playtime_with_cats

I’m pretty paranoid when it comes to making sure the toys I let Allegra and Ruby play with are safe. We have plenty of “blind and deaf mice” at our house because I remove glued on eyes and ears from toy mice before I even give them to the girls. Toys with rubber bands or elastic are a no-no, and it goes without saying that any interactive, fishing type poles with string are never left out and only used when I play with the girls. Cat toy safety is paramount at our house.

A few days ago, I realized that paranoia can actually be a good thing – apparently, you can never be too vigilant when it comes to keeping your cats safe. One of the girls’ favorite toy is the Go Cat Mouse wand toy. It’s one of the few toys they never seem to get bored with. I’ve had to replace the toy before because the wire became frayed after months of vigorous play, and I wasn’t really all that worried about that, because other than the fact that the toy was no longer usable, it couldn’t have hurt the girls.

But then, the other morning, I saw this:

Go_cat_mouse

Thankfully, I saw it before I started letting the girls pounce after the toy. This could have ended in disaster, especially since Allegra loves to chew on the mouse. It made me realize that no matter how safe a toy may appear, it’s probably a good idea to inspect interactive toys briefly before each play session, and to periodically take a good look at any other toys you leave out around the house.

Cat toy safety: what to look for

In order to keep your cats safe, inspect toys for any loose pieces that can be ingested. Remove glued on decorations. Remove small external bells (toys with a bell inside are okay unless you have a chewer) and shiny pieces of metal. When choosing cat toys, avoid any toys with small pieces that could be swallowed.

Keep interactive, fishing pole type toys out of cats’ reach when they’re not in use. Cats can become entangled in the string, or even eat and swallow the string, which can cause an intestinal blockage. Inspect toys periodically for any loose pieces, wires, or clamps, especially at the part of the toy where it attaches to the string. Many toys use safety pin-type attachments like the one above, and while they are pretty hard to open (I usually need pliers to pry them open,) it would not be impossible for a cat to chew firmly enough on that part of the toy to get it to pop open.

Don’t let cats play with electronic toys with moving parts without supervision. Depending on the toy, cat paws and whiskers may get caught in the moving parts and your cat may be injured, or at the very least, traumatized.

Some of the safest toys are things that aren’t even designed to be cat toys: milk carton rings, ping pong balls, plastic shower curtain rings, paper bags (with the handles removed) and boxes.

How do you make sure your cat’s toys are safe?

36 Comments on Cat Toy Safety

  1. My concern on this toy is that my kitten is trying to eat the mouse. I supervise play time and I’m very careful. She loves this little mouse and is just chewing and chewing on it. Even with all dangerous items removed, is the mouse itself safe? The very unique texture is what the kitten loves but I can’t imagine those tiny little fibers all glued together would be good for their intestinal tract. Is my kitten the only one trying to devour it?

  2. I’m so very very sorry!!! It sickens me when I walk through discount stores and even pet stores and see pet potentially dangerous pet toys. Raw hide chew toys, toys with strings, small stuck on pieces. Horrible! As a child I had a kitty who had to have a mass of string removed from a toy. Again, I’m so sorry for your loss!

  3. Molly, I am so sorry this happened, my heartfelt condolences and many hugs. Thank you for sharing your story about this toy.

  4. I am posting this as a warning to other cat guardians. I had a sweet cat that loved rubber bands. If one was removed from a newspaper (or a pony tail) and left within reach she would find it in a quick moment. Once in awhile I would temporarily hang a rubber band on my bedroom door knob to keep it out of reach. I thought that I was keeping her safe by getting it up and out of the way immediately. One morning I found my little girl dead beneath the handle that held a rubber band. A necropsy showed that she had aspirated it. It is apparent that she jumped and managed to snag one. She probably stretched it and as it snapped back it entered her respiratory system. I miss her terribly and feel responsible for her early death. Perhaps this post will save a feline life.

      • Thank you Ingrid. Writing about it brings it all back, but I did so in the hope of saving some other family from the same pain.

