Bring Your Elderly Cat Joy With Senior Cat Toys

Key Points

  • Senior cat toys with catnip motivate an otherwise sedentary elderly cat.

  • Interactive senior cat toys get them moving and also create a bond between owner and pet.

  • Replace worn or ripped toys to avoid a choking hazard.

  • Make your own toys with something as simple as a shoestring or box.

Has your senior cat lost the pep in their step? Have they lost the joy in their toys? Are they bored out of their gourd? An older cat has been around the block. They know what toys you have, and they're no longer impressed. Give your senior cat toys that keep them moving and motivated.

Senior cat toys help your elderly cat get the exercise they need. Many senior cats have the capacity to be as nimble as they were as a kitten. They just might need a little help remembering.

Your cat's health is of utmost concern. A toy isn't merely entertainment but a means to provide exercise and mental stimulation. Don't let your cat waste away their nine lives. Show them a fun time with some new gifts for senior cats!

My Cat Seems Bored

Fat cat looking unimpressed.

Cats love investigating new things. When you bring them a new toy, it's entertaining. After a while, the same old thing loses its curiosity factor. They say, "Been there, pounced on that."

Companies always come out with new and unique toys and pet puzzles. Try getting a toy that's different from the standard play mouse or laser light.

If you have a cat for most of their life, you likely know what they like and what they tend to ignore. Do they respond to bells or squeaks? Some toys make chirping bird sounds when activated by motion. Do they want something they grab and kick at? A KONG Kickeroo might work.

When something piques their interest, you see it in their eyes, ears, and overall demeanor. Test out a few of these great ideas.

The Best Toys for Senior Cats

Senior cats have particular age-related issues. They may also become bored and lazy if you don't actively engage with them. Some toys help bring out the kitten in your older cat.

Plush Toys

Senior cats may have arthritic or dental pain, making it difficult to bite down on hard food or objects. A soft, plush toy is easier on their teeth. They also carry it around easily. Toss it across the room, and they may even fetch it. Toss it above their head to get them to jump for it.

If it gets torn up or the stuffing starts coming out, throw it away. Some plush toys are stuffless so you don't have to worry as much about the tears. You should still watch out for pieces that come off.

Treat-Dispensing Toys

Orange cat with puzzle toy.

Most cats like treats, but not all flavors appeal to all cats. You may have to try out a few before you find the one your cat enjoys.

Give your cat a puzzle toy with a treat as the reward. This motivates even a lazy cat. If your cat is overweight, this is probably not the best option. At least find low-calorie treats or limit the number they have each day.

Use some treat dispensers as slow feeders. These vary from tubes your cat reaches into to retrieve their kibble to mats that you spread on wet food or paste.

Catnip Toys

If your cat becomes unmotivated by their plush toys, get ones containing catnip. You may find that they're suddenly interested. After a while, catnip loses its potency. Some toys have pockets with velcro closures to insert and replace the catnip.

Most cats respond positively to the smell of catnip. Even senior cats perk up when they get a whiff of it. There are cats who couldn't care less about it, so it depends on the individual.

Cat Scratchers

Orange and white cat playing with cat scratcher toy.

Cat scratchers have a variety of functions. Provide enough of them so your cat doesn't need to use your furniture as a scratcher.

Scratchers also provide the opportunity for your cat to shed their claws. It requires a bit of effort, so it gives them a small amount of exercise.

There are many kinds of cat scratchers, from posts to ones that lean against the wall, attach to the wall, hang on a doorknob, or lay on the floor. They come in cardboard houses or interesting shapes.

Many also come with a toy attached, like a ball on a rubber string or a bird on the top of a spring.

They're also easy to make. Get a wooden post and attach it to a flat wooden base. Wrap the post with carpet or sisal rope. Staple a rubber string to the top and tie a toy mouse to the other end if you think it's appropriate for what your cat likes.

Interactive Toys

An interactive toy is one that "plays back." The cat's movement may activate this one, or it has a human on the other end. Some are battery-operated balls and mice that move when your cat bats them around, which they use on their own time.

A wand is another feline favorite. It's usually a stick with a long piece of material or feathers at the end of it. This one should only be available to your cat while you're around to monitor them. The feathers get ripped out and become a potential choking hazard.

It's a myth that all cats hate water. There are battery-operated fish that swim in a small pool of water. Put them in a small tub of water on a tile floor, and your cat fishes them out as they swim around. You may want to put an absorbent rug or towel underneath to prevent big messes.

It's a good idea to have both types of interactive play. One entertains your cat while you're away, and the other provides opportunities for bonding with your cat.

Exploration Toys

Pretty tabby cat in play tube.

Cats are curious and love to explore. They want to climb and look down on everything but also get into closets and other small spaces.

