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Since each pet is unique, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for the exact toy your pet will like. Try new toys with your cat or dog as they move through the phases of their life. Keep in mind our 3 toy quality recommendations: fun, durable, and time-consuming.
“It makes me so happy when we find a toy that Nestle loves to play with,” says Alisha, dog mom to 7-year-old Nestle. “She was a foster failure who didn’t know how to play when she first came to us. Now she plays with us and will entertain herself with a flamingo stuffy while I’m in meetings, like a small child.”
We researched the top 3 qualities pet parents value in toys. We know you’ll agree that every toy should have an element of fun, durability, and keep them playing for a while.
Whether you adopted a kitten or your dog is aging into new toys, here are our suggestions. Happy playing!
Most dogs and cats love durable, time-consuming chew and chase toys
There was lots of discussion about Kong toys for dogs. “Kongs are the most durable,” says Katie. “You never have to replace them!” Shakkal loves Kong’s products for different chewing levels: from teething puppies to adult animals with unique needs.
Jenna’s dogs love the classic Kong Wubba throw toy, which comes in many textures and colors. “For us, it’s all about Kong Squeaker Balls,” says Esterleane. “My pet is entertained as long as it squeaks, rolls, and bounces.”
Some other brands were also recommended for entertaining, durable options. “I love Bark Shop chewer toys,” says Georgie. “They’re the best durable toy for my destructive doggies. Plus, they have so many cute options.” Our polling uncovered 2 other durable toy recommendations: Jolly Pets and West Paw.
Cats love to chew and play chase, too. Ali loves the Slivertine chewing stick for her cat. It’s durable and time-consuming.
Savannah’s cats love their crinkly, stuffed mice. The crunchy material inside the toy encourages playtime. Luna tosses her mice toys by their tails, playing hide-and-seek on her own. We love how independent she is!
Most cats also love to chase a laser pointer. The fast-moving and unpredictable light stimulates a cat’s natural hunting instinct. It also satisfies a cat’s need for mental stimulation and exercise. Remember to take breaks every few minutes so your cat doesn’t get frustrated by its inability to catch the light dot!
“Lasers are an easy way for owners to connect with their felines without having any physical contact at all,” says Katie, “which some cats don’t particularly like.”
Cat-only toys that we love
If your cat is up all night, Georgie suggests Da Bird. This wand with a colorful, textured bird at the end helps cats burn excess energy so they can sleep better. And behave, as well.
“Tunnels are a huge hit in our home,” says Ali. “They chase their ball through the tunnel, or we put treats at the end to encourage them to creep through.”
Catnip toys are also popular for cats. They’re a great way to engage cats who aren’t particularly interested in playing. Remember not to give too much catnip at once. Large amounts may upset your pet’s stomach.
This cat has been nesting in our Resort tower.
Plush toys for dogs
Plush toys are a favorite. They are soft, cuddly, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes to hold a dog’s interest. They also give comfort and companionship when their owners aren’t around.
Some dogs take care of fluffy toys. “My dogs are gentle with their toys and don’t destroy them,” says Maria. “So, my biggest priority is a toy that’s easy to clean. I also look out for safe toys that won’t break apart and choke them.”
“You have to know your pet,” says Olivia. “Stella likes her chew toys in the day and her Lamb Chop stuffy at night. It amazes me how she knows to care for it.”
Feel free to bring your cat or dog’s favorite comfort toy to their playcare day or overnight boarding experience.
Stella & her favorite plush toy, Lamp Chop.
Toys for mental stimulation and long-lasting playtime
Pets are so smart and need extra stimulation each day. Try a toy puzzle. Both cats and dogs love them. And they’ll engage your dog and cat for some time.
Durability, fun, and distraction come together when you fill a puzzle toy with food. We love peanut butter, spray cheese, canned food, yogurt, and tuna.
“Food and treat puzzles help Ganon stay engaged with a toy,” says Haley. “If a toy is too durable, he gets discouraged and bored.” Haley recommends Kong’s wobbler, which is Ganon’s favorite. “He also really loves the Starmark Bento Ball.”
Mary’s dog also loves the Starmark Bento ball and their Bob-a-lot toy, both made of durable rubber.
Working from home? Olivia uses Kong toys filled with frozen Greek yogurt, peanut butter, or honey to distract her pups. “The activity lasts a solid hour and makes them tired. It’s a win-win for all of us!”
Cats need enrichment, too. “As a first-time cat owner,” says Ali, “I never realized how much enrichment I could add to my cat’s life by getting a cat tower!!” Ali’s cat loves sleeping in it, looking look out the window, and chirping at birds. She also plays with the hanging fur balls.
The mentally stimulating effects of puzzle toys improve cognition, allowing cats and dogs to gain skills while they play.
Puzzles have an added benefit: they decrease fear and anxiety. Studies show that puzzles increase levels of dopamine, serotonin, and other “happy hormones” in pets.
Haley uses food toys and puzzles to increase Ganon’s engagement and keep him interested in playing.
Learning what your pet likes
Try lots of toys with your new pet to see their preferences: active toys, sleepy toys, etc. And keep in mind the top three qualities to seek out: fun, durable, time-consuming.
Idea: Rotate your pet’s toys on a daily or weekly basis to keep them interested in “new” items. This also will help you see which toys your pet prefers, so you can incorporate more of them into their toy rotation to stave off boredom.
Toys at Firehouse Pet Resort
As you can imagine, the pet specialists at Firehouse Pet Resort have loads of real life product testing experience. Here are their favorite fun, durable, and time-consuming toys.
“We buy our toys once or twice a year,” says Shakkal, Resort Supervisor in Round Rock. “Kong toys are the most popular and we have a variety: throw toys, squeaky toys, and toys that we fill with treats” she says.
Pets also love products from Jolly Ball, like the Tug-N-Toss for outdoor games of chase. Dogs love playing tug-of-war with rope toys.
For mental exercise, “We love Outward Hound Puzzles and treat-filled lick pads,” adds Esterleane, Resort Supervisor in Kyle.
Cats get mental stimulation from tunnel play. “We love tunnels that cats can crawl through,” says Esterleane. “We coax them with treats.”
The Pet Resort also features cat towers and balls for cat-only chase games.
“We also place high value on toys that are dishwasher safe,” says Shakkal. “We clean our toys often.”
And sometimes, all you need is good ole-fashioned waterplay for dogs and a sunny spot for cats!
Choosing safe toys
Toys made by these trusted brands not only last a long time, but they are also safe. Safe choices offer security for busy pet parents. “I am comfortable leaving the house and knowing that Stella can play with her West Paw toy without choking,” says Olivia.
Jane agrees. Their dog chewed a ball to bits and required a visit to the vet to deal with a resulting obstruction. They now opt for durable Kong toys that Kylo, a husky, cannot tear apart.
Ali’s routine includes “inspecting the condition of my dog’s toys to make sure they are not coming apart.” She says, “I watch my pets with new toys for a few days before leaving them alone for an extended period of time.”
Happy playing! Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures with them enjoying their new toys. Tag us on Instagram @firehousepetresort.
Curious about Firehouse Pet Resort? We’d love to talk with you. We’re open Monday-Sunday from 7am-7pm. Your pet’s first day of playcare is free.