Best Toys For Indoor Cats (Minimal Clutter and Super Effective)

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Indoor cats require a bit more stimulation than their outdoor counterparts. This is especially true for cats in smaller spaces like apartments and studio apartments.

Cats need to have regular play sessions to release their inner hunters and live fulfilled and active lives. Luckily there are a lot of tools available to help butlers with this.

Remember, bored cats might develop negative traits that might be difficult to correct later on. Such as biting or destroying certain objects around the home.

Many people focus on the physical needs (food, water, litter box) of their cats but not enough focus is put on the cat’s instincts. In terms of cat toys and products that promote running, exercise, and cater to our cat’s inner instincts – I feel that the market is severely lacking. There are just too many cheap items that are poorly made and don’t hold our cat’s attention.

However, there are exceptions and a few products that are both great for promoting our cat’s natural being and space-saving and minimal clutter.

For those looking for the quick answer for the best indoor cat toys or products in terms of value, effort, and effectiveness based on our cat’s engagement and stimulation?

  1. Cat Play Environments – great for all and any number of cats, easy to use doesn’t take much effort.
  2. Cat Interactive Toys – great for all cats but requires a lot of attention and effort from their owners. Usually more effective when playing with one cat at a time.
  3. Cat Stationary Toys – great for kittens and young cats but isn’t as effective for adult cats. Still functions well as a good distraction from time to time.

Below I discuss which products specifically are the best and give my own recommendation about how and when to use the toy/products to be the most effective to keep our cats engaged and stimulated.

What to Look For in A Good Cat Toy

There are so many products out there that claim to be great for our cats, but so many fail to hit the mark. We all know it because there are just so many times when owners buy something for their cat, and their cat pays no care or attention to it.

It’s also partly our fault because we sometimes don’t consider our cat’s needs when making our purchasing decisions. We might even have some false expectations about our cats ourselves – thinking what they enjoyed as kittens they will continue to enjoy as adult cats.

It’s sad because we spend our hard-earned money on these products without them being used and also frustrating because some of us living in small spaces and apartments means that these items can take up a lot of space.

So this is my checklist/questions I ask myself when I decide whether or not I make a toy purchase, which I hope can help you choose the right toy for your cats.

  • Does it allow your cat to climb/run/hide/burrow?
  • Is it simple (no choking hazards) and doesn’t require any batteries?
  • Is it durable enough for cats to bite, chew, and pull on it without it getting too damaged?
  • Can it be put away neatly or save space within your home?
  • Does it fit with your room’s aesthetics or have other additional secondary features?
  • Does it accommodate more than one cat to play with it at any given time?
  • Is it age-appropriate for your cats (i.e. is it for young cats or adult cats)?

If the answer is yes to at least 5 of these questions – then it’s likely to be a good toy for your cats.

Luckily I’ve done most of the research when compiling this list of some of the best toys that I have used in my apartment and continue to use in my apartment.

Why Provide Your Cats With Different Toys?

Although indoor cats are super safe and live much longer lives, their trade-off is the amount of physical and environmental stimulation that they receive. Toys provide cats different ways to move and interact with their indoor environment to prevent obesity, diseases, and behavioral issues.

Not all toys are created equal of course – some are better for younger cats, some for older cats, and some are just great for all cats of any age. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know about the types of toys that are available on the market!

Here Are Some of The Best Indoor Cat Toys!

For cat butlers that are short on time, here’s a quick recommendation list covering all different kinds of cat playstyles! These are the products and toys that every cat owner should have at least one of and has the best price-to-effectiveness ratio. I’ll pick one from each category.

1. Ripple Rug – Great for cats of all ages and low effort for butlers!

My Pick
SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat

While it takes up some horizontal space on the floor - this is such a great tool to let your cats hide and burrow and be cats. Multi-cat households love this item because of its durability and effectiveness. Also folds up neatly to be put away and organized!

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2. Interactive Wand Variety Set – Great for all ages and provides a lot of variety for cats!

