We’re breaking this one into two parts due to length! – Cory’s Mom Steph
My humans are always bringing home things they give to me and, as far as I can tell, expect me to be excited and play with them, and they’re disappointed or confused or annoyed when I don’t find them interesting. Yet when I find things that I consider fun, like paper bags and cardboard boxes and balls of paper, they take them away. What gives?
Most ‘cat toys’ are designed by humans to meet what other humans think a cat wants. More often than not, what we want is not what the well-meaning human believes we want. Most humans consider the things we like to play with ‘garbage’ or at best something unattractive to have lying around, so they throw it out or put it away*, yet they might tolerate dozens of brightly coloured commercial toys.
* In most cases, they aren’t taking it from you in order to play with it themselves.
A related issue is the human belief that if you have one or more toys you really love playing with, you really don’t need any new ones. But keep an eye on your humans and see how often they bring home new toys for themselves!
It’s just one of those things about humans that I’m not sure we’ll ever understand. However, there are solutions that can make both you and your humans happy.
You see, your humans have to give other humans a lot of that ‘money’ that humans are always obsessing over, in order to bring those toys home to you. If they can keep more money, they’ll be happy. If you can have toys you like, you’ll be happy.
(Note from Cory’s human Mom: I need to make a point here that I know Cory won’t think of. The first priority is not fun; it’s safety. Before you give your cat any toy, stop and look at it. Is it a small object, or something small pieces can be chewed off, that can be swallowed, causing choking or intestinal blockage or, if it’s sharp or pointed, puncture something internally? Along the same lines, and with similar consequences, if it’s something string-like can it be swallowed? Is it something your cat can wrap him/herself up in or get caught in, and suffocate, or panic and hurt him/herself trying to escape? Is it potentially toxic or poisonous? I look at potential cat toys and consider whether a reasonable person would allow a small child to play with it; if the answer is “no,” I may allow closely supervised play but more often I rule it out. Sure, lots of cats play with hair elastics safely, but is it worth gambling your cat’s life that s/he won’t be one of the ones who swallows it?
There’s an infinite number of safe cat toys out there. It’s all about learning to look at the world as though you were a cat standing (sitting, whatever) where you are (although, if you have a cat walking around on two legs or zooming around in a wheelchair, I’d really like to meet him/her!). See the potential in everyday things. Consider Cory’s list not so much exhaustive as ideas and a start on how to see ordinary objects from a cat’s perspective. Any notes in parentheses and italics are mine, not my Bear-cat’s.)
My family and I and some friends have invented a lot of toys from things you can probably find lying around your own home!
Human foods: Humans eat a lot of really fun things, and if you steal them enough times, they’ll figure that out. The stems from grapes are always interesting, they’re like little springy trees. Something called “pasta” that Mom puts in water and makes soft is a lot more fun when it’s hard, and it comes in all kinds of neat shapes that can be batted across the floor. (If they swallow a piece, it worries me less than bits of plastic would; after all, it’s just going to break down. However, stepping on a rotini in bare feet in the middle of the night is a bit of a shock.) There are all kinds of nuts in shells, like peanuts and pistachios. Trick attacks yellow things called bananas and bunny-kicks them and bites them; Mom lets him do it before she peels it and eats the inside. He stole candy canes over the holidays, too. (Trick adores both plastic and peppermint, he finds them irresistable.)
But my favourites are these little white squishy martians that come in a bag. There are bigger ones, but they just lie around, and there are coloured ones but they smell funny. The white ones move really fast when you hit them. If you dip a paw in your water bowl first and then put your paw on it, the martian will stick and you can make a huge fuss about shaking it off, and sometimes it flies off and hits someone! (Cory considers mini-marshmallows to be an alien life-form that he needs to protect the world from, and will bat them off tables, carry them around, chase them, drop them in water bowls to fish out, or anything else he can think of. Wet “martians” are gooey, and dry ones out for a couple of days become hard and brittle, still fun to bat around but no fun for a human to step on and they crumble messily. However, safe and fun, so it’s all a question of priorities.)
Stuff humans throw in the garbage: Humans overlook a lot of things that make really good toys. You may need to steal these from the garbage, which can be icky, but if you’re alert you can grab them and run off with them before your humans get that far. They’ll probably keep throwing these out on you, but just steal more! They’ll get the idea, even the slowest human can learn eventually! Old pens (washed, ink removed), plastic bottle caps (be careful if you use the ever-popular rings), corks, empty thread spools, the round plastic thing from inside rolls of clear tape, balls of paper or foil (make sure there’s nothing unsafe on it), pill bottles or film canisters especially if there’s something noisy inside (dry rice, pearl barley, dry lentils, be creative and try different sounds but make sure the contents won’t become dangerous if it pops open). You can also steal old socks that need to be washed, these smell like your humans and sometimes a bit like places they’ve been, they’re fun to carry around and if they’re heavy ones they’re great to hold onto and bunny-kick; you can drag them through your catnip next time you get some, too, and the catnip sticks. (Put the catnip inside – on the outside, it will be all over your home in no time!) A lot of these work really well on hard floors, and some of them are really fun in the tub when the humans aren’t being weird with water in it, they skid around and come back to you and they make lots of noise. Trick wants me to add small clear water bottles with a little bit of water left inside, he likes watching the water move when he bats it and the bottle moves unpredictably when the water shifts.
To be continued…