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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

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.


For today’s Daily Vet, we’re revisiting Dr. Lorie Huston’s column from January on keeping your cat fit and healthy with play. Don’t forget, cats sleep a lot during the day, but they love to play at night. Did you play with your cat last night?

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

Comments  5

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  • Scheduling
    09/03/2012 07:42am

    "Don’t forget, cats sleep a lot during the day,"

    Many cats also seem to have a schedule. On weekends and holidays when I'm home, usually my cats act as if I'm interrupting their napping schedule when I interact with them.

  • Toy Differences
    09/03/2012 09:41am

    I have three cats. One is 15 years old and isn't interested in toys. But the other two - both five - have different tastes in toys. One will play with absolutely anything that she can push across the floor, while the other is partial to playthings that are long, such as pens. Not that pens are playthings, but he thinks they are everytime he catches me writing, lol. I do have two long cat toys that he loves though. It's interesting how different cats have different preferences... just like people.

  • Cat Tent
    09/03/2012 01:07pm

    This past weekend we acquired a cat tent from freecycle: http://retrolife.typepad.com/katamari/2008/06/new-ikea-cat-tent.html This has been keeping our cats all entertained since it arrived. Mind you, part of the fun around here is that we put anything like that on our hardwood floors so the cats can 'spin out' or slide across the floor if they handle it right.

    We have also found that a flashlight works just as well as a laser on one cat and she doesn't give up easily. In her case it is good, as she has been putting on a little weight with our free feeding here.

  • Window Feeders
    09/03/2012 01:13pm

    Sorry I forgot to mention that we always have window feeders, (for birds), attached to windows where the cats hang out. In summer we have hummingbird feeders and in winter we have feeders for song birds. You can purchase them at any bird shop and they attach with suction cups.

    As we have to concern ourselves with attracting the local bears, it gets a bit difficult to come up with ideas, but we have found that the local Stellars Jays are happy to drop by the second floor window sills to check for peanuts.

    Of course, we also have a bird bath on each side of the house to invite the activity wherever the cats might be at the time.

  • Cat's and Toys
    09/05/2012 02:43am

    My 5 month old kitten loves those little balls with feathers on the end. My husband taught him to fetch. He will chase a thrown toy and bring it back for us to throw again for as long as we will do it. We usually run out of gas before he does. It does, however, offer us the best time to laugh and play with him and it is great exercise for him.

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