Trying to define what a cat toy is can be very difficult.


Because cats have a tendency to find something to play with just about anywhere, involving just about anything, at just about any time. Almost anything in the house can become, with the right situation, a cat toy.

Anything that dangles, swings, bounces, quivers, or just generally attracts the attention of a feline can suddently become perfect for being stalked and pounced upon. Anything loose, no matter what, can suddenly attract those little eyes, and soon finds itself being pushed and prodded by those paws.

Even the most mundane object, one that the cat has ignored for a long time, can become of extreme interest should it be mostly hidden, whether just barely sticking out from under something, or just the slighest bit visible through a crack. In any of these cases, it seems that instinct can grab a cat, and suddenly they're attacking this normally uninteresting object.

Beware of spending money at the store to buy something advertised as a "cat toy" - they are often no more interesting than random household objects, and sometimes appear to be even less so. The plastic ring from a jug of milk often leads to more playtime than a ball with a little bell in it. Your shoelace when you're standing in the kitchen may become more entertaining than that $5 toy sitting off to the side of the room, unused. Even your finger or toe, when wiggling just under a blanket, can become the most interesting thing they can find at the moment.

I can attest to the inexorable power of the laser pointer as a cat toy with at least one of my cats. I think now his whole life is defined as the times between when he gets to follow the red dot around the house. The best thing about it is that you can shoot it all over the room without moving, so your own motion does not distract the cat from running about like a maniac. And you can make them spin in place until they're dizzy. It's probably mean but it's funny to see a dizzy cat.

Now, though, we fear that all other cat toys will lose their appeal. For now, though, the string seems to still work.

"Red Dot" as it is known by many cat owners with a laser pointer can either be a uniquely fun game or the most boring thing depending on the cat. Speaking as an "owner" (as much as any person "owns" a cat) of several cats with my family when I lived back in Wisconsin I can fairly safely say I have experienced a wide range of cat reactions.

By far, the most placid and aloof of cats tend to ignore any such game, unless no one is watching. This is a critical part of playing with a cat in such a way - you can't watch him or her play. The slightest hint that you are watching be it a turn of a head or a stifled laugh will immediately result in the cat immediately recognize the human interest and once again return to catlike disattachment to the world. Only catnip can cause such indescretions for any length of time.

On the other hands, there are some cats that are always kittens and will immediately play with anything that can be played with. Things that can be played with include cat tails (the cat's own or more frequently the tails of sleeping cats that are twitching every so slightly), toes under sheets, balls of yarn, etc... Please be warned of the possibility of introducing catnip to such a cat may result in hyper-playfulness.

"Red Dot" itself ranges from the cat that ignores it - you can shine it anywhere on the cat (not the eyes!), wiggle it in front of the cat, anything - and the cat will ignore it. Other cats are mildly irritated by it and disturbed when there is a red dot on the paw and move the paw to avoid it. Similarly they may try to slap at it. A cat who will only slap at it is most amusing when the dot is on the cat's paw - the cat tries and tries to keep it down on the floor and yet the dot keeps getting back on top of his or her paw!

By far, the forever kitten cats are the most amusing to play "Red Dot" with often scampering up and down halls trying to catch this elusive thing. Having a floor that is waxed often adds to the amusement as the cat tries to turn a corner but fails. Likewise shining the dot up on a wall will result in a cat who will try (briefly) to follow the dot up the wall. One such cat considers the various rugs on the floor to be "safe" areas where traction can be found and will often run to such a place, waiting for the chance to pounce. The "chance to pounce" is a very important opportunity for the cats playing "Red Dot". Another cat will quickly run under the couch and wait for the red dot to wander by the front of the couch to quickly have a small black paw dart out from under the couch (this works especially well with cat tails also, much to the dismay of their owners).

The game of "Red Dot" is one that every cat owner should try at least once with his or her cat to gauge the reaction. It can easily become a favorite game for all.

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