Tips for choosing toys for your pet


There is an ever growing range of toys available for pets these days and it can be hard to know which ones are best for your pet. We’ve put together a list of the range of toys out there and some things to consider when choosing the right one for your pet.


Types of toys available

• Plush, soft toys, which may have a squeaker inside, so will need supervised play in case of swallowing etc.

• Harder, chewy toys – durable and not destructible, so safer.

• Treat Toys – needing work to get the reward of the treat e.g. Kongs stuffed with food.

• Comfort toys – for your pet to cuddle with and carry around.

• Prey ‘shake and kill’ toys -  terriers love these!

• ‘Fetch’ toys – great for the park or garden to get  lots of exercise– or use them for games of hide and seek indoors.

• Puzzle feeder toys – great if your pet must be alone for a few hours and might get bored – make them work for their food or treats.  They will be more challenged and satisfied, using mental energy.

• Balls – make sure they are the right size for your dog’s mouth.  Too large may strain the jaw and too small will be a choking/swallowing risk.

• ‘Tug of war’ toys – increases social skills as a lot can be taught as you interact with your dog and play with this toy.  You can use this or other toys to train your dog to let go, drop, not use their teeth on your hand etc. 


Things to consider

• The size of your pet

• The age of your pet

• The activity level of your pet. 

• The range of toys available 

• Is your pet mostly indoors and sedentary?

• Is your pet very active and outdoors a lot?

Different toys may add different experiences in these cases, for example a lively dog can be encouraged to settle in and chew on a Kong stuffed with food, or an elderly small dog may be encouraged to play more actively with a ‘prey’ type of toy, running to catch it and ‘shake and kill’ it! Consider all of the above and choose some that will add to the quality of your particular pet’s life.  


Avoid boredom 

Keep a range of different toys and store them out of reach. Present them at play time only, varying the type presented to avoid boredom. Increase the difficulty level of puzzle feeders if your pet gets too good at releasing the contents.  Join in the fun with your pet to encourage play.


Consider Safety

Make sure toys cannot be ripped apart, or chewed into small pieces that can be swallowed etc.  Remove pretend eyes, strings, ribbons and elastic. Strictly supervise toys with squeaky items inside or any toy that might be ripped open and the stuffing released, in case of accidental swallowing. 

Avoid any toys with sharp edges or long, pointed pieces that could damage eyes.

Do not use rawhide toys or chews as they soften and may get stuck in the throat, or large pieces may be swallowed whole, causing an obstruction in the stomach or intestine.

Keep toys clean. Wash soft, fabric toys and check all toys for damage, cracking, tears etc.


Choose toys for different purposes!

Enrichment of your pet’s environment 

Is your pet often ‘home alone’ and needing  toys to occupy them when you are not there?  Both cats and dogs benefit a lot from having to actively seek out and work for their food through the day using puzzle feeder toys, rather than serving it up to them in a dish.  This mimics a more natural environment and feeding behaviour for them.

Cats love to climb so adding in cat shelves with scratching boards and toys attached can add a lot of indoor fun for housebound cats. Cats also love a selection of small balls or pretend mice to paw at and chase, but vary what you give them as they love novelty.


Train your pet as you play, using ‘teachable moments’ to withdraw from them to discourage different behaviours like, mouthing, biting, nipping etc. Reinforce good basic obedience, like sit, down, leave it, etc. by  giving the toy to reward the right action.


Indoor cats will use up lots of energy running and jumping to chase a feathered or mouse like toy attached to a string which you can move around to mimic the real prey. Dogs will get endless enjoyment and  fitness from chasing a ball or other ‘fetch’ toys and bringing it back to you, again and again!


Use interactive toys to play with your pet and have fun times together.  Your new puppy or kitten will learn how to behave and have fun in human company. Never over-stimulate or frustrate them by not letting them achieve access to the toy.  If you see signs of frustration or aggression calm things down and let the pet sniff and touch the toy before putting it away. Have a word to use to end the play session as you put the toys away.


Treat feeders and puzzle toys are great for keeping pets occupied. The Kong can be stuffed with kibble, treats, and peanut butter and can be frozen to slow down access to the contents. This encourages your pet to settle down for a long licking and chewing session which causes release of endorphins and keeps them content.  Pawing at and nuzzling  puzzle feeder toys can release a few bits of kibble at a time , rewarding the effort and creating satisfaction.

Having fun!  

Start a toy box and choose safe, appropriate toys for your pet which you can add to from time to time. Most of all – have fun with your pet and enjoy seeing them have fun!