8 Interactive Puzzle Toys to Entertain Bored Cats
Unlike regular toys, interactive cat toys help cats exercise their furry little bodies—and their brains. Here are the best toys to combat feline boredom, according to a certified animal behavior consultant for cats.
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For many cats, moving from the sofa to the food bowl and back again is the only consistent exercise they partake in. Stress and boredom makes cats susceptible to illness, making it extra important to invest in the best cat toys that provide physical and mental enrichment. By enriching your cat’s environment with interactive cat toys, solo games and fun activities, you’ll reduce health problems and even prevent potential behavior issues.
How do I know if my cat is bored or stressed?
Cats typically sleep up to 16 hours a day. That works well when pet parents go to work, but if you find that they hide a lot and sleep 24/7, it may be out of boredom. Cats don’t cry when they’re sad, rather they express stress with less than ideal behaviors (read: scratching, scent-marking and accidents).
Cats don’t have to be mad at you to act out. Bored cats find ways to make you interact when they want attention, like meowing on repeat, pawing at your arm or leg, hissing at you and sometimes knocking things off tables. Learning cat body language cues is essential for understanding your feline, and luckily, interactive cat toys ease feline boredom and stress (this purring cat toy that reviewers swear by does an amazing job of relieving stress and anxiety in them, too). Similar to puzzle toys for dogs, interactive cat toys keep felines entertained and active. We found the best interactive cat toys for every household, budget and need.
What to look for when buying interactive cat toys
“Interactive” means cats are at the center of each game while obtaining some physical or mental activity from it. Some cats, especially if they’ve been furry couch potatoes for a while, will need help learning what’s expected. In that case, toys that make prey-like noises are a good place to start.
Cats want toys that easily move with a gentle paw-tap. Lightweight toys that fit feline jaws for biting and carrying work best.
Here are some secrets pet product stores won’t tell you to look out for when shopping. Look for interactive cat toys that provide holes for hiding and openings for cats to stick paws inside and mimic “fishing” games. Felines who react to catnip (about one-third of cats don’t) are extra enticed by interactive toys with catnip rubbed all over. If your cat drives you crazy with a particular behavior, find a toy that duplicates that behavior to provide an outlet for them.
The best interactive cat toys were chosen based on high user reviews, overall quality and a consideration of features that enrich cats both mentally and physically.
- Overall design and function
- Quality of materials used
- Mental and physical enrichment features
Best overall interactive cat toy
Catit Senses 2.0 Circuit
A leader in innovative cat enrichment products, Catit offers the Senses 2.0 Circut, which is a modular, build-it-yourself interactive cat toy. The modular design allows for several track setup options (there are 100-plus different iterations!). It comes with small, LED balls that move through the track, all while keeping cats intrigued. Assembly is quick and easy, simply snap the pieces in place to build the track. Switch up the track’s design when your feline has mastered it, or add new balls and move it throughout the house. As a certified animal behavior consultant for cats, I love that the track is green, which is easy for cats to detect.
An Amazon Choice product, this ball-and-track game boasts more than 5,000 five-star ratings. “I’m really impressed with how sturdy this is!” shares Steph, a verified Amazon reviewer. “I can put it together and then pick it up and carry it to another room without it falling apart. It’s a thick plastic, not the thin, brittle, cheap plastic used on a lot of toys. I bought this with the hope that it would occupy her long enough for me to get some work done, and it does!”
What we like about Catit Senses 2.0 Circuit:
- Modular track, meaning you choose the design
- Includes LED balls
- BPA-free material
- Easy to clean
- Quick assembly
- Intrigues cats of all ages
- Designed to engage multiple cat senses
Consider this before buying the Catit Senses 2.0 Circuit:
- Cats may hook claws into the balls and remove them from the track easily
Best budget interactive cat toy
PetSafe Slimcat Feeder Ball
For cats that will do anything for a treat, the PetSafe Slimcat Feeder Ball brings on the purrs while controlling the munch. All it takes is adding dry food or treats to the ball. Then, as it rolls around, the ball entices cats with a rattle noise, encouraging them to paw-roll and shake out food morsels a little at a time. And if your cat is like mine, they’ll want you to roll it around for them. Whether you feed your cat a daily meal using the toy or use it for treats, they’re guaranteed to get a kick out of it. Choose from four fun colors. Cats detect shades of green and blue, so I recommend those colors to engage your cat’s vision and scent. At under $10, this treat dispensing toy won’t break the bank.
What we like about the PetSafe Slimcat Feeder Ball:
- Affordable price point
- Fun, interactive hack for serving food and treats
- Helps cats exercise
- Adjustable dispensing speed
- Dishwasher safe
Consider these factors before you buy the PetSafe Slimcat Feeder Ball:
- Cats may need a demonstration to initially interact with it
- Not all kibble or treats dispense well, so size matters
- Somewhat noisy on hard floor surfaces
Best splurge interactive cat toy
Migipaws Automatic Whack-a-Mole
Cats love to paw at and whack toys, especially when they see them peeking out of holes. This interactive Whack-a-Mole cat toy addresses cats’ hunting triggers. The toy features seven holes and feather toys that automatically pop in and out. The holes are smooth, so they won’t harm paws. Plus, the toy is battery powered, allowing for hours of interactive play. This toy is the next best thing to interactively playing with your cat yourself.
