Cats

The Potential Dangers of Cat Toys

posted: 05/15/12
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What are the Potential Dangers of Cat Toys?
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Cats have a natural playfulness that's simply irresistible to encourage. And if we don't give them toys to play with, many cats will grow bored and restless. Or they might even find their own fun and leave you a mess of torn-up toilet paper on the bathroom floor. Unfortunately, we have to be very careful about the toys we allow our beloved feline friends to play with.

Some toys that attract cats the most will also be a health hazard for them. Consider ribbon, yarn and string. Although they're a classic kitty play toy, and they often make for a perfectly idyllic scene to watch, they do pose some problems. If it's long enough, for instance, a cat could roll around and get caught in a ribbon or yarn, which might strangle it. Plastic bags can also suffocate cats.

But the most common warning against ribbon, yarn and the like is that if a cat ingests it, it can cause blockage in the intestine. Ingestion is also a danger for rubber bands or feathers. And small balls and other objects are always a choking hazard. If you do find string that's been partially swallowed (or coming out of the rectum) don't try to pull it out, as it could cause fatal intestinal damage. Instead, take the cat to the vet as soon as possible.

The fact that you get a cat toy from a pet store is no guarantee that it's safe for kitty, either. Store-bought toys, though they may be made especially for cats, can be dangerous -- or become dangerous if they get broken. Fake mice, for instance, can come with small plastic eyes that a cat might be able to remove and swallow. Remove the eyes, feathers or other things your cat could swallow before letting it play with the toy. Cheap, stuffed soft toys also could be dangerous if the cat is able to tear it open and swallow the filling. Unsecured standing posts can topple down, too.

We don't mean to make cat owners unnecessarily paranoid with these warnings. Many cats can play with such toys without hurting themselves. What's most important, however, is that you inspect toys closely and supervise your cat during playtime.

Next, we'll explore why playtime is so important and offer some suggestions for safe toys.

If so many toys can be unsafe for cats, why let them play at all? Playtime seems to be extremely important to keep a cat both physically and psychologically healthy. Cats are carnivores, and in the wild that means they have to be predators. It's simply in their genetic makeup. You know that very well if your cat has ever brought you back a "present" of a dead bird or rodent. The Humane Society of the United States says that playing is an energy outlet for a cat with excess predatory instincts. But beyond that, it encourages exercise, which is especially important for overweight cats.

You can get safe cat toys from a pet store, like balls with or without bells inside (just make sure the toys are too big to become a choking hazard). Some cats really appreciate sisal-wrapped stands, too. Other cats like softer toys that they can dig their claws into. Cats seem to love "fishing pole toys" that include a fake bird or mouse at the end of a string. Just make sure the fake critters are durable and have any small plastic pieces like eyes removed.

But you don't have to spend a lot of money for a cat to have plenty of fun toys. Many cats are happy playing with shower curtain rings, either individually or connected. And ping pong balls or plastic golf balls are fun for cats to swat at and chase. And although plastic bags are off-limits because they're too dangerous, paper bags are perfectly fine and fun. You should remove any handles on the paper bag before giving it to your cat though, as cats tend to get stuck in them and panic.

You can find many safe catnip toys, too. Although some seem to be immune to it, catnip can be irresistible for many cats. Even though it can stimulate a sense of euphoria in cats, making some slightly sedated and others hyperactive, experts say it's safe and isn't addictive for cats.

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