The 9 best interactive cat toys for when you are away
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If your cat experiences boredom when you leave the house, an interactive cat toy is an easy way to keep them engaged. Whether you prefer motorized or non-electronic interactive toys, the best interactive cat toys for when you are away will appeal to your feline’s natural predatory behaviors and encourage independent play. They’ll also be safe enough for your cat to use on their own.
While there are many interactive cat toys which don’t require a human to play along, not all will appeal to your cat. Finding the right toy might require trying a few different kinds, but if you want to increase your chances of landing on an option they’ll find appealing, consider snagging a toy that taps into your cat’s natural instincts to hunt and chase. Basic ball toys and stuffed toys are go-to options in many homes. Some motorized cat toys automate movement to offer a fun challenge for felines who love to hunt, but whether the toys are engaging or frightening will often depend on the individual cat. Alternatively, if you have a pet who’s more motivated by food than a game of chase, consider snagging a treat-dispensing or puzzle toy for cats.
No matter what, safety should be a priority when choosing a toy for your cat, especially when you can’t supervise playtime. The Oregon Humane Society recommends avoiding toys with small, loose components, like feathers or string, which can be accidentally ingested or pose a strangulation hazard. You’ll also want to watch out for toys with openings where your cat might get themself (or their paws) stuck. For motorized cat toys, look for options with electrical components that your feline can’t access.
Just remember that it’s best to supervise any cat when introducing a new toy — and if you have a kitten, you may need to supervise them with all toys, just to be safe.
Below, find nine of the best interactive cat toys for when you are away, plus a security camera to keep tabs on your cat when you can’t.
1. The budget-friendly pack of ball toys
- Made with durable plastic (instead of delicate mylar or foam)
- Not painful to step on
- Can roll into hard-to-reach areas of the home
If your cat loves the thrill of a chase, they might love these simple ball toys. The balls come in bright primary colors and in assorted packs, which range from three to 15 balls. They’re made of a flexible plastic, which Amazon reviewers have attested is durable. One shopper even mentioned that they “won’t break” or even “hurt your feet” if you accidentally step on one of them. In the event that they do break, it won’t cost much to replace them — a set of three goes for just $4.
One cat owner wrote: “I purchased these because I was looking for a toy similar to the plastic rings from gallons of milk, and my cat loves them. She bats them all over the house, chases after them, tosses them up in the air, carries them around in her mouth, and loses them under everything. I appreciate that they are flexible plastic and don’t hurt if you accidentally step on them.”
2. The cat scratcher with ball tracks
- Incorporates two play activities in one
- Has an optional see-saw feature
- Promotes scratching on an approved surface
- Cardboard surface will get damaged over time and need to be replaced
This cat scratcher offers a cardboard surface that serves as a healthy outlet for your pet’s scratching, along with dual ball tracks for them to play with. You’ll also receive catnip, as well as two attachable feet to make the scratcher rock from side to side like a see-saw. Since this scratcher is made of cardboard, you can expect that it’ll eventually show signs of wear and tear — but one Amazon reviewer described it as having “stood up well” to their cat’s frequent use of it.
One cat owner wrote: “Kitten loves this scratch pad. It is the first thing she runs to in the morning when we come down for breakfast. Despite the constant use it has stood up well. I definitely recommend this product.”
3. The crinkly stuffed animal with a catnip pouch
- Durable construction
- Features crinkle stuffing to entice cats
- Large size might not appeal to some cats
When you’re away, this crinkly stuffed animal can provide your cat with much-needed entertainment. The plush toy makes crunching noises when your cat chews, kicks, tosses, or pounces on it — and if your cat is attracted to catnip, they’ll be thrilled to find it’s filled with the stuff. Made from a looped fabric material, cat owners have reported that it’s durable enough to withstand rough play sessions. This toy is made to look like a sheep, but it’s available in several other options, including ones with a squeaker.
One cat owner wrote: “My cat absolutely loves it! It’s not too big so she can drag it around and toss it. The crinkle noise in it is a bit selling point for my cat and has so far been quite durable (my cat tends to tear though toys).”
4. The electronic fish toy that flops
- Responds when cats interact with it
- Incorporates catnip
- More timid cats might find it frightening
When a basic plush toy won’t cut it, consider this fish toy for cats. It not only looks like a real fish but also moves like one, lurching into motion when touched. It also features a pouch for catnip (some is included) to appeal to cats. The interactive toy is made from a pet-safe fabric, and to keep your cat safe when in use, its electronic components are kept inside a sturdy zipper closure. It kicks into a battery-saving standby mode when it’s not being played with — and when it runs out of juice, you can just plug the toy into a USB-compatible power source.
While it seems like a great option for confident cats, some Amazon reviewers have noted that it left their felines more scared than excited, so that’s something to keep in mind if you have a particularly nervous cat. Choose from four styles of fish.
One cat owner wrote: “I work from home with my 4 month old kitten. There are many times during the day when he wants to play while I need to focus on work, so I was looking for a toy to give him ‘interactive’ play when I can’t. This fish is perfect! It took my kitty a few days to figure it out, but he loves to wrestle with it now, and it does an awesome job of entertaining/distracting him while I’m doing other things.”
