Toying with top choices