I feel that commercially manufactured cat toys tend to prove to be a failure too often. Cats are just not interested enough in them or they lose interest quite quickly. They can end up being a waste of money. Why is this?
The main reason why cats stop playing with toys quickly is because the toy does not disintegrate. If it does not disintegrate the cat believes that his ‘prey’ (the toy) is difficult to kill and that his efforts are not producing the required objective: to provide food.
If the prey ‘item’ cannot provide food the cat becomes frustrated and disillusioned and stops. In essence, normally, cat toys don’t behave like genuine prey; certainly if they are made of plastic.
It seems that the better toys are those that fall to bits when bitten and clawed vigorously. It is said that laser pointers ultimately frustrate cats because they cannot be caught. Some people think that laser pointers are cruel.
Another factor is a lack of hunger. If the cat is not hungry he is less likely to try and ‘kill’ the toy.
A third factor is that domestic cats see large toys as large prey items and are more careful when attacking them for fear of retaliation. This is similar to domestic cats being confident when they attack a mouse (a small prey animal) but more circumspect when hunting a rat because rats can harm a domestic cat.
Domestic cats can be genuinely frightened of toys (it’s the same thing as banana skins scaring cats). The manufacturers often don’t understand this. The kind of toys which frighten my cat are ones that make weird noises and are brightly coloured and large. He just runs away from them. That’s the last thing you want.
The fourth trigger for a cat to become interested in a cat toy is if it smells, feels and looks like genuine prey. I am referring to fur or feathers and legs.
These factors are not set in concrete it seems. I know that a colleague of mine, Elisa, reports success with large plastic toys. However, I believe these are toys which mimic mice in runs and such like. She’ll correct me if I am wrong.
I’d have thought that of all the above factors which affect a cat’s interest in toys, the most important is whether it can be ‘killed’ and whether the cat sees the destruction of the toy as a sign of success and that he will get some food out of the hunt.
P.S. We know that manufacturers sometimes impregnate cat toys with catnip to stimulate the cat to play with it. I wonder whether this is an artificial form of cat play because when cats are stimulated by catnip they aren’t attacking and trying to kill prey, they are just a little high on a drug. Homemade cat toys are normally as good as any commercial product.
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