My Pick
Pet Fit - 4 Piece Rod + Variety Prey Set Pet Fit - 4 Piece Rod + Variety Prey Set

This prey-set brings great variety to fit all cat's hunting preferences. This allows you to try a lot of different types of prey for your interactive wand and has great reviews.

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3. Bergan Turbo Scratcher – Provides endless fun for young cats and kittens!

My Pick
Bergan Turbo Scratcher Bergan Turbo Scratcher

The popular multifunctional ball track king. This is great for first-time cat owners as it's simple, minimal amounts of parts (replaceable too!), and well built. It's also impossible to tip over because of its wide base.

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4. Trixie Activity Fun Board – Make every mealtime into an activity!

My Pick
Trixie Activity Fun Board Trixie Activity Fun Board

A really great activity/puzzle feeder. Large enough to accommodate multiple cats and has a variety of ways that your cats can play/obtain their food or snacks! Great for all types of cats and promotes slow methodical eating.

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Three Categories of Indoor Cat Toys

There are 3 categories that I split each toy into and there’s a reason for that. They all serve a different purpose and are likely to have different effects depending on the age and activity levels of your cats.

This will further help you pinpoint what toys your cats will most respond to and use the most.

I will also be ranking them from 1-5 regarding space usage for when you really need the horizontal space (if you’re living in a smaller living area).

Also, each category differs in energy expenditure and, of course, the amount of effort spent by us cat owners. Here’s a graphic about how effective each type of toy or item is in terms of engaging/stimulating your cats:

Graphic 1. Cat Toy Engagement VS Effort Spent

Best Stationary Cat Toys

Our first category is, as the name describes, cat toys that are sitting on the floor – stationary. They either have a ball that cats can whack around the track or maybe something dangling. They’re products that cats have to interact with for them to be effective.

Unfortunately, stationary toys are the toys that cat owners buy too many of (me included!) because we think it looks fun, but for cats, it really doesn’t do much for them in terms of instinctual drive. Can you imagine hitting a ball around for hours at a time?

However, having one or two stationary toys in the cat arsenal is a good idea and has its purposes that we’ll get into below.

The most popular stationary toy is the cat track, but many of them are built super flimsy and unstable – cats generally lose interest in flimsy things more quickly.

PurposeGreat for filling in the gaps when you’re at work or a tool to keep your cats busy in a pinch but not as effective as the other categories (cat play environment and cat interactive toys) at keeping the cat’s attention.

However, they are super low effort and passive – meaning we butlers can catch a breather when we need it. It’s not a replacement for regular play sessions, but it is a great supplement throughout the day (if cats are interacting with the toys from time to time)
Best ForKittens or young cats (very effective at energy expenditure) or cats tend to hit things off tables (you know who they are).

Kittens can literally play with these toys endlessly. So it’s a great tool for distracting little kittens during their socialization/adaptation period.

Supremely energetic cats can benefit from these toys (such as the Bengal cat). My Bengal cat Latte loves to hit the ball around the track randomly throughout the day.
Not So Great ForOlder cats – they might hit it a couple of times, but when cats get older, they’re just more energy-efficient (hmmm…similar to us humans,) so they’re much less interested in these types of toys.

Also, stationary toys can be quite noisy if the cats bat the balls around the track at night. So I prefer to put them away at night or play with them with an interactive toy (see the ‘interactive toy’ section below) to let their energy out so that they aren’t interested in playing anymore before bedtime.

They’re also not a great tool for actual exercise or losing weight because the cats really only move their paws. It’s more of a distraction and mental stimulation tool.
My RecommendationI recommend putting out one max on the floor at any given time. Having too many toys out can clutter up floor space and unnecessary tripping hazards.

However, having one or two high-quality stationary cat toys that you can rotate and put out when you’re at work or need to keep your cats busy is a good idea.

Avoid having them out for long periods of time (over a day). Cats are smart, and they can’t keep their interest for long periods of time. If you put it away and bring it back when you need to – cats can rediscover it.
Space-Efficiency Score3 – 3.5/5 (if using the space-saving stationary cat toys) – although small for the most part – having too many stationary toys out makes the room feel cluttered and uncomfortable. Sometimes the awkward shapes make it hard to put away nicely and neatly.
Table 1. Stationary Cat Toy Pros, Cons, and Recommendations

Recommended Stationary Cat Toys

  1. Bergan Turbo Scratcher
  2. Bergan Turbo Scratcher

    The popular multifunctional ball track king. This is great for first-time cat owners as it's simple, minimal amounts of parts (replaceable too!), and well built. It's also impossible to tip over because of its wide base.

