Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:19 PM

More Fun and Games with Cat Toys

Some things that cats love to play with can cause them harm. Some things that immediately spring to mind are: Christmas decorations such as ornaments and tinsel; thread, string and small objects that can be swallowed and/or choked on. Here are some suitable substitutes for dangerous play items:

Christmas decorations: You must make sure that kitty can't get to any breakables by putting them well out of reach. For the lower branches, hang only unbreakable (plastic, wood) ornaments. Don't use the old-fashioned type of tinsel that comes on a card; use only the long bough style. Again, keep it off of the lower branches. Kitty will be curious!

String, thread, dental floss: I actually had friends that let their cats play with dental floss. Amazingly, they never wound up with problems. Anything that can be swallowed can cause abdominal obstruction and should be verboten. Since we all know how cats love string and yarn, here's a cheap alternative. I sprained a finger last winter and made myself a "bandage" by cutting up a strip from an old t-shirt. When the cats found this, they went absolutely crazy playing with it--they performed gymnastics you'd never think 12-year-old cats could manage. The attraction was the same as with string, but it was too thick to be swallowed and the stretchy material made it less likely that they would get themselves caught up in it--you always have to be careful of that, so supervision is the best course of action here. You'll want to see the antics, anyway.

Balls: I mean the rubber or plastic kind, silly. I know of people who let their cats play with marbles, but they are too small, in my opinion, plus they could chip a cat's teeth. Smaller "superball" sized rubber balls or, my cats' personal fave, ping-pong balls, make great cat toys. Just be careful about stepping on the rubber ones--they've been know to actually explode when compressed too much. I know from experience that it won't hurt you, but will scare the s--t out of you, to put it mildly.

Bags: As I mentioned yesterday, paper grocery sacks are OK, but don't ever give kitty the plastic ones, with or without handles. Many people are now using the reusable sacks made of recycled fiber, which is great; I'm not entirely sure, though, that cats can't get caught in the handles, panic, and hurt themselves. Cats tend to panic very easily when they feel themselves being restrained against their will, which is how most of these type of injuries occur. Again, supervision takes the guesswork out of the equation entirely.

Elastic bands: Cats love these! I started being much more careful about leaving them lying around when I discovered, while cleaning the cat litter box, that someone had swallowed one and (luckily) passed it, with no problems. They tend to trumpet when they find one, carrying it around the house to show their rubber-band hunting prowess, so I always know when they've got one. The fat ones, such as those that come on bunches of broccolli, don't tend to get swallowed as much, so I let them play for a bit until they tire of it. When they're done parading it around, I pick it up and dispose of it. Just to be safe.

What are your cat's favorite cheapie (or not) toys? Let us know!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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