What Makes a Non-Toxic Natural Cat Toys and Are Plastic Toys OK?

cat play in red woolWith all the emphasis on “natural” items these days, would you consider natural cat toys? Do remember that “natural” does not mean “better”. Poison ivy is natural, after all. And when you get right down to it, everything is chemicals. Don’t be concerned when someone tells you there’s dihydrogen monoxide in your local water supply (chances are very good that there is.)  However, you may want to reduce your cat’s carbon pawprint by using toys made with sustainable materials. And remember the three R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle. Before you go out and buy anything in a green box with “natural” printed on the label, you may want to read this first and learn a little more on the subject.

What makes a natural cat toy

Natural toys are not made with synthetics. They are not made with plastics, artificial dyes or manmade materials. Cats may prefer these toys because they smell better and have a texture just right for sharp claws. Your cat doesn’t see color like you and doesn’t care about the bright colors commercial cat toys often come in. They are non-toxic and often come from small farms with sustainable materials. For example, the wool comes from sheep allowed to run about in meadows rather than factory farms. Some or the materials, such as paper and metal, may be recycled. The packaging is more important than you realize. Let’s break it all down.

  • Non-Toxic This means everything from the materials to the adhesives keeping it all together will not harm your cat if inhaled or ingested. This is crucial when you consider that a cat plays with toys by biting on them sometimes. Non-toxic substances are also safer for the environment.
  • Organic/Sustainable MaterialThe term “organic” is problematic. If you want something truly organic, look for the USDA stamp. That means they were made without artificial chemicals like pesticides or ionizing radiation. Sustainable materials are made with easily replaceable or inexhaustible resources. Bamboo, for example, grows even faster than grass and needs only a third of the water cotton uses.
  • Recycled Materials Steel, cardboard, plastic, paper and glass are all recyclable substances. Recycling keeps materials out of landfills and lessens the taxing of the environment for raw materials. There is even a type of soft mesh cloth that can be made out of plastic water bottles.
  • Reduced Packaging You might not think about this much because you just throw it away, but that is specifically why you should consider it. Package related materials make up more than thirty percent of waste in the landfills. Look for packaging that is sparse and easily biodegradable.

protect the environment over green background vector illustrationWhy natural/eco-friendly cat toys are important

Natural cat toys have a positive impact on the environment in many ways. Toys that are torn apart too easily by Kitty’s sharp claws and teeth go into the trash and into the landfill. Toys made with eco friendly materials mean that the earth is not being stripped of more resources than can be replenished.  Not only will you be able to protect the environment for the big cats (the endangered snow leopard for example) but those made by traditional artisans supports people in difficult positions. Eco friendly toys  have no dangerous chemicals and are made with recycled materials. They tend to be very durable, so they last a very long time.

Natural cat toys-Things to consider

adorable cat playing with flower toy and looking to side while sitting on white backgroundThe things you look for in natural cat toys should be the things you look for in any cat toy. Don’t be swayed by bright colors or sweet smells. This is for your cat, not for you. Not only does your cat not see colors the way you do, her nose doesn’t work the same way either. She may even hate scents that you think smell heavenly. Your toys have to be safe for your cat. You don’t want toxic paints or small bits that can be torn off and swallowed. They must be durable and of an appropriate size compared to your cat. Above all, it has to be something your individual cat will love.

  • Durability A cat’s method of playing with something is to attack it and shred it with her claws. Cats can be pretty rough on their toys, but better the toys than your drapes or furniture. If you don’t want to keep throwing away and going out to buy more cat toys, you need to first invest in something that can take a little clawing and batting around.
  • Appropriate Size Toys should be light enough for your cat to carry around but not small enough to choke on. Keep your cat’s size and strength in mind. Also keep in mind that toys for kittens may not be right for an older cat and vice versa. When your kitten outgrows her toys, donate them to a shelter and buy her bigger toys to celebrate her birthday.
  • Suit Your Cat’s Personality Some children like trains and some children like dolls or blocks or balls. It’s the same with cats. Some cats like mice, some like birds or balls or bells. Some like tunnels they can burrow through.Some cats like catnip and some don’t. Some like puzzles and some just want to sharpen their claws.

What is Catnip and How Does It Work?

Catnip, known ib taxonomy as Nepeta cartaria, is a perrenial herb related to mint. The leaves and stem of this plant contain a natural chemical compound called nepetalactone. This is a stimulant that gets cats high for about ten minutes when smelled. Conversely, eating the catnip makes it act as a sedative. It is safe in small numbers.

What are the benefits of catnip for cats?

If your cat likes catnip, you can use catnip to distract her from places you don’t want her to go by putting it in places you do want her to go. It can teach her to like her crate, carrier or bed. Depending on your individual cat’s reaction, catnip can be used to get that reaction. If catnip makes her hyper, you can use some to inspire her to get some exercise in. If it makes your cat mellow you can use it when you need her to calm down and relax.