5. The treat-dispensing wobble toy for cats
- Dispenses treats for food-motivated cats
- Dishwasher safe
- Small pieces of food may come out quickly
According to cat owners, their food-motivated felines immediately took this treat-dispensing wobble toy. One Amazon reviewer described: “My kitty doesn’t play with many inactive solo toys. He is, however, very food motivated, so I thought I’d give this a try to get him motivated. It worked!” The feeder toy’s compartments feature openings you can adjust to fit treats of different sizes or to make it more of a challenge. As it rocks and rolls, the puzzle toy dispenses treats, encouraging your cat to use its paws to retrieve every last bit of food.
One cat owner wrote: “I’ve tried other types of slow feeders, but this one is the best. I set it to one small open hole and my cat chases this egg all around the kitchen. Keep in mind I feed my cat dry food only as a snack, but for half hour during lunch he is busy and loves it. The material of the egg seems fine, it’s been couple months now and it’s not broken, no cracks. Good purchase.”
6. The electronic ball toy for cats
- Self-propelled design
- Rechargeable battery
- Might frighten more timid cats
If your cat loves to chase, check out this electronic ball toy. The ball automatically rolls and shifts direction every so often (or when it collides with an object in its pathway) to keep felines on their toes. The ball runs on USB-rechargeable batteries for up to four hours, and you can set its timer to turn off after 30 minutes. It’s made of pet-safe and durable ABS plastic, and the electronic components are secured inside the ball for your cat’s safety.
Amazon reviewers have noted that it moves fairly slowly, so it shouldn’t destructively zip around the home when you’re away. If you could use more peace of mind that your cat is engaging with the toy safely, consider getting this pricier smart cat toy (with a camera and treat dispenser) that you can direct remotely from an app.
One cat owner wrote: “It works best on a solid floor. It keeps him busy so I can do other things. The ball seems very sturdily made, and I think it will last quite a while. Money well spent with a little creativity for my cat.”
7. The challenging puzzle feeder for cats
- Ideal for food-motivated cats
- Working parts aren’t removable
- Might be too frustrating a challenge for some cats
If you’ve got a clever feline who needs a tougher challenge to stave off boredom, this puzzle feeder could be a natural fit. Made with BPA-free wood plastic composite, it features 16 slots with shuffle sliders to hide kibble or hard treats. For your cat to receive their reward, they have to use their nose and paws to uncover the treats. When it comes time to clean, just wash the toy with soap and water. If this is too hard (or easy) for your cat, this puzzle feeder is available in various levels to cater to their skills.
One cat owner wrote: “My cat is curious, very needy, and extremely food-motivated. I needed something to occupy him when I wasn't able to spend time actively playing and this puzzle feeder works great! I found that using fragrant treats like temptations and salmon nibbles were the most successful. It took him a minute to figure out what has going on at first but after a few tries he had it well figured out, so I'm considering purchasing another puzzle variety so that he doesn't get bored.”
8. The snuffle mat for cats
- Encourages cats to safely forage for treats
- Easy to clean and store between uses
- Might not be suitable for cats that like to scratch
This snuffle mat isn’t just for dogs — according to Amazon reviewers, food-motivated cats like it, too. The mat features multiple hiding spots for kibble or treats, including pockets, flaps, and fringes, with a grippy bottom. Constructed from 100% polyester, it’s also durable, according to reviewers. As a bonus, this mat folds up into a smaller size for easy storage. When your cat is done foraging for food, you just clean it in the washing machine.
One cat owner wrote: “Very good quality. My 2 cats love it. I hide [their] treats in the different areas and they sniff them out. Keeps them busy.”
9. The multi-level cat tree with a scratching post
- Encourages climbing and scratching on an appropriate surface
- Available in a variety of sizes
- Relatively bulky as far as toys go
If your cat takes comfort in high places, they might like this multi-level cat tree. It’s covered in carpet and has three tiers for your cat to choose from, with the highest point standing at over 46 inches tall. The cat tree also has three posts made from jute rope for your cat to scratch instead of your furniture. Just keep in mind that this option has a weight capacity of 30 pounds. Its cream exterior will match most home décor, but you can also shop it in gray as well as several other design options.
One cat owner wrote: “I love love love it! The price is reasonable, it's easy to assemble, it's soft, offers many great scratch options, various platforms, and looks great in our home. My tabby enjoys the little cave like area at the bottom. I'm happy to provide him with another environment since he's an indoor cat. He's 14lbs and he can not tilt it over even if he's at the very top. He's happy, so I'm happy. I have no complaints about this post!”
Also useful: A pet camera with two-way audio
- Footage is accessible through an app on your phone
- Requires an SD card or cloud storage to save recorded footage
For keeping tabs on your cat when you’re away, a pet security camera will come in handy. This camera from eufy has a 1080p resolution, plus two-way audio so you can hear and be heard by your pet. It also has smart motion-sensing capabilities, plus night vision that can see up to 32.8 feet. It offers a wide view of wherever it’s placed, swiveling a full 360-degrees horizontally and 96-degrees vertically. It requires Wi-Fi to operate, and it’s Google Assistant and Alexa compatible.
One cat owner wrote: “The AI tech can tell if it's a human or a pet, which is very helpful when I have a cat at home. 2K resolution provides sharp and clear vision both in day time and night. I love this more because the camera can be turned horizontal and vertical which gives me a wider vision in all.”