  5. I have read most every book written about cats and the sections on toy safety have all left out the issue you brought up about the use of interactive cat toys. I have also never seen a warning on a toy with a warning longer than ‘use with supervision’. I was so glad to see you post this article as the dangers of interactive toys are VERY real and can cost a cat his or her life. I make an interactive toy I call “The Dream Catcher” It is a fishing pole type toy with either a ‘bird’ or ‘insect’ to catch but instead of a pole it has a soft rubber ring to wrap the string around when not in use, and I used the whole back of the card it is mounted on for sales to list every possible danger any catching toy could cause. The one most frightening actually happened with one of my own cats when it inadvertently got wrapped around her neck during play, scared her and she started to take off running. You can imagine the consequences if I had not been right there to grab her and remove it. So even though I have always kept interactive toys out of reach, care needs to be taken during play too. A cat running through the house with a string wrapped around the neck that then gets snagged on something else is just too scary to chance.

    • You make an excellent point about the issue of the string/cord on interactive toys. We’ve had something similar happen here once, too: Ruby’s leg got caught in the string during play and she got spooked and ripped the toy out of my hand, dragging it behind her in the process, which freaked her out even more.

      While there is no way to prevent every possible danger, vigilance is important.

  6. This article actually irritated me quite a bit. While I agree you should exercise caution depending on your cat, not all cat toys are dangerous, and not all cats will ever get into a situation with a toy. It also depends on the interaction you have with your cat. I introduce new toys to my cat, and we play together before I leave it around the house. If they decide to chew on the toy and I have concern, I work with them, and I don’t leave it lying around until I feel comfortable. Its that simple. But, I would never go through the obsession of removing every tiny little thing off a toy, unless it was truly deemed an issue. There is also a big difference between a well made cat toy, and a cheap cat toy. I make cat toys for one of my businesses. They’re very well made. They’re odd too, using combinations of things you would deem a total danger, but is actually very safe and fun for a cat. I test them with my own cats (and I have a rough player), before they’re allowed up for sale. An article like this hurts my business, and everyone else out there who takes care and consideration in making cat toys. You’re telling people in essence not to buy toys, because there’s such a high potential danger lurking there that’s going to kill their cats off. That’s not true. I would promote responsible pet ownership more than anything here. And honestly… dangers of electronic toys?! REALLY??? My girls have logged in so many crazy hours on the Hot Pursuit toy without one single issue, even when they tore the skirt. There is nothing that will hurt a cat on that toy, or any other electronic toy. Come on, at some point you really need to let cats be cats, and not make them live in a protective bubble their entire life, like people do with their kids. I’ve had cats for 9 years now, 0 issues. Before that, a dog of 16 years, also 0 issues.

      • Thanks! Your article was very strongly written with an anti-toy slant. I normally don’t react like that to your articles, but this one I did. I understand how strongly you feel about cat safety, and I think you, but its more about promoting responsible pet ownership than it is poorly made products. Its also the problem of written word, it can convey a different emotion to someone than the writer originally intends. I just want to make people aware with my reply, that there are really well made toys out there, just don’t take them away from your cats. Be careful with what you purchase.

        • Isn’t part of responsible pet ownership making decisions about what is and isn’t safe for your cat to play with? I have lots of toys for my 3 cats, many of which are shut into a closet when not being used; I call them “supervision only” toys. And I used to let them play (supervised only) with the Hex bugs, but read someone else’s horror story about the small disc-shaped batteries that power toys like these. After reading that, they don’t get the Hex bugs anymore. I’d consider those to be “electronic toys.”

  7. Hi Ingrid,

    Sorry, this is on another topic, but I wanted to ask you: what do you know of “Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats Cookbook”?

    Since my kitty came to live with me, we have lived in countries where there is little available for cats. Thus I started making homemake food. However, while I include a powdered supplement and try to vary her diet in an effort to ensure she gets every thing she needs in a diet, it is not scientific. She just turned 2 yrs old today. A few months ago the vet said that she was in good health, including her heart.

