduce stress in his life.

There are lots of different types of toys that are available for cats. Visiting one of the large pet stores will likely provide you with an entire aisle full of alternatives. So, which toys should you choose?

As you may already know, I have six cats. And each of them has different preferences as to which types of toys are favorites. Base your decision on what your own cat prefers. But here are some of my cats’ favorite choices.

All six of my cats enjoy toys that they can chase. We have several toys that are tied by a string to a pole so that I can dangle the toy near my cats and let them chase the toy. All six of my cats will happily chase after the toy, although some of them tire of the game sooner than the others. Toys with feathers are a particular favorite in this category. These toys are only available for my cats to play with while I’m there to supervise though. I do not recommend allowing your cat to play with these types of toys without supervision because of the risk of injury should your cat become tangled in the string or break and swallow part of the string.

A couple of my cats also like small toys that they carry around in their mouth. They seem to enjoy throwing them and then retrieving them again. They’ll sometimes even bring the toys to me.

Toys that roll are another favorite. We even have an old tennis ball that is a favorite, but the real favorites are a bit smaller than a regular sized tennis ball.

Several of my cats also enjoy playing with a laser pointer. They all enjoy the game at the start, but two of my cats quickly become discouraged after they "catch" the light a couple of times and realize there isn’t really anything there to hold onto. Be sure not to shine the laser pointer into your cat’s eyes when playing.

The other toy that I find invaluable for my cats is a food puzzle. Essentially, it’s a ball that can be filled with food or treats. The food drops out piece by piece as the ball is manipulated. As all but one of my cats is very food-motivated, these food puzzles are a great way to make them work for their food and provide entertainment and exercise at the same time. I’m positive my cats think these little balls are magic. They’ll play with them in hopes of getting a bit of extra food even when the balls are empty.

What kinds of toys do your cats enjoy the most? How do you encourage your feline kids to stay fit?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Eva Mill / via Shutterstock

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