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  3. Petstages Lay N' Play Track Cat Toy with Catnip
  4. Petstages Lay N' Play Track Cat Toy with Catnip

    Another great multifunctional product. Cats can lay on it or play with the ball on the track. It also has a non-slip base which helps the toy from moving around to provide some extra stability for some vigorous play sessions!

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Extra Space-Saving Stationary Cat Toys

A new slew of space-saving stationary cat toys attaches to the windows and smooth surfaces not to take any space on the floor. Great for people that live in apartments and studio apartments.

I love suction cup items because it doesn’t damage the walls and it’s still quite strong/stable. Also, since these items are quite light as well – they can even be stuck on with 3M double-sided sticky tape (if, for some reason, the surface or suction cups aren’t working well).

However, the downside is that it’s a bit more of a pain to put away and put back up again. Anyways, they’re still great to use as a distraction! Also, they suffer the same negatives as regular stationary toys. Simply not engaging enough for an adult or older cat.

  1. Cat Suction Ball Track - Space Saving Stationary Toy
  2. Cat Suction Ball Track - Space Saving Stationary Toy

    This toy is great for smaller apartments because it's a vertical toy that attaches to glossy walls/windows by the suction cups. Great for young cats and cats that are easily bored. Also, if you put it higher up - it forces them to stay on their toes which lets them expend more energy.

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Best Cat Play Environment/Items

This is one of my favorite cat toys/items because it works in tandem with cat interactive toys. It creates such a fun environment for cats to explore without putting too much effort into designing something.

I want to recommend the two play environments are the cat tunnel and the cat ripple mat. There are various colors and designs for both the tunnel and mat so choose from what you enjoy or most fits with your room aesthetics.

These types of toys are great when you need to leave for an extended period of time or when you need to keep your cats out of trouble (and let them play independently). Leaving them out helps the cats stay busy and engaged.

PurposePlay environments typically provide the cats ways of burrowing, hiding, and hunting situations for cats, which is sorely needed in an indoor environment.

It’s very engaging and allows them to expend energy much more effectively than stationary toys.

The cat ripple mat has a secondary function of a cat scratching mat as well. Therefore, being a highly efficient product.

It’s also super durable, allowing cats to be as rough as they want, and it will still hold up.

My old tunnel had held up for about a year before my 4 cats completely ripped it.
Best ForAll cats at any age. Especially if your cats tend to hop into boxes, bags, or small holes – these types of play environments really bring out your cat’s inner hunter.

Again, it’s really best used when in tandem with interactive toys during your scheduled play sessions. Watch your cats go crazy going in and out of the tunnels and holes.

It’s also super useful in multi-cat homes. Cats can initiate their own play with these environments. Cats love to hide and pounce on each other.

It’s also great to divert attention away from your other furniture because it’s just a lot more stimulating for them to interact with.
Not So Great ForThese cat environments alone are not great for running and sprinting. They’ll hide and pounce on each other, but to really make them run, we have to use these play environments in tandem with interactive toys.
My RecommendationI believe each cat owner should have at least one of these items in their homes to bring some variety to your cat’s indoor environment.

During scheduled play sessions, take it out to use with the other interactive play tools. Even lasers can be great with these types of environments because cats can dive in and out without worrying too much about damaging anything.

You can also set it up when you’re at work or going somewhere for a longer period of time (2-3 days). It really helps to keep them busy and out of trouble.

I would also recommend using a lint roller to clean the tunnel or the mat. Putting it in the washer might warp the tunnel and make the mat floppy, thus losing its shape.
Space-Efficiency Score4/5 – tunnels and ripple mats are really easy to put away and fold up. The tunnel is about the size of a frisbee when completely collapsed, and the mat is a bit larger – about the size of a small blanket when completely folded up.

