11  Cat Toys

At the animal shelters I’ve seen cats playing with nearly anything–they seem so eager for interaction.  All the standard cat toys work splendidly.

One they get home with you, it’s a different story.  They get choosier.  My wife got Bingley a toy that has a wand with a long, thick string attached and a big white feather on the end:  perfect for jumping and catching.

Bingley won’t touch it, even when we swing the feather right over his head.

When he first came home with us, we got him a soft, brown mouse about four inches long.  He loved it and would play with it all the time.  When I’d stop tossing it in the air for him to catch, he’d toss it and catch it himself:  wasn’t sure at the time why a flying mouse was so interesting, but the why isn’t as important as the fact that it kept him interested and active.  Bingley named the mouse Horace, after the Roman poet, he told me as soon as he began to talk.  I’m pretty sure the folks at the shelter didn’t have books of Roman poets for the pets in lock-up to read, so it must have been one of the first books he got into on the shelves in his room here.

Later some friends of ours got him a flat mouse with what looks and feels (and smells) like real fur on it.  That became his new favorite once Horace got too old and chewed up to fly anymore.  He named that one Lucretius.

He also took a liking to strings.  I remember reading a medieval treatise that claimed cats are useful to have around because they chase mice, rats, and snakes.  I assume the writer meant small snakes.  That would explain their interest in strings.

My mother-in-law thoughtfully sent us Bingley’s next round of favorites:  a small, firm fuzzy ball that has just enough heft to roll the length of the living room floor–perfect for pawing and chasing–and a small, soft mouse maybe two inches long.  We tie that one to the end of a string:  best of both worlds, because he can tiger-jump after the string-end (which has frayed into a tassel) on one side or the mouse-end on the other side.  Perfect also for pulling under one side of a towel and out the other side . . .

Once when he was sitting on top of the couch I tossed him the fuzzy ball–green, red, and yellow thread–and it bonked him right on the forehead.  He gave me a puzzled look, then motioned for me to try that again.  I tossed it.  He caught it with one paw, put it in his mouth, jumped off the couch, and dropped the ball by my feet.  “Is that what you wanted?” he asked.

The color of the toy also seems to matter:  he likes green, red, and yellow ones better than any other, though we put a grey mouse on the end of a black string, and that works pretty well, too.  I read somewhere that current thinking on cat vision suggests that they can see green, red, and yellow (and of course black and white and grey).

My wife got Bingley a little stuffed tiger-cat:  it’s about seven inches long and about four inches high and has jade-green eyes like Bingley’s.  The first time he saw it he looked at us as if we had brought an intruder into the house.  We offered it to him, pushing it toward him as he sat looking a little miffed.  His ears went back, and he went right for the stuffed cat’s throat.  He gave me a look as though he might just come after my foot next.  That cat now sits quietly by one of his scratching posts.  It’s still in one piece, but he doesn’t play with it much.  I asked him if it has a name.  He called it Catullus–fine reading for a cat!

We have a Turbo Scratch, a large plastic circle with a channel with a white ball to spin around and a cardboard center for scratching.  For a time he liked to bat at the ball as it swung around the circle, but it has little effect on him now:  he worked out the science and gave up on it.  He has a long, stuffed zebra that he will sometimes bite to get aggressions out.  He likes to try to catch the fringe on my scarf in the winter time, though I try to tell him that’s not a toy–a difficult point to make to a creature for whom everything is potentially a toy.

Just now I turned to ask him what he considers his favorite toy:  he’s sitting in his bed in front of the bookshelves as I write.  He looked at me, and his ears went back.

“You, ” he said, and he trained his eyes on my foot as his tale began to swing back and forth menacingly.  No more blog for now.