As pet owners we intuitively know to give our dogs and cats toys for playtime, but did you know all the benefits they are providing? Beyond simple entertainment, toys can serve to channel pent-up energy, alleviate temptation to destroy household items, reduce stress, provide environmental enrichment and generally help to prevent behavioral problems. With all the incredible benefits toys provide for your furry friend, it’s important that they’re getting the appropriate ones.
And playtime isn’t just for pups. With an athletic build made for leaping and running, cats are natural predators and love to entertain the hunting drive. Pouncing, batting and play are all a part of a stimulating environment to keep your cat happy and healthy, and a great way for you and your furry friend to bond.
The Right Tool for the Job
The first thing a pet parent should look at when selecting the best toy for their dog is size: too big and your pup will have trouble holding it in their mouth and paws, too small and a toy becomes a choking hazard! You should also consider the materials and construction of the toy. If your dog is one to cuddle and groom his toys, a stuffed toy may be the perfect complement to their personality. If your dog likes to roughhouse you should be on the lookout for durable materials that will stand up to their rough-and-tumble ways. And of course all dogs are different - while one may find a simple ball stimulating another may require a complex puzzle toy to keep engaged. It’s a great idea to have a number of different toys around for your pup’s enjoyment.
Cats on the other hand seem to create their own toys. A wadded ball of paper, a cardboard box, or even a paper bag can become great playthings for cats. One thing to keep in mind is that while athletic, cats aren’t especially muscular, so light toys are always a good idea. Ping pong balls, corks and other lightweight toys are ideal for flicking and chasing. A good trick to keeping your cat interested is to rotate old toys out with new ones weekly. It’s also a great idea to keep a variety of toys available so they have something to bat, something to carry, or something to wrestle with depending on their mood.
No matter the type of materials or style of toy you select, safety should always be top priority. The best rule of thumb to follow is to simply monitor your dog to ensure they’re playing safely. Some dogs love to rip toys apart, (we all know a pup who just HAS to get that squeaker) in the process creating small pieces that can pose a choking hazard. It’s also a good idea to discard or exchange toys that have begun to crack, tear and otherwise degrade to prevent your dog from ingesting any small pieces that could become cause for a trip to the vet’s office.
While cats don’t have quite as many stipulations when it comes to types of toys, it’s important to keep in mind that when playing with stringed toys (even if they use the curtain pulls to make their own), your feline can become tangled and extra caution should be taken. As with any pet, cat-proofing the house is important and care should be used when it comes to paper clips, pins and needles, plastic bags, rubber bands, and anything else they may be tempted to chew. As far as catnip is concerned, it’s a benign plant that is absolutely safe for your cat, though it should be noted that not every cat is affected.
Building a Bond
Playtime with your pets is an important bonding and socialization process for pack members as there is no substitute for companionship. Not only will your cat or dog be better adjusted around other people and animals, but they’ll also develop a deeper bond with you and be happier members of your family. Play smart, play safe, and above all, love them like family.