    I have been keeping my eye out for a good book that might help me better ensure my kitty is getting everything she needs. I need something simple, with simple ingredients as our lifestyle does not allow us to be able to count on finding the same ingredients all the time.

    Have you seen/ reviewed this book? what do you think? Might you consider reviewing it?

  8. That’s scary to find. I try to be careful too. We can’t use milk carton rings. I have a cat that chews anything plastic. So I have to be extra careful with anything plastic too.

  9. This is a great reminder! Toys that are safe at the outset can wear over time, and giving them a once-over periodically only takes a moment… but it can save a lot of trouble and heartache later. You can never be too careful!

  10. I am SO glad I saw this post! Just yesterday I was wondering about the safety of Go Cat toys and now I know to keep an eye on how they are aging. I have always kept them in a drawer along with other string toys. BTW, I give our kitties toy mice and will now remove all the glued-on bits. Thanks very much for the info!

  11. Unfortunately, the Go Cat Mouse is the favorite around here, too! At $9.99 a pop, it ain’t cheap, but the kitties really love the bristly mouse and how it moves and we’ve been through at least 5 of them! I always supervise their play. The 1st one immediately lost the tail, ears, etc. and the metal rod through the body was exposed. I wrote the company about re-designing it and they sent me a new one, which didn’t last very long either. The latest one now has a plastic rod through the body, but the bristly ‘fur’ is coming ‘unthreaded’. Darn!!!

  12. I have a special drawer with Zoe’s toys that need supervision. I may be paranoid, but with good reason. When I was a child one of our kitties swallowed string and I watched in horror as my Dad slowly pulled it out of her mouth. I now know that is NOT safe to do, but we were lucky and the kitty was fine.
    My cats have always loved to play with those plastic covers around the neck of a Listerine bottle after I take it off, but once one of them swallowed a piece he chewed off. He gagged it up after scaring me half to death…lol! Now it’s extremely close supervision and picking it up after, or not giving it to my kitty at all if she isn’t around when I remove it.
    We cannot be too careful with our fur babies!

  13. My car Ravens favorite toys are polar fleece fish and mouse shapes I make and stuff with catnip. I will put some on the end of a one inch by sixty inch strip of fleece to make it a chase toy. She likes e,pty thread spools as well. Tied onto the end of a fleece syrip. I teach children to sew and they love to make these for their kitties.

  14. Yeah that is my 6 cats FAVORITE toy. I am constantly replacing it. My Siamese cat almost died because she chewed on it and that pin cut her gums. It consequentially caused an infection that went into her bloodstream. I noticed her acting weird so I took her to the Emergency vet. They said she would have died if I had not brought her in when I did. I don’t blame the toy because this could have happened with any toy. She just got a hold of it with out my supervision. Lesson learned the HARD way. My baby did survive, but we are EXTRA careful with all their toys now.

    • This is what I needed to know. I was just worried about the bristles, as I would never leave a cat alone with that kind of wire and the length is scary. Obviously there is more to worry about. Glad your kitty is ok now. My Siamese is crazy for this toy but no longer chases it. She grabs it and wont let go, chewing it like crazy. I put it away.

  15. Even wicker baskets and waste paper baskets made from wicker or rattan can be bad news. Cats can chew on them or scratch them and ingest those small wicker bits. I removed the ones I had when I saw one of my cats puke that stuff up.

  16. Our Chucky is a chewer, and he managed to eat through cords on window blinds, the tie on my pajama bottoms, the strap on a lovely camisole that was in the clothes hamper, and WILL chew through any cord on a toy, if I let him ‘win’ then turn away for a moment. Actually, as he’s aged, he does this much less, but the hubby and I are on guard anyhow. He ate a rope toy years ago, and we spent a couple of days in mute agony as the vet examined him, then gave him an enema and lots of stuff to push it through. Thankfully, it did come out naturally…no surgery needed!…but I’m still angry with myself for making that toy too short. Could be the reason he’s prone to constipation, because the rope damaged his intestines? We’ll never know, but we take really good care of our boy, and watch rubber bands, those twist-ties (that seem to be on everything!) and every window blind in our house has the pull cords wrapped around pins fixed high up on the wall! He even eats whole blades of grass, and that too is a danger because grass can become lodged in a cat’s mouth/throat. The hubby and I make daily inspections of both cats, and I inspect my friendly ferals too!

