How to Choose Cat Toys

A canvas catnip toy

Spotting Your Feline's Cat Toy Preference

Have you ever wondered why some cats will snub a new toy and then enthusiastically play with string? Mud Bay’s cat toy category team theorized that felines prefer toys that mimic the types of prey they’d like to hunt. To help decode the charming and mysterious preferences of cats, we divided all our toys into five types of prey: birds, bugs, mice, snakes and squirrels.

To determine your own cat’s prey preference, watch them carefully. By noticing which toys intrigue, you’ll be able to glean valuable insights into what might delight your cat. Feathered toys may tempt cats interested in birds, but cats who want to hunt squirrels may ignore them. A love of buttons may suggest a love of bug-like toys. And if your cat likes to horde yarn, wand toys that mimic snakes may spark their interest.

Finding a Toy Your Cat Will Love

With many toys in each prey category, you may want to consider other factors when shopping for a beloved feline. First, size is important. Choose a toy larger than a ping-pong ball, to reduce the chance your cat might swallow it. Meanwhile, large toys might discourage mousers, who like to carry toys in their mouths, but entice squirrel hunters. Second, materials matter to cats. Preferences for fabrics and scents can vary between them. Not every cat loves catnip, but those cats who ignore it may prize honeysuckle, valerian or silvervine toys. Other cats adore wool toys, while some felines will only play with real fur or leather.

A fur mouse cat toy

A cork ball and a felt ball cat toys

Play Is an Essential Part of Being a Cat

Some owners believe their cats aren’t interested in playing. We’ve found that with the right toys and timing, nearly all cats will play. Playing—or hunting in cat parlance—is an essential part of being a cat. Cats instinctively want to hunt before meals, so a few minutes of interactive play before eating appeals to many felines. Having regular playtime is also a great way to promote feline-human bonding while encouraging exercise.

With so many variables to consider, it may take some time to decode your cat’s specific preferences with one-hundred-percent accuracy. But once you can identify which characteristics your cat prioritizes, you’ll be able to regularly pick toys that attract your cat.

What's Your Cat's Prey Preference?


A representation of a bird A representation of a bird on a green circle


A representation of a butterfly A representation of a butterfly on a green circle


A representation of a mouse A representation of a mouse on a green clrcle


A representation of a snake A representation of a snake on a green circle


A representation of a squirrel A representation of a squirrel on a green circle

Felines who spend their days bird watching often want feathered toys of their own. These cats are happy to jump and flip while attempting to grab feathers off the ends of wand toys.

Cats interested in bugs may already stalk any unlucky arthropods that enter their homes. Many insect-obsessed felines collect bobby pins, buttons and hair ties and show interest in toys like laser pointers.

Mousers carry, grab and toss small toys. These cats are drawn to small, furry toys that may rattle when moved. Small toys made with wool or fur, or those stuffed with catnip or other herbs, also appeal.

Cats who collect string, floss and pencils often enjoy snake toys that can replicate a serpentine movement along the ground. They engage best with sturdy wand toys that are dragged across the floor.

Natural squirrel hunters prefer larger toys that they can grab with their front paws and kick with their back legs. These cats may tussle with their toys on the ground, rather than stalking or chasing them.

Click the icons above to learn more about each play preference.

Once you bring a toy home, take the time to supervise your cat during playtime. You’ll be able to see if your cat appreciates the toy, and the toy can withstand how your cat plays with it. While it’s rare, some cats like to tear up toys and swallow bits.

How We Choose Cat Toys

Two colorful catnip pillow toys

With hundreds of different cat toys made each year, choosing a diverse selection can be a long process. We start by looking for innovative toys with unique materials and shapes. The toys Mud Bay sells must be completely nontoxic, and if any real fur is used, it’s sourced from the food supply. Our category manager also looks for toys with different herbs and sounds to fascinate all sorts of individual cats.

Muddies and their felines also test most toys. It’s during this process that we get valuable feedback about an item’s true durability and allure. Four-pawed testers let us know if a toy is too heavy, loud or boring. We also listen to staff feedback and customer requests to learn which toys felines love.

Before we enter a partnership with any toy manufacturer, we work to get to know the company. Mud Bay prizes local companies that can provide uncommon cat toys for our customers. We want to partner with toy manufacturers who make sustainable and ethical business decisions. And we search for companies that can offer toys at a price that will delight cat owners.