Best cat toys for the felines on your holiday shopping list

By Amanda WalkerConsumer Reports

We know your holiday shopping list would not be complete without presents for your pets. You can find aisles full of cute toys cats (not to mention stuff for dogs, birds, rabbits, and other critters) at pet stores, kids’ toy stores, discount places like Target and Walmart, and on shopping websites. Many toys are safe and give pets something to chew on and scratch besides your couch, but some can cause injuries. In addition to safety, you should also think about getting the right mix of toys for your kitty. Our goodies are broken down into three categories: play-with-me, keep-me-busy, and calm-me-down toys, plus we have some shopping tips.

––Mandy Walker (@MandyWalker on Twitter)

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For tips on buying gifts for the people on your list, see our Gift Buying Guide. Got to pick up some goodies for your pooch? See our guide to the best dog toy gifts.

Cats will play with just about anything, so you don’t need many to make them happy. A couple from each category will do. Even a paper bag (with the handles cut off for safety) or a small cardboard box can provide hours of fun. Rotate cat toys every few days. When you bring out a toy they haven’t seen in a few days, it’s like, ‘Hooray, a new toy’ to your cat.

Always inspect each pet toy for wear and tear. If it is worn or torn, replace it before your cat tries to eat bits of it. Ribbons, feathers, string, or elastic on toys should be carefully monitored, trimmed away, or avoided (see “Watch Out!” below).

Do get toys you’ll want to play with too. “Playing with your cat for, say, 15 minutes twice a day gives cats the exercise they need and bonds you together,” says Nancy Peterson, the Cat Program Manager at The Humane Society of the United States.

Some cats will play fetch with small balls. Cat dancers—usually sticks or mitts with things that dangle—are tantalizing and provide great jumping exercise. Toys that dangle from doorknobs are OK as long as any elastic is well enclosed and string can't be eaten.

Don’t leave toys with strings, feathers, ribbons, or other objects that can be swallowed laying around; that can cause choking or intestinal blockages. It’s a good idea to put away balls with small bells in them for the same reason, and replace them if they crack or show signs of wear. Cut off bells sewn to the outside of toys, too.

Do try catnip toys. They encourage play when you’re not around, which can keep cats away from stuff you don’t want destroyed. Catnip might not have much effect on little kitties and older cats, though.

Don’t use catnip toys if they cause extreme aggression. And snip off bits that might be chewed off, like feathers, strings, or bells.

Do see if your cat likes carrying around a stuffed toy he can cuddle with and bite. Or your cat might prefer fabric toys that make a nice crunch, like a fish or chew ring.

Don’t hesitate to trim anything that can be swallowed if you want to let your cat have access anytime to these toys.

We know, we've said it a few times, but it bears repeating: Don't leave stringy stuff out.

Rough cat tongues have tiny sharp spines that hook backward. Those spines can pull things that get on their tongue down their throat, which can choke them or cause an intestinal blockage. Small bells can also be a choking hazard, and laser pens might cause obsessive behavior problems.

Visit our Holiday Gift Ideas page throughout the season to find the best deals, time-saving advice, and much more.

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