  17. I used to give my cats milk bottle rings and they loved them. Until Gordon swallowed one! The only
    way I knew was that he vomited it up. (In the litter box yet). That really scared me and now I’m afraid to give them those rings, although I noticed you mentioned they were ok. My cats actually prefer “non-toys” like plastic straps off packing boxes, shoe strings, etc. And there is NO box no matter how small that they will not get into one way or another. There are a couple of interactive toys they like, but I never leave them out!

    • Oh my goodness, Marilyn! Thank goodness Gordon was okay! Now you’ve got me paranoid about milk bottle rings. I guess I’ll add them to the list of toys to only be used while I am supervising.

  18. Every year, their aunt gives then a big bag of toys for Christmas and I spend a half hour cutting off tails, ribbons and removing any toys that make me generally uncomfortable. All of their wand toys are kept in cabinets and the attachments inside a plastic storage box (that can’t even be opened by my cat who has thumbs).

    I learned to be very picky when the 9yr old was young and chewed on everything. Now the 1yr old is going through that “I have to see if this is edible” stage (she’ll even attack and chomp down on a chair leg as you move it. LOL)

    Even things like rubberbands are kept in drawers and my hair elastics are kept in a cabinet or wrapped around a bottle (and tossed once they get stretched out). I totally treat my kitties like curious infants because I’m paranoid.

  19. Hi Ingrid. I’m sorry to say I learned this lesson the hard way. I usually put wand type toys away after Rajah and I are done playing with them. Thankfully, the outcome wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But one time a few months ago, I left to go to the store and I forgot to put the toy away. I came back and found a part of a streamer missing off the toy. I then noticed Rajah was meowing in a way he had never meowed before. It sounded like he was in pain. Fortunately, he was able to get rid of the streamer by natural means, so he recovered, thank God. I’m extra careful now. I beat myself up over it mentally for a week or two. I felt so bad. I know it was my fault. But he forgave me and fortunately, he was okay. I haven’t gotten him a wand with a streamer since then. He loves his bell balls though and the wands I play with him with when I’m home. But his favorite toy of all is a cricket that chirps whenever he touches it. He spends hours batting it around!

  20. Funny thing, I’ve had cats my entire life and every last one of them was far more interested in a plain crumpled paper ball than any store-bought toy – so, Minnie doesn’t have too many toys. A Cat Dancer and a few paper balls are as complicated as it gets – and I’m guessing those are pretty safe as she’s a chaser (and a fetch-er!), not a chewer 🙂

  21. We are paranoid about cat toys too (and as in your case with good reason)! Thanks for the good article!

    Just realized the newest member of the family IS a chewer….and she moves so fast you can’t see her run from one end of the house to the other so if she gets the wrong thing boy, howdy!

  22. I agree wholeheartedly with the principal of erring for safety with the little ones toys. The surprising thing is, in my kitten family, is they prefer a small fleece throw instead of bags or boxes. Jay Davenports kittens all go right in any bag or open box. It is always fun to watch. I cannot begin to tell how many toys my little ones have and how many they don’t use. I will say the best and favorite toy for them is the same one for all. They love those catnip pickles. I have 6 pickles and it is not surprise to see one of the cats carrying one around and trying to mew with it in her mouth. So save your money and use those boxes and paper bags. My Steeler, who passed away, never seen a box she did not claim. The newest ones are 2years and up and boxes are of no interest to them. All kittens are like people. Each is an individual and each is the most lovable. Now how can that be? Great article Ingrid and timely.

    Are you going to republish the dangers of the flowers around the holidays? That is always needed.

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