The Great Toy Debate. Should Kitties Have 24/7 Playtime?

Benefits of Leaving Toys Out

Leaving toys out at night can provide several benefits for your cat. One major benefit is providing mental stimulation and reducing boredom. Cats are naturally active animals and have an instinct to hunt and play even at night. Having toys available gives them an outlet for these natural behaviors.

Toys also encourage your cat to engage in physical activity during the night when you are sleeping. This can help prevent obesity and related health issues. According to a post on Reddit, interactive playtime also helps cats release pent up energy and reduces stress.

Leaving toys out allows your cat to mimic natural hunting behaviors as well. Cats like to stalk, chase, and pounce on toys which satisfies their predatory instincts. As one Quora user commented, it creates a more enriched environment for your cat even when you are not actively playing with them.

Potential Downsides of Leaving Toys Out

While leaving toys out for your cat at night can provide entertainment and exercise, there are some potential downsides to consider:

Noisy toys could disrupt your cat’s sleep and your own sleep. Toys like balls with bells, crinkle toys, and squeaky toys can create noises all night long as your cat bats them around the house. This interrupted sleep cycle is not healthy for you or your feline friend (https://adventurouscat.com/should-i-leave-toys-out-for-my-cat-at-night/).

Some toys can present choking hazards, especially if your cat chews and ingests parts of toys. Small toy parts, strings, ribbons, and other components can be dangerous if swallowed. Supervise playtime with questionable toys and put them away at night (https://www.rspcapetinsurance.org.au/pet-care/cat-care/cat-toys-and-their-potential-dangers).

Too many toys left out can create clutter in your home. Stepping on or tripping over cat toys is annoying and potentially hazardous. Putting most toys away at night, leaving out just one or two, can help minimize clutter and mess.

Best Toys for Nighttime

When choosing toys to leave out for your cat at night, opt for engaging but quiet toys that will keep them occupied without disturbing your sleep. Some great options include:

Puzzle feeders: These toys hide treats or kibble inside compartments that your cat has to manipulate and move around to access the food rewards. They stimulate your cat’s natural hunting instincts. Just be sure to use a sturdy feeder that won’t get knocked over and spill at night.

Treat dispensing toys: Toys like ball tracks and treat wheels release pieces of dry food or treats as cats bat and roll the toys. They provide mental stimulation and physical activity. Place them in an area with a mat to contain any stray pieces.

Interactive toys: Simple interactive toys like feathers or toy mice on the end of ribbons and wands allow cats to practice hunting behaviours. Make sure any loose parts are securely attached so nothing gets overlooked and tripped on in the dark.

Safety Precautions

When giving your cat new toys, it’s important to monitor them for safety. Small parts like feathers, pom poms, eyes, ribbons or string can be easily swallowed, posing a choking hazard. Make sure to supervise your cat with new toys and check that they are not chewing or tearing pieces off that could be dangerous if ingested (https://www.oregonhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/8.3.17_Cat_Toys.pdf).

Avoid any toys with small, loose parts that can break off or be pulled off by your cat. Pieces like buttons, plastic eyes, beads, bells and other attachments can be hazardous if they detach from the toy. Opt for toys that are all one solid piece or that have secure parts without anything that dangles or can pop off (https://americatcompany.com/blogs/news/safe-cat-toys).

Before going to bed or leaving your cat unsupervised, be sure to put away any toys that could pose a choking risk while you are away. This includes small balls, toy mice or any other small, chewable toys. Leaving chokable toys out overnight increases the chance your cat could choke on something without you there to intervene.

Creating a Bedtime Routine

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can help create better sleep habits for your cat. One of the most important parts of the routine is a vigorous play session before bedtime. This allows your cat to get all their energy out right before settling down for the night. Engage your cat with interactive toys like wands or laser pointers to stimulate their natural hunting instincts. Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of active playtime.

You can also hide treats or food puzzles around the house for your cat to find and solve right before bed. This provides mental stimulation to tire their brain. Place the treats in paper bags or cardboard tubes to increase the challenge.

After the play and treat session, focus on calming activities. Brush your cat gently to relax them. You can also try playing soft music and limiting noise. Keep the lights dimmed as part of the wind-down period. Cats feel most comfortable with a predictable routine, so doing the same sequence of activities each night signals to your cat it’s time for sleep.

For specific products and schedules, check out this bedtime ritual guide: https://www.wayofcats.com/blog/create-a-cat-bedtime-ritual/2766

Cat-Proofing Your Home

Cat-proofing your home is an important step to ensure your feline friend stays safe overnight. There are several hazards around the house that you’ll want to address.

First, secure any loose cables, wires, or cords by tying them up or hiding them. Cats are very curious and may chew on cables, risking electrocution. Make sure window blinds and curtains do not have loose dangling cords either. How to Cat-Proof Your Home recommends replacing curtain cords with cleated cordless alternatives.