What we like about the Migipaws Automatic Whack-a-Mole:
- Exercises and challenges cats’ brains
- Two levels
- Automatic sensor that detects cats and turns on
- Shuts off after five minutes of inactivity
- Rechargeable battery
- Batteries and USB charging cable included
Consider these factors before you buy the Migipaws Automatic Whack-a-Mole:
- At $33, this cat toy is on the pricey side
- The toy takes two hours to fully charge
- Depending on how long cats play with it, the toy could need a recharge often
Best plush, interactive cat toy
Flopping Fish Toy
Cats adore the movement of this Flopping Fish Toy. The fabric cover entices cats to grab and bite, satisfying additional play behaviors. A motion sensor detects your cat’s touch, rewarding his interest with movement he can’t resist. Plus, it comes with catnip to rub on the fish toy, making for extra fun play. It’s one of many pet products with nearly perfect Amazon reviews.
With more than 37,000 total ratings, shoppers (and their cats) are obsessed with this interactive toy. Verified Amazon reviewer Linda writes, “This is such a hit with my kitty! It’s VERY well made, operates well, only needs to be charged about every third day when I plug it in overnight. You won’t be sorry if you purchase this one.”
What we like about the Flopping Fish Toy:
- Realistic and interactive plush fish toy
- Comes with catnip
- Removable motor for when it’s time to clean the toy
- Four fish options available
- Includes batteries and USB charging cord
Consider these factors before buying the Flopping Fish Toy:
- Some reviewers have found that their cat either ignores or is afraid of the toy at first
- Makes loud noise when it flops on hard floor surfaces
Best noise-making interactive cat toy
Potaroma Chirping Cat Toy Balls
If your cats are like mine, looking out of windows is like cat TV. However, watching birds and yard animals can frustrate cats when they can’t reach them. Luckily, interactive cat toys like these Chirping Cat Toy Balls solve that problem. The fuzzy plush balls provide the sounds cats love—frog, cricket, bird—and entice cats to paw at, chase, wrestle and bite them. This set comes with three plush chirping balls. Pro tip: Fill the small compartment with catnip for extra enticement.
What we like about Chirping Cat Toy Balls:
- Includes three plush balls with different sounds
- Features a catnip compartment
- Built-in batteries allow more than 10,000 chirps
- Excellent for sight-impaired cats
Consider these factors before buying Chirping Cat Toy Balls:
- Battery-powered toys don’t last forever
- Some cats may chomp or even destroy the toy
Best food puzzle interactive cat toy
Catit Senses 2.0 Cat Digger Slow Feeder
The Cat Digger Slow Feeder food puzzle engages cats in a fun, fishing-for-treats interactive game. Cats love to stick paws into small openings and paw out hidden treasures. The Digger Slow Feeder helps cats who inhale their food (and then vomit), thus preventing the unhealthy scarf-and-barf behavior. Five tubes offer different sizes and depths to keep cats entertained. It’s more than a meal time toy too. Drop a ball or toy in the tubes to keep cats busy.
What we like about the Cat Digger Slow Feeder:
- Multi-purpose, interactive toy for mealtime or play
- Easy to assemble and clean
- BPA-free material
- Dishwasher safe
Consider these factors before buying the Cat Digger Slow Feeder:
- Not ideal for small kittens, as they may get their head stuck in the tubes
- Polydactyl cats (aka extra toed “mitten” paws) may not fit in tubes
- If your cat is super smart, they could dump the tray over
Best interactive cat toy for multiple cats
Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube
Not only does the Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube offer a hide-and-seek spot for cats, it accommodates several cats at a time. Available in three tube designs (three-way, four-way and five-way), each tunnel fits kittens and cats of all ages (and most sizes). Tunnels include peep holes, hanging balls and bells that engage your cat’s hunting instincts. Made from polyester with spring-steel frames, each tunnel tube collapses for convenient storage.
What we like about the Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube:
- Includes hanging toys and bells inside tubes
- Peekaboo holes offer extra opportunity for play
- Fits multiple cats of most ages and sizes
- Travels and stores easily
Consider these factors before buying the Pawaboo Cat Tunnel Tube:
- Some reviewers have found that the stitching covering the wires comes loose easily
- Some reviewers have found that the tubes make a noisy crinkle sound
Best two-way interactive cat toy
GoCat Da Bird
My cat gives four paws up to this pull apart rod and bird cat toy (aka kitty “crack,” according to my cat). It’s a two-way interactive toy, so cats bond with people who play this game with them. Da Bird chasing games build cat confidence and reduce stress or boredom. It gets them on their paws, ready and eager to stalk, chase, leap and pounce on the feather. The feather spins and makes a bird-like whirring sound as it flies through the air. I recommend this toy to my cat clients, as do several behavior consultant colleagues.
What we like about GoCat Da Bird:
- Builds confidence with humans while reducing stress and boredom
- Rod comes in two pieces for easy storage and extra reach
- Comes with two extra Guinea feathers
Consider these factors before buying GoCat Da Bird:
- Costs more than alternative fishing rod cat toys
- Store in a secure place to avoid cats finding and destroying it