Their shape makes it really easy to squeeze somewhere and leave it there until it’s needed again.

The mat almost fits in with the rest of the room and almost looks like an abstract piece of furniture, which is okay in my book.
Table 2. Play Environment Cat Toy/Items Pros, Cons, and Recommendations

Recommended Cat Play Environment Toys

  1. Simple Cat Straight Tunnel
  2. Simple Cat Straight Tunnel

    When your cats need to expend some extra energy and you don't exactly have the time to play with them directly - create a play situation so that they can play with each other. This is great for multi-cat homes and folds up neatly when it's not being used. Lots of different designs to fit your home aesthetics too!

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  3. SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat
  4. SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug - Made in USA - Cat Activity Mat

    While it takes up some horizontal space on the floor - this is such a great tool to let your cats hide and burrow and be cats. Multi-cat households love this item because of its durability and effectiveness. Also folds up neatly to be put away and organized!

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Best Interactive Cat Toys/Prey

What do interactive toys mean? Interaction between your cats and you, yourself. You control the pace, where, and how fast the prey goes, and the cat responds accordingly. To play better with our cats and bring out their hunting drive more effectively, read about it here in my article: How to Play With Your Cats Properly.

These toys are the simplest but most effective at getting your cats to move. They’re super cheap and accessible. The only problem is all cats are different, and they can respond to different types of prey.

Some cats love snake-like prey (like my Rosie), and some cats really enjoy super furry and feathery type prey (the rest of my cats in my home). If one of my boys catches the furry prey toys, they will growl until all of the other cats back off their catch.

Active cats also love bouncy balls or balls easy to grip with their teeth (felt, or even cat fur balls made from their own fur!). Playing fetch and catch with your pets is a great interactive activity.

Throwing the ball into a ripple mat or a tunnel just further enhances the effect.

PurposeInteractive toys are the main ways we should all be playing with our cats. It lets them expend the most energy, and by playing in the correct ways – we can allow our cats to use all their natural cat tools.

From running, jumping, climbing, to hiding – if we know how to play with our cats, it’s the most effective energy expenditure and completely satiating our cat’s need for hunting.
Best ForMost healthy cats of any breed and age should respond to interactive play. If they don’t, then maybe finding the right prey toy or adjusting how you play will help.

Cats with a history of behavioral problems or have some destructive traits (such as chewing on objects around the house, knocking stuff over, or taking things apart).

Cats that are overly rough with other cats in multi-cat homes are a sign that they should have more interactive play.

Seemingly bored and lethargic cats.

Interactive play is the best therapy to curb a lot of these negative behavioral traits.
Not So Great ForWe cat butler’s energy levels. Although it’s not a lot, we have to get out of our chairs and actually play with our cats. It might be a lot to ask for some people, but it’s part of the responsibility that we have for our cats.
My RecommendationGet various wand and prey toys and observe what and how cats react to the toys. Take note of what they enjoy the most, and for the future, if you ever need to replace the prey toy – it’s easy to pick out the ones that are the most effective.

Do the same with small fetch toys like balls, mice, etc. See which ones that your cats respond to and make a mental note.

Latte (Bengal Cats) loves to fetch in my home, but the other cats have no interest in fetching. So I only buy a few balls for him.

When you figure out your cat’s prey preferences, buy more than you think you need because it’s quite likely that they will either go missing or become quite ragged from all biting and catching. Luckily, they’re quite cheap.

I would recommend 20-30 minutes of play with interactive toys per day – or at least every 2 days. For more information on play scheduling and the most optimal times to play with your cats, visit my article: What’s the Most Optimal Time to Play With Your Cats?
Space-Efficiency Score4.5/5 – Interactive toys are rod-like in shape, so it’s easy to keep them in a corner or a closet somewhere. Cat balls and small toys are also easy to store – though they do go missing quite easily.
Table 3. Interactive Toys Pros, Cons, and Recommendations

Recommended Interactive Cat Toys

  1. Crinkle Bouncer Wand Cat Toy
  2. Crinkle Bouncer Wand Cat Toy

    This wand features an 18-inch plastic wand and a 6-inch flex cable for extra bounce, along with crunchy plastic strips that are stronger and more durable than the mylar typically used in similar toys. The soft, natural feathers add even more enticing fun to this high-quality toy that is proudly made in the USA.