How long does catnip last in a toy?

This depends on how hard your cat plays with it but it can last for several weeks. If your cat seems to lose interest in a catnip toy, you can “recharge” it, as it were, by shaking them up in a large glass jar full of catnip.

Is it bad to give cats catnip everyday?

Catnip is fairly harmless and safe for everyday use. At worst, your cat might get a mild tummy ache from eating too much, but too much of anything can do that.

Are wool toys safe for cats?

Playful cute young British blue cat chewing red ball of threads (natural cat toy)Cats love to play with woolen yarn, but make sure Kitty doesn’t swallow any. This can make her very sick. Wool balls and stuffed toys are very soft and some cats like the smell. If your cat is not allergic, it is fine for her to play with such things. Just remember to observe her when she’s playing with these things and make sure she doesn’t swallow any.

Is Silver Vine safe for cats?

Silver vine acts much like catnip for cats and is just as safe. The effects silver vine has on cats tends to be a bit stronger than catnip. Many people even use it as a health aid. If catnip does nothing for your cat (not all cats react to it) silver vine may do the trick.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Are toys with feathers safe for cats?

Not very. Some cats like them because they’re soft and look like small birds while flying around. This is exactly why they’re not very safe as toys. Your cat may get carried away in chasing their “bird” and try to eat it after catching it. Something as small and delicate as a feather can be very easily swallowed or even inhaled. If a wild cat were to catch a bird, he would tear off the feathers and just eat the meat. Domestic cats have lost this instinct, even if they still feel the drive to chase and capture. What’s more, synthetic feathers have dyes and other materials that are not good for cats.

Do cats like stuffed animals?

Some do. Toys with legs and tails may attract some cats. Of the cats that do, you have cats who want to baby their toys (usually females that have no kittens for one reason or another) and cats who want to kill their toys (usually active males, but there’s a reason the word “tomboy” is cat inspired). If Kitty is looking for a surrogate baby so that she can play at being Mommy, the toy has to be small enough for her to carry around. A stuffed toy meant to be used as a tackling dummy should be the size of the cat and be fairly durable.

Can cats die from eating Styrofoam?

The chemicals in Styrofoam are not good for your cat, or the environment in general. Big pieces are a choking hazard. Keep in mind, Styrofoam can always be easily cut down to size by sharp claws. Even pieces small enough to swallow can cause intestinal blockage. Even if there doesn’t seem to be any blockage on either end, if your cat eats Styrofoam she should be taken to the vet to have her liver and kidney’s tested. The chemicals in Styrofoam are known carcinogens.

Should you leave cat toys out?

For safety, you should keep interactive toys put away. There’s more than reasons of safety to keep toys put away. Familiarity breeds contempt. Rotate your cats toys. Only have one or two available at a time and switch them out if Kitty seems to be losing interest. Even if you only leave safe toys out, it’s a very good idea to hand around for observation when Kitty is playing with them. Not only is Kitty safer this way, it’s just a lot of fun to watch cats bat around their toys.

Should you wash cat toys?

Catnip toys can be washed in cold or warm water and air dried. Other fabric toys can be washed in a garment bag and hung out to dry. Don’t use any scented soaps because your cat might not like them. Furry toys must be hand washed in hot water and air dried. It is the same with plastic toys.

Conclusion

Toys are important for a cat’s development. Even full-grown cats need exercise and mental stimulation from playing. It also relieves stress, anxiety and boredom. Cats like their toys to have a little texture so a natural fuzzy mouse toy might actually be more appealing than some artificial rubber mouse. If you take the time to do a little research, playtime with your cat can be both ecologically friendly and fun.

Are wool toys safe for cats?

You can play with such toys with your cat, but always put them away in a safe place that your cat can't reach once playtime is over. Also be careful about toys you give your cat that might have strings, yarn, ribbons, feathers or plastic eyes or ornaments on them.

Are Feather Toys bad for cats?

It's not uncommon to see feathers incorporated into cat toys, but these avian amusements aren't safe for kittens. Kittens learn with their mouths, and are likely to chew on anything you give them, so a delicate object like a feather may wind up being chomped in half, swallowed, and lodged in the throat or stomach.

What is safe for cats to chew on?

But there are cats who do like to chew; if yours is one of them, you'll want to provide an acceptable alternative to wires, shoelaces, leather, and other tempting items. Try a Catnip Chew Ring; it's one of the only chew toys designed for cats. Teething kittens may also appreciate the satisfying feel of this toy.

How long should cats play with catnip toys?

Usually these sessions last about 10 minutes, after which your cat loses interest. It may take as long as two hours for him to reset and become susceptible to catnip again. Be mindful of overindulgence though—cats are unlikely to overdose on catnip, but they can get sick if they eat too much.

  • December 13, 2019
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.

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