Cats are great at amusing both themselves and us. They can make a toy out of almost anything: a stray leaf, an empty box, a piece of fuzz blowing by. Anything that moves or they can hide in becomes a wonderful source of fun for most cats. The problem comes when they choose something to play with that is unsafe or can pose hazards for them. Here are some tips for providing safe playthings for your cat.
1. A ball of string is not a safe plaything, in spite of what we often are led to believe. Why not? Because your cat's tongue is covered with sharp, backward-facing barbs that can catch on string or yarn and make spitting it out difficult. If the cat or kitten continues to swallow the string, this can cause internal blockage and injuries to the intestines. This same problem can occur at Christmastime when cats may swallow icicles, ribbons, or other holiday decorations and wrappings.
2. Avoid anything that the cat can swallow. This includes small balls, rubber bands, tassels, bells, and glued-on eyes and trim on toys, which can come off or be chewed or rolled off. Also watch out for small pieces of metal that the cat can swallow. Check any toys you are considering to be sure that there are no small parts that can be dropped off or dislodged during play. Be careful, also, about pieces of foil, twist ties, and other tempting small objects that are frequently used around the house but can pose hazards for your kitty.
3. Toxic toys are a potential hazard that has recently come into the spotlight. Pet toys are not regulated, so imports can contain toxic amounts of lead. Rubber-type toys apparently have the largest lead content. A great solution is to use kid's toys. Soft stuffed animals that are made and approved as safe for babies and children are often a very good choice for both your cat and your dog. Check them out for glued-on eyes or trim or other possible parts that can be rolled off just as you would for a child.
4. Among The Humane Society of the United States and the Dumb Friends League recommendations for good cat toys are round plastic shower curtain rings, which can be batted and chased. These are large enough that the cat can not swallow them or get their tongue stuck in the center holes.
5. Does your cat like balls? The Humane Society suggests trying Ping-Ping balls or plastic practice golf balls that have holes in them. Exercise caution, however, if you have dogs. What can be a great cat toy can become a hazard for a dog if he can swallow the toy or get his teeth stuck in the holes. Your kitty may like to roll an empty plastic bottle around; just be sure that it has not contained anything that could have poisonous. Tighten the cap strictly so that it can not be dislodged and swallowed.
6. Cats love to get inside of things. Give them a cardboard box or a paper bag to hide in and they will have a wonderful time amusing themselves. If using a paper shopping bag, be sure to remove the handles because the cat can poke his head through the openings and get them stuck around his neck. Avoid plastic bags of all kinds, including the inside wrappers from cereal boxes and the bags chips and other foods come in. Pets have suffocated from poking their heads inside these bags to check for crumbs, been unable to get them out, and become unable to breathe.
7. Be careful about the plants you keep around your cats. Many plants are toxic, including most bulbs, Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), and many other decorative types we like to enjoy. Cats often like to hide in plants and to nibble them as well. A small nibble of a very toxic plant can be disastrous because of the cat's small size. Anything with thorns, sharp points, or vines can also cause injury to your kitty. Puncture wounds, scratches to the eyes, thorns in the paw, and lacerations to the mouth are no fun for anyone. Getting tangled in vines can result in the cat pulling a heavy container over onto him- or herself, and it can certainly cause a mess of your nice floor or pretty carpet. Look for ways to display your plants that will keep your kitty safe.
Cats can be wonderful companions and a great source of enjoyment. A well-cared-for cat often lives up into the teens or longer. With a few precautions to help keep them safe, you and your kitty can spend many, many happy hours together.