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  3. Pet Fit - 4 Piece Rod + Variety Prey Set
  4. Pet Fit - 4 Piece Rod + Variety Prey Set

    This prey-set brings great variety to fit all cat's hunting preferences. This allows you to try a lot of different types of prey for your interactive wand and has great reviews.

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  5. Ethical Sponge Soccer Balls Cat Toy, 4-Pack
  6. Ethical Sponge Soccer Balls Cat Toy, 4-Pack

    They're foam balls that bounce everywhere. Cats love to chase them down and some really active cats (Bengals especially) are able to learn to fetch. Also a great tool for bite misdirection!

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  7. FRISCO Colorful Springs Cat Toy
  8. FRISCO Colorful Springs Cat Toy

    Sometimes the most effective toys are the simplest. I use these springs almost every day for my cats (my Bengal cat loves this!) and it's a great toy for fetch as well! Erratic bounce stimulates your kitty’s hunting instincts to get them playing. Vibrant colors are designed to grab your cat’s attention for even more exciting play. Helps provide the daily exercise and mental stimulation cats need.


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Honorary Mentions

While these items aren’t exactly toys, they can be a great tool to use to increase our cat’s engagement in an indoor type of environment. Don’t be fooled by their simple looks, either. The use of these products daily is also a great way to help solve many behavioral issues we might find in our cats.

There’s a lot of science to back it up too! Studies have shown that the effects are drastic for our cats within a few months of using cat puzzle feeders.

I have stopped putting my cat’s meals into a bowl. Each time they eat, I place their food into a large cat activity/puzzle feeder and watch them get their food in a more fun and natural way! I think many people would be surprised about the change in their cats after implementing this for even a week or two! You’ll find that they’re not as lethargic, and it really helps control their weight.

My Pick
Trixie Activity Fun Board Trixie Activity Fun Board

A really great activity/puzzle feeder. Large enough to accommodate multiple cats and has a variety of ways that your cats can play/obtain their food or snacks! Great for all types of cats and promotes slow methodical eating.

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Cat Toys/Items to Avoid

As said before, there are a plethora of cat items, and many of them are poorly made and designed. They usually put no thought into how cats need to move and react.

This is the list of what types of cat toys I would avoid:

  • Avoid battery-powered cat toys – not only are they dangerous with a lot of moving parts but they simply cannot handle a cat going at it (if they’re even interested).

    Battery-powered toys also need to be recharged continuously and anything with a rechargeable battery is just a question of when the battery lets out and you have to purchase another one or send it in for repair.

    I haven’t seen any battery-powered cat toys that are able to keep a cat’s attention for more than a couple of minutes nor are they able to move in a way that makes a cat want to hunt them.

    There are some gimmicky toys that are pretty funny to watch but unfortunately, the price inhibits just buying for our cat’s reaction.
  • Avoid cat balls or objects that are larger than a Ping-Pong ball or smaller than a bottle cap. There is an optimal size for a lot of cat balls and prey toys and that size is 2/3rds the size of a standard ping pong ball.

    For cat items that are larger than a ping pong ball (even the Ping-Pong balls might be a bit too big), cats have difficulty biting it and carry it around. They also move too slowly to be interesting.

    If it’s too small (smaller than a bottle cap) then it can be a choking hazard. So getting the right size is important for the safety and engagement of our cats.
  • Avoid toys that are similar in texture or material to your home furniture/objects. Cats are habitual as we know and if your toys are quite similar to objects or furniture around your home currently then they will also associate those objects as playthings.

    For example, Latte my Bengal cat loves to play fetch with rubber bouncy balls, he loves that texture. The problem arises when I buy rubber slippers of the same texture or material. He then starts to play with my slippers and bite the heck out of them!

    Now, I rarely ever buy any rubber slippers or other similar objects around my apartment.

monsieurtn

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

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