The Correct Toy Mice

by Cat Crazy

IMG_0611I’ve learned that there actually is some skill (or luck) involved in selecting toys that your feline friends will play with, and that whatever obscure rules seem to define the attributes of the perfect toy defy both my logic and intuition.

In the “old days” with Kit and Win, the preferred toy was a rabbit-fur covered plastic mice. They actually used to demolish these toys and would sometimes go so far as to eat the fur covering.  I’d frequently find eyes and ears on the floor within hours of giving them the new toys.  Later, I’d find a bare plastic shape that had been denuded and dumped in some corner.  Over the years I bought bags and bags of these toys, many of which disappeared under the little freestanding refrigerator I had in an old apartment on the top floor of a great Victorian house.  When I moved, my friend (the next tenant) — who clearly was a far better housekeeper than I was — pushed the refrigerator out of its habitual spot and then jumped on a chair shrieking loudly.  Ah, yes, she had found the cache of toy mice (which really did look like real mice) under the appliance.

With my previous group of Midwest kitties, they all seemed to be serious catnip addicts, so any toy with significant amounts of that mint got their attention.  One of their favorites was a long tube of fabric that was stuffed with fiberfill and copious amounts of Nepeta cultivars. They’d grab the tube with their front paws and kick it for all they were worth with their back paws while looking slightly loopy and happy.  Those cats also were exceptionally fond of a great kitty fishing pole I’d bought.  The packing said it was handmade by an out-of-work resident of the Appalachians. It actually has real fishing components (a wooden handle and a fiberglass “rod”) as well as heavy gauge dark-blue cotton yarn for the “string” that terminates in a piece of old denim fabric.  They would chase that toy for hours and hours if the human had the energy to play that long. This toy still exists so it clearly was worth the $18 investment I made, although Caesar chewed the string in two one morning when I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Among my current crew, the little ones really love wildly colored (fake) fur mice that have something inside that shakes and rattles when the toy moves.  Mac almost always chews the tails off these toys within minutes of being given a new one…an action that doesn’t make sense to me as she loves nothing better than flipping the toy in the air for hours and hours, and you’d think that could be done more easily by holding it by the tail. I never quite know where I’ll find one, but that’s a tale for another day.  Fireball runs around with them in his mouth and will stop for a drink.  Of course, the mouse has to take a dunk in the water bowl too. (So much for the cat whisperer’s assertion that cats don’t want to foul their drinking water with dead prey!) Sometimes he forgets to retrieve his friend when he takes off running again and I find the toy partially delaminating in the water the next day.  Unfortunately, both Mac and Fireball tend toward athletic extravagance when they have these toys, which means they very quickly lose them (yet another tale for another day).

Now as much as Mac and FB like the wild blues and oranges of the noise-making mice, Caesar (being the more sedate, mature, and conservative member of the clan), favors quiet mice (with no annoying rattle) in more natural (fake) fur colors of grey, black, and white.  He loves to grab them by the tail and run around with them dangling down his chin while he chirps excitedly. Who says the Big Guy doesn’t let loose and play?

Since FB and Mac had lost their last cache of the brightly colored mice a month or so back, and no one seems to like the adorable catnip-filled “fish” toys that Sandy Claws brought them for the holidays, they have been reduced to playing with the same boring mice that Caesar likes.

However, I must report that last night and this morning there was great joy and loud chirping all over the house, as the silly human finally took the hint and broke out 2 new “shakey” mice and a bright cord-wrapped soft-chew mouse.  They’ve been flinging the toys in the air, running up and down the stairs, and generally carrying on with great exuberance.  This likely will only last a few days, as these mice do tend to get lost down air intake ducts quite quickly (to be recovered in late spring when the houseplants all go outside).  But at least for now, all 3 of them are having fun.

(c) Copyright 2014, PeggyMalnati. All rights reserved. Photo my own.