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Cats are fickle creatures, and that’s a big part of their charm. But it also makes finding the best cat toys seriously hard. Just like humans, cats have strong likes and dislikes — and they aren’t afraid to let you know about them. Even if you spend hours wandering the pet store aisles for the best cat toy out there, your furry friend may wind up preferring the box over the new plaything — so be sure to hang on to the receipt.
So how do you find the best cat toys to please your feline overlord? We turned to the experts for help: our cats. CNET happens to have a lot of cat lovers on our team, and we surveyed them to find out which toys their cats find utterly entertaining. Here we present a list of the winners. These toys have all been swatted at, pounced on and chased by our favorite felines. From feather dancers to catnip toys, lasers and more, these are our cats’ most beloved toys. And if you have a dog too, be sure to check out our list of the best dog toys.
This cat toy sits prominently in the middle of my living room, and I can’t bear to move it because my cats love it so much. The fact that they can push the ball around the track from any position — on their belly, upside down and the favored jump attack — keeps them entertained for hours. My favorite part is the scratching section in the middle. My cats have a tree and numerous scratching posts throughout the house, but this toy is the favorite. The inserts are really cheap, and you get months out of the current one before it gives out. As a bonus, you can sprinkle catnip on the cardboard scratcher to give them a good time, and encourage them to return to keep scratching there and not on your couch.
— Taylor Leamey, health and wellness writer
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So many cat trees are just plain ugly. They’re usually bulky, covered in carpet and generally don’t go well with any other decor. But Catit’s Vesper line of cat furniture is fantastic. The pieces have a modern wood design with high-quality rope scratching posts, carpet pads and hanging ball toys. They come in multiple colors, sizes and configurations, and my cats are absolutely obsessed with them. I am too, as the trees look great in my apartment. They’re super durable too, having handled years of abuse from my two cats with minimal wear and tear.
— Daniel Golson, former senior social media editor
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GoCat Da Bird Teaser Wand is the only toy that can keep my 14-pound panther-of-a-cat entertained nonstop. This is the longest feather wand toy I have ever come across, and the lightweight poll feature makes it look like a real bird is flying around. It’s easy to play with due to the length (I can just sit on the couch and wave it around for hours), as well as super nonintrusive to store since it is a super lightweight, thin wand. There are also a ton of different attachments you can get for the end of the toy which means you really only buy the wand once and then replace the toy as needed. It’s one of the most basic toys I have come across but truly one of the most efficient, and I recommend it to new and old cat parents alike.
— Emma Wolgast, former paid social analyst
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Most cats (and dogs) get the zoomies — you know, that time when they go into crazy active mode and run around, bouncing off the furniture, racing across the backyard in a frenzy or jumping all over you. (Note: the technical term for zoomies is FRAPs — Frenetic Random Activity Periods, according to animal behavior experts.) If your cat gets the zoomies, then this toy is for you — it’s an inexpensive laser pointer that allows you, from the comfort of your couch, to direct a red dot around the room that your cat can chase to burn off all the excess energy. Best thing: It’s USB rechargeable, and trust me, you’ll be using it a lot and need to recharge it often.
One note: I’m not an animal behavior expert, but I do find that cats — being the smart creatures they are — know that you’re playing a game with them with the dancing red dot (aka, intruder into their space). And they might want to “play” way longer than you want to. So build in an exit as part of your play routine — that is, have the dot disappear in the same place every time (under the door, for instance). Over time, your cat will figure out that the intruder has left the building and that they can now go take a nap.
— Connie Guglielmo, editor at large
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Remy’s a unique boy — he had his eyes removed when he was a kitten to fight off an infection. Finding him toys was a little challenging, since I thought they needed to make noise to get his attention. I didn’t have high hopes when my sister bought him this slightly ridiculous stuffed pickle, but it was love at first bite. It’s filled with catnip and must have the good stuff, because he refuses any catnip toy except this one. He always has to be lying near it, and will pounce if you try to take it. His favorite game is pretending to be asleep, then attacking his sisters if they dare to touch it.
— Courtney Johnston, editor
This puzzle box is the best! I put treats in it on days when I’m going to the office so my girls have something to do while I’m gone. It gives them mental stimulation as they reach, dig, hunt and push the box around, and they get rewarded with a treat when they get one out. The cardboard is super sturdy (both of my cats can stand on it at the same time) and it’s held up for the past three years. There’s also an even bigger Mega version that you can pick up for $36.
— Elena Avis, associate program manager
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Best cat toys FAQs
Do cats really need toys?
Cats spend a lot of time sleeping and entertaining themselves, so it’s easy to assume that toys are a luxury, not a necessity. However, just like people, cats need exercise and mental stimulation. A bored cat is an unhappy cat, and that can result in unwanted behaviors, such as overvocalization, clawing and biting. Toys give cats an outlet for their prey-driven behaviors and can provide comfort if they’re feeling anxious or stressed.
What kind of toys do cats like best?
Each cat has their own unique preferences and energy level, so you’ll want to try out various types of toys to find out which your kitty likes. Indoor cats in particular need toys that give them mental stimulation and an outlet for scratching. Low-energy cats might prefer a soft toy filled with catnip, while high-energy cats enjoy dancers and teasers that allow them to mimic catching prey.
Many cats are drawn to the smell of catnip and react to it, from lazily rolling around and meowing to going totally nutso berserk. But fortunately, because it’s an herb, catnip is considered to be safe and nonaddictive.
However, keep in mind that it doesn’t take much to let your kitty unwind. If cats ingest too much catnip, whether fresh or dried, they can experience digestive issues. If you’re worried about that, it’s best to stick with catnip toys that are durable and not likely to break apart.