If you live in an apartment or have limited room, create vertical space for your cat. Cats love to climb and be up high in a place where they observe everything and feel safe too. It's also great for times when they feel like solitude.

A cat tower provides all of this and allows them to exercise. For motivation, place their food bowl or treats on different levels of the tower.

There are other types of exploration toys besides a tower. The veterinary staff of Broadway Pet Hospital in Oakland, California, recommends toys for not-so-active cats.

"One popular option is a pop-up tube, which is usually made of crinkle material," they say. "These tubes allow cats to explore, crawl, and dive through them while chasing toys (or chasing other cats). As such, they encourage extremely active playtime."

The Ripple Rug is a cat activity mat that you may shape into different forms. It has multiple holes for cats to go in and out or reach through to grab toys. It's eco-friendly, composed of recycled water bottles. Cats love it!

No matter what type of exploration toy you choose, be aware of your cat's limitations. An older cat sometimes has joint pain, so they may not climb as well as they used to. Speak to your vet about possible options to relieve your cat's arthritic pain.

Toys On a Budget

If you're ever around young children during holidays or birthdays, you see that kids are sometimes more entertained by playing with the boxes and wrapping paper rather than the gift itself. The same is true with cats.

Many cats love getting inside small spaces like boxes. Leave a cardboard box open or turn it upside-down with one side propped up. Your cat crawls inside to hide. Use it as part of a game as well.

Use an old shoestring if you don't want to spend money on a special cat wand or if you're on an actual "shoestring budget." Again, monitor their play with this one. The string may get caught in your cat's throat if swallowed. Try your hand at other handmade cat toys for even more options.

Even wadded-up paper or a foil ball is fun for a cat. In a Reddit post on May 28, 2023, one user responded to a question about what to do for a lazy cat. They suggested a wadded-up piece of paper with a rubber band wrapped around it. It makes it easier to carry around.

Mental Stimulation

Fluffy orange cat looking out of bathroom window.

Exercise is one thing, but you want your cat's mind to be active too. Many toys do this, but there are other ways. The San Francisco SPCA suggests leaving the curtains open and setting up a birdfeeder outside in view of the window. If you leave your cat alone during the day, fill a KONG with food or tune your TV into a nature channel.


Remember that anything has potential danger, so watch your cat when they play. Put away toys that might fall apart when you're not around. Some cats are more destructive than others, pulling off pieces of toys or ripping them open.

Laser lights are fun for many cats, but they're harmful if pointed directly into their eyes (or your own). With a ball of paper or foil, batting it around is fine, but if your cat tends to chew on it, that's dangerous. Monitor their play with this too.

You should know what works for your cat and what doesn't.

Time for Play

If your cat gets lazy in their old age, they may sleep a lot throughout the day and become more active at night. This may not mesh well with your schedule. This is another good reason to keep them entertained during daylight hours.

Your cat may also have physical limitations now that they're older. Pain or other conditions may prevent them from doing certain movements or exerting energy for the same duration as a younger cat.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Lorie Huston wrote an article for PetMD about playing with your senior cat. Huston says, "Ask your veterinarian about what type of play is appropriate for your cat as well as what type of play schedule is safe for your cat. In some situations, shorter and less intense play sessions conducted at more frequent intervals may be in your cat’s best interest."

Some senior cats may engage in the same type of play as when they were younger. Every cat has individual needs or limitations.

Limit your cat's playtime with new toys. Put them away and rotate other ones in. When you bring out an old one, it seems new again.

Another Cat

Kitten and older cat nuzzling faces.

A new cat or kitten isn't a toy, but they become a playmate. Two cats chase each other around, play hide-and-seek, and wait around the corner to pop out at one another.

Another feline may bring new life into your lazy old cat. Consider this one carefully, though. Some cats don't take well to a new member of the family. Some are easygoing and receive other cats fairly easily.

Another adult cat may be more difficult to introduce. If you know someone with kittens, see if the owner is okay with the idea of borrowing one. The young ones are probably more accepting of the senior cat than another adult. The feeling may not be mutual at first, so you should never force an introduction.

Your senior cat may not fall in love with a new kitten right away, but many learn to tolerate a new companion at least. If you give them their own spaces, they're more likely to accept each other's presence.

Bring Back Their Joy With a Toy

Your senior cat gets tired of the same old thing. They don't have fun chasing things around like they used to. A novel or interactive toy does wonders for a sedentary old cat. There may be some trial and error when it comes to finding whether a feather tickles their fancy or if a cat tower scratches their itch for adventure.

Just because they're elderly, it's not an excuse to be lazy. Your cat still needs exercise when they reach old age. Find new ways to have fun with your cat. Interact with them in a way that gets them moving.

This article gives you plenty of ideas to try. Go out and get some senior cat toys today!

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