If you’ve ever had a kitten, you’ll know that they’re full of energy and love to play all the time. When they’re not sleeping anyway. Toys are a big part of a kitten’s development, teaching it to pounce and hunt. Just like with human children, the skill and interactions that a kitten learns at the start of its life are very important to the cat it will turn out to be. Kitten toys can play a big role in this. Kittens who aren’t engaged when they’re young may find it harder to learn to play when they’re older. They’ll also tend to be less affectionate and interactive with humans and even other cats.
However, many of the toys that we’ve all thought are great for playing with kittens, may actually be dangerous for them. Especially if they’re left unsupervised with them. Lots of standard kitten toys, like ribbons or things on strings, present choking hazards or may entangle an over-enthusiastic kitten. Here, I’ve listed for you some of the common toys that may cause harm to your kitten. I've also offered some alternatives so that you can make sure you get your kitten the best possible toys to start its life with. And, of course, get the most fun out of playing with your kitten. After all, playing and cuddling are the best parts of having a kitten around.
Peek and Play Toys
Toys that are only partially visible to your kitten, like the SmartCat Peek and Play can be incredibly interesting for a curious little fur ball. Kittens love to chase things around inside a box. Be aware, though, that small kittens, like children, can get over-excited. They may attempt to stick more than their paw into the space to find what’s moving around in there. An over-enthusiastic kitten has also not quite learned caution when it comes to exploring and may shove their whole leg in instead of just a paw. This can result in a limb, head or even whole kitten getting stuck in a hole that was just big enough to get into but not quite big enough to get out of again.
Rescuing a kitten from this situation can be highly stressful for your kitten. It won’t understand what you’re trying to do and will most likely be countering your efforts by trying to get itself out of its predicament. Such an experience may put your kitten off exploring new places in the future.
The good news is that really, it’s the moving ball that your kitten is excited about. So you can put a ball into a box with a large opening for your kitten chase around in there without the risk of getting stuck or trapped. The ball is still contained and your kitten has full access to it.
Strings and Ribbons
Kittens and balls of wool have long since been associated with each other as the perfect playmates. However, despite this stereotype, string, yarn and wool and even ribbons are highly dangerous for kittens for a couple of reasons.
Cat’s tongues are covered in hundreds of tiny barbs. That’s why it feels rough when they lick you. These barbs are rearward facing and make it incredibly difficult for cats to spit anything out. If they get a piece of string of wool stuck in their mouth, the easiest thing to do is to swallow it. This is one of the most common reasons for a cat’s trip to the vet. The string is usually ingested lengthwise and travel along the intestines like that. It’s possible for them to cause blockages there or even to get tangled up with the intestine wall and cause it to scrunch up or even fold back in on itself. This is life-threatening to your kitten, not to mention incredibly painful.
Fishing Pole Style Toys
Kittens love to chase things on strings and the fishing pole toys are loads of fun for getting your kitten to run around after it. Make sure you store it away properly when you’re not around, though. It’s very easy for a kitten to get tangled up in these due to the length of the rope and the tiny size of the kitten. Just one little snag and a few wrong turns can tie your kitten in a knot. If this happens when you’re not around this could become very dangerous. Your kitten will panic and struggle, possibly making the entanglement worse and causing a loss of blood flow to a limb or even strangulation is it gets the rope stuck around its neck.
Toys That Can Be Choked On
You’ll see lots of cat toys with fluffy feathers attached to them. These appeal to cats as they look like prey, but kittens and cats alike learn and explore with their mouths. These feathers are likely to fall apart when a kitten chews on them and the fibers will end up being ingested, getting stuck in the throat of stomach. This could cause choking or digestive problems for your kitten.
The same goes for toys that contain beads, nut shells or beans. If you have a kitten at home already, you’ll know they can be pretty destructive. Toys are often going to end up being ripped apart at some point. You don’t want anything that comes out to be something that could be swallowed by accident. This also applies to toys with small, detachable bits, like mice that have plastic eyes and noses glued on. Remove these before you let your kitten loose on them.
Despite all your best efforts and all the amazing kitten toys you’ll bring home, the chances are that your kitten will decide its favourite toy in the whole world is the Amazon box that your last delivery came in or that pine cone you brought home. Be careful with the things your kitten plays with though. Plastic bags can be great fun to pounce into, but they’re a suffocation hazard and toxic if your kitten decides to chew on it and accidentally swallows a bit of it. Again, anything that may have small pieces that could come off and be choked on should be kept out of the way. Bags or shoe laces that an over excited kitten could get tangled up in shouldn’t be left out when you’re not around.
Awesome Kitten Toys
Kittens like toys that they can fight with. Stuffed toys around their own size are great for wrestling and smaller plush toys make good prey. Kittens like to “hunt” then and then carry them around as prizes.
Things that move make great, low effort toys. Such things could be laser pointers or remote control mice. However, just like people, cats like to play games they can win. So if you play with the laser pointer, give your cat something to actually catch at the end of it. With remote control toys, make sure your kitten can’t get the batteries out while you’re not around.
Things that move also include balls, pine cones, Chinese finger traps… Anything that rolls, basically. Your kitten will spent a good amount of time just chasing these around the floor and under the furniture. Just ensure that the balls aren’t small enough that your kitten may swallow them. You can even put them in a confined space for your kitten to chase around, like a bathtub or large box, so that it doesn’t get lost.
Playing with your kitten is super fun and developmentally important. You should spend as much time as possible interacting with your kitten when it’s young. Kitten toys are a great way of doing this. However, just like with human babies, you need to take care of it properly and be aware of any potential hazards that your kitten is too young to have learned for itself yet. Many things we wouldn't think of pare potentially dangerous for tiny kittens. Most importantly of all though, play with your kitten. And have fun!