Additionally, remove any toxic houseplants from your cat’s access. Lilies are extremely poisonous to cats, but other common houseplants like aloe vera can also cause issues if ingested. Keep these plants locked away in an area your cat cannot reach.

You’ll also want to block access to any unsafe areas like the garage, basement, or rooms with breakables your cat could knock over. Use baby gates or closed doors to restrict access. Make sure trash cans are covered as well so your cat cannot get into anything hazardous.

Check for potential hazards under sinks and dressers too. Keep harsh cleaners, medications, and other dangerous products locked away. 20 Ways to Cat Proof Your House or Apartment recommends placing child locks on cabinets to deter curious cats.

Signs Your Cat is Bored

It’s important to be aware of the signs that your cat may be bored. Boredom in cats can lead to destructive and problematic behaviors. Some common signs that your cat is bored include:

Destructive behavior – If your cat starts shredding furniture, carpets, curtains, or other household items, it may be a sign they need more stimulation. Bored cats often act out through destructive chewing, scratching, or tearing things apart. This gives them an outlet for their pent-up energy.

Excessive meowing or crying – Cats who are bored will meow or cry more often to try to get your attention. Excessive vocalization, especially at night, could mean your cat is looking for entertainment. Try engaging them more with playtime or leaving out puzzles with treats when you’re away.

Aggression – A bored cat may become more aggressive and prone to biting or acting out. Make sure you are satisfying your cat’s innate desire to hunt and pounce daily through interactive play sessions. Rotating their toys can also help keep them engaged.

Lethargy – If your previously active cat is suddenly sleeping more and disinterested in play or toys, take note. Excessive lethargy or apathy can signify boredom or depression in cats. Try initiating play at different times and look for patterns in their energy levels.

When to Ask a Vet

If your cat is exhibiting destructive behavior at night like scratching furniture, chewing wires, or knocking things over, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian. This could be a sign of anxiety, stress, or frustration in your cat. Medical issues like hyperthyroidism can also cause increased nighttime activity and destructiveness. Your vet can help identify any underlying physical or mental causes.

Cats who suddenly start eliminating outside their litter box at night could have a medical problem like a urinary tract infection or kidney disease. Schedule an exam so your vet can check for issues and recommend treatment if needed.

Increased aggression like biting or attacking at night warrants an immediate vet visit. Your cat may be in pain or have a neurological problem causing the behavior change. Your vet can pinpoint the cause and help get your cat back to calm and friendly.

Behavioral changes in general such as suddenly becoming very vocal and needy at night could signify cognitive decline, dementia, or hypersensitivity issues. It’s important to have your vet do a full checkup to determine what’s causing the nighttime disturbances.

Don’t hesitate to call your vet if your cat is keeping you up or destroying your home at night. There may be an underlying cause that needs medical attention and treatment. Your vet can also provide tips on modifying the environment and creating a calmer bedtime routine for your cat.

Cats’ Natural Sleep Cycles

Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because cats are natural hunters and their prey, like mice and voles, are also crepuscular. Cats have evolved to be most alert during these active hunting times.

Cats tend to sleep a lot during the day, with adult cats sleeping an average of 16 hours per day. Older cats and kittens may sleep even longer. Cats sleep more than most other mammals. This extended sleep time allows cats to conserve energy for hunting.

Cats sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night, usually lasting from 15 minutes up to 2 hours. This polyphasic sleep pattern of napping and being awake repeatedly is believed to stem from their prey drive, allowing cats to wake up quickly when needed to hunt. At night, cats cycle through periods of deep and light sleep just like humans do.

According to the Sleep Foundation, cats have a natural circadian rhythm like humans that regulates their sleep-wake cycle. This innate biological clock prompts cats to be awake and active at certain times of the day.[1]

[1] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/animals-and-sleep/how-much-do-cats-sleep

Conclusion

In summary, leaving toys out at night can provide mental stimulation and exercise for your cat while you sleep. Interactive toys like balls, catnip mice, and treat puzzles are good options. Make sure to rotate toys to prevent boredom. Remove any toys that could be dangerous if unsupervised. Create a calming bedtime routine and cat-proof your home to avoid disruptive nighttime activity. Pay attention to signs of boredom like excessive meowing or destructive behavior. Consult your vet if behavioral problems persist. Remember that cats are natural nighttime predators, so some active play at night is normal. Overall, toys at night are usually fine with some basic precautions.

The main recommendations are to choose safe, interactive toys to leave out, establish a relaxing bedtime routine, cat-proof potential dangers in your home, and monitor your cat’s behavior for signs of boredom or distress. With a few simple steps, you can provide appropriate nighttime enrichment for your cat.

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