By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Like any creature, cats need exercise, but they’re not likely to enjoy hiking the Badger State Trail with you. Since their food comes from a bowl and not after a chase like their wild cousins, housecats need toys to keep busy and burn calories. Instead of hitting Wisconsin’s trails or relying on his ability to catch mice, play with kitty at home. Try shaking up his routine with some new toys.


Many cats like dangly toys, such as those on a string or flexible stick. These mimic the flight of birds. Once he catches it in his teeth, don’t yank hard on the toy to free the toy. He’ll drop it after a few chomps. Also, be careful to not smack him with the stick. A gentle whisker tickle should grab his attention. Don’t leave these toys with your cat unattended since he can become tangled in them.

Lightweight balls containing jingle bells or small toys with crinkly material inside offer an easy-to-bat toy that appeals to mousers, along with an ear-catching sound. Some cats will fetch small, light toys to keep the game going. And some figure out that playing in the tub or on stairs makes chasing the toy more interesting. Dispose of any toys with cracks or broken parts.

Furry, twine-covered or fabric mice provide a familiar shape to scamper after. Some cats like to dismember their faux prey. Once kitty starts tearing apart his mouse, throw it away so he won’t get hurt on the small parts.

Cat toys made of tubing with a toy inside appeal to cats’ drive to capture elusive prey. Like rodents that hide among leaves and brush, the balls inside these toys seem to scamper away from thrusting paws.

Other floor-based toys incorporate dangling items, balls on springs, or other “prey” that seems to move on its own. Before investing in these types of toys, which generally cost more than freestanding toys, determine what kind of plaything your kitty favors.

Laser lights work particularly well in dim lighting and drive kitties crazy. No matter how hard they try to catch that little dot, it gets away! Just keep the light out of his eyes and monitor children using the toys.

If kitty seems bored with the toys you try, look for ones that can conceal a couple treats or catnip inside to help him get frisky.

Talk with your cat sitter about your cat’s favorite toys so she can provide the kind of play kitty prefers. Along with the playtime you offer, your pet sitter can help you keep your cat active.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Some cat toy should not be left with your pets while you’re away. Others may fall apart with normal use, so watch for signs of wear.