So whom are dog and cat toys for? And do they have a vital role in doing more than entertaining our pets and families? We take a look at the fun and functional aspects of the pet toys out there.
Have you ever asked yourself whom these toys are made for? Does your cat or dog know what colour and shape the toy is?
Toys range from the simple old school chew, tug and squeak to the treat dispensing, 2 way camera and ball lobbing machines. So depending on your budget and preference, choose a toy. YOU choose the toy.
Which is fine, our pets are part of our families, so why not? Have some fun, make some videos and cherish the memories. But let’s not fool our selves into believing the toy shopping is for them- it’s for us!
Your dog does not know (or really care) if the toy bone is the shape of a chicken leg or wing! He/she is not excited about pizza for dogs- you are!
The child in each and every one of us, dog owner, trainer, behaviourist, nutritionist ….. loves to buy toys. And how wonderful is it that our pets give us a legitimate excuse to go toy shopping.
Pet toy manufacturers, are targeting you- your dog does not know a chicken bone from a pork chop- at least in shape and look! He can tell the difference in taste. But there is no taste to a toy, or is there? How long before we are offered ‘tastes like chicken toys’!
Dog and cat toys are set to take on a new importance and position in our work from home world. We’re not returning to 9-5 days in the near or distant future! So while your pets now probably craving their space as well keep their minds active.
Whom are these toys for? The dog, the cat, the human or all three? Visually they’re designed and marketed to humans of course. Anthropomorphism has not yet reached its summit of 24 hour stream channels for pets. OTT platforms for animals are right around the corner. Until then, we’ll make do with the mundane chew toy.
Dogs don’t see the world in the same manner as human beings. We’d like to believe our dogs know that new toy is bright pink with a blue tail and big puppy eyes! The reality is our dogs visual perceptions are markedly different from yours.
Cats had us figured out a millennia ago, they’ve gone from eating us (fossil records prove this) to live along side our caves, to living inside our homes . And they are still the BOSS. Forever and always -the Egyptians revered the cat and here we are 10,000 years later in reverence to the cat.
A simple answer to our question- whom are they for? The toys are for all of us. Toys serve as mental simulators for dog, cats and humans. Whatever the toy, as long as engages you and your pet its done its job.
But watch out for harmful and dangerous products lurking in toys. All toy makers and manufacturers like all pet foods or products are not created equal. Some are harmless, but watch out for these dangerous ingredients/ flavours or materials.
Flavours and ingredients – you want your dog to enjoy the experience of chewing on a bone (a natural and necessary activity for healthy teeth and gut). But a raw hide chew is not in any shape or form a replacement for a bone. They are laced with chemicals and harmful ingredients. Many dog owners have lost their beloved pets from an innocent activity like giving them a raw hide bone. Raw hide is loaded with toxins, chemicals (from tanneries) and latent infections
Plastic and vinyl toys are fun some even make squeaky noises! However, be careful, bits of plastic/vinyl can end up in your pets stomach. Neither material is digestible not to mention some of the colouring maybe toxic to animals. So its safest to stay away from these toys or choose wisely.
If humans are the target audience of toys for pets, it’s up to us to ensure we buy only the safest toys. Jute, hemp, cotton are all safe options for your pets. This does not mean they can chomp down portions of the toys! SO if bits of toy break off your pets are still safe.
It means as fragments of the toy are ingested (this is inevitable) though it is not a ‘food’ your dog or cats can ‘digest and excrete’ the fibres of a cloth based toy.
Toy safety tips for your pets
1. Plastic is a choking hazard make sure you get rid of any plastic packaging
2. Squeaky toys are fun but make sure you keep an eye on the ‘squeaker’ lodged in the toy- another choking hazard
3. Dehydrated and hard bones, are the healthy option to raw hide, but can be a choking hazard. Supervise chewing if your dog is unfamiliar with bones or a puppy.
4. If you use a ‘treat dispensing toy’ be vigilant. The holes in these toys can cause some dogs to get their jaws stuck. In some cases these dogs have ended up at the vet for emergency procedures!
We’re not trying to take the fun out of toys! But there are products out there masquerading as toys, which can have harmful out comes for your pets.
Cats see the world as their world. Nocturnal hunters, it is unrealistic for us to assume cats are excited about the colour of a toy. The texture, ability to sharpen claws ( because we do not let them outside) and stimulate their sharp minds are more important to them than the prettiness.
The toys to focus on? Mind stimulaters especially for cats. The cat brain is a hunters brain. Strategy, planning and the kill are part of a cats DNA, so choose toys that help engage a chase, hunt and kill. Cat teasers are the closest in door substitute.
Water fountains are not toys, or entertainment to a cat. Cats drink readily from flowing/ moving sources of water. That indicates to a cat it is a fresh and not a stagnant water body. So these are fun for us, pleasant to listen to and healthy for your cat!
That scratching post in your living room is more a testament to your cat training you, than you training it! Kitty knows you got the post to save the curtains, couch and everything in between.
Cats are climbers, and scratchers (to sharpen their claws). Sorry dog people but it takes a little more than throwing a ball around a park to entertain a cat!
Laser pointers are another cat favourite. The pros- they entertain you as well as your cat. Cons, if you have multiple pets (cats and dogs) the laser pointer may not be a wise choice. But if it works for your pets and no one gets hurt use it! A word of caution, never point the laser directly at the eyes of a person or animal. The laser is a temporary mind stimulator, the cat can never ‘catch and kill this prey’ but it is a fleeting fun time for cat and owner.
The aim here is to entertain our pets while keeping them safe. They’re part of our families, but not little people- they’re animals. Through toys and devices now available, we can help them satisfy some of their natural instincts. For the love and joy they bring to our lives, that’s the least we can do for them. As always, do not forget the hundreds of cats and dogs in shelters waiting for loving homes. If you are in a position to buy an extra toy every time your pet gets a new one – donate the extra to your local shelter. As your pups and kittens out grow toys donate them to your local shelter.
In Harry’s words “let’s play”
References and Readings for those of you who want a deep dive into your dog’s world of vision!
1. Byosiere, S. E., Chouinard, P. A., Howell, T. J., & Bennett, P. C. (2018). What do dogs (Canis familiaris) see? A review of vision in dogs and implications for cognition research. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 25(5), 1798–1813. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-017-1404-7
2. Citation: Lind O, Milton I, Andersson E, Jensen P, Roth LSV (2017) High visual acuity revealed in dogs. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0188557. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188557