If you look at the market, there are all kinds of superb products out there, from simple little balls with bells inside to Da Bird, a feather teaser on a rod that swoops over your kitty’s head like a real bird.
The question is: Do cats love them?
“I have three rescued strays: Tiger, four, and Twapui and Nuinui, who are 10 years old,” says Loh Lay Peng from Penang. “They have their own air-conditioned playroom and it’s full of boxes! I bought them balls but they ignored them. Cardboard boxes are their love. They run in and out, chasing and hiding!”
“My two cats have lots of toys,” Beng Beng Chan in Petaling Jaya says, “The one they truly love is Da Bird. When that comes out, even Slush – who’s 20 now – will come out and play.
“Books, who is three years old, is also fond of his cat tunnel. It’s about 5ft long and connected with other smaller tunnels so it’s very exciting to peek through the fabric and gaps to see where mummy is and jump out at her. But for the rest, they’d rather go outside and hunt, to be honest.”
In our house, there is a rule of paw: If it’s specially designed for cats, and expensive, Target and Guido will refuse to even look at it. Balls with bells, cat hammocks, stuffed mice with feather accessories – we’ve tried them all and we’ve had to give them away.
What they like are improvised toys. Target is a sucker for hair bands. Yes, those cheap little fabric things you use to put up your hair. When I open a pack, he’s there, whiskers trembling. He holds them in his paws and pings them all over the place.
Guido has a soft spot for boxes. He’ll sit inside, clawing the corners. When Target walks past, he pounces out, ambushing the senior cat.
For the rest, they’re not interested. Swooner, our year-old kitten, is however up for all sorts of games. He’ll steal pens, pencils, hair bands, ribbons, shoe laces, tissues – you name it, and he’ll take it.
He throws his toys in the air, kicking and biting like a mad kitty. Then he runs around the house, tail up in the air, meowing furiously.
As he’s in the play stage, I bought him some balls. Having spent hours fishing for Target’s hair bands under the sofa and cupboards, I looked for ones that are slightly too big to get stuck, but soft and light enough to be bitten and carried by a cat.
The pet shelves didn’t have anything suitable, so I went to the children’s section. I found them in the toddler area. It was just the right thing because Swooner adores his footballs.
Some cats play fetch but Swooner isn’t one of them. So we play goalie. Basically, he lies in his box and I roll the ball to him. He catches it and “kills” it; and when it escapes him, I retrieve it and we do it again.
Swooner adores it. Target and Guido have looked on and half-heartedly joined in but they aren’t really that interested. Swooner will probably grow out of it, too. My guess is this is because they are cats who have outdoor privileges.
When I see cats at play, I see animals practising their hunting skills. They like to run, pounce, and “kill” their toys. It’s all a big rehearsal for the real thing: The hunt. Indoor cats don’t get the pleasure of the real thing, so they may keep up with play. However, my pets focus on the real thing.
During the day, Target, Guido and Swooner are outside, chasing leaves, butterflies and lizards. They also watch the birds, hoping against hope that one of them will be daft enough to fly into their paws.
Thankfully, they aren’t very successful. In the past we had rats, but we haven’t seen one of those in years. The birds are too cunning for them, and as the cats are inside at night, they can’t get to the bats, either.
We do get some lizards but, thankfully, it’s rare. Guido delivered a big boy just this week, but as he has a mouth like a Labrador’s, the little creature was unharmed.
I picked him up and put him high up on the outside window, where nobody could get to him. He sat there, looking totally pole-axed. Then, realising he was OK, except for a bit of cat drool, he gulped a bit and rushed off.
Guido was rewarded with a cat treat but as he was munching away, I knew it was icing on the cake. What he really enjoyed was stalking, capturing and sharing the triumph. Toys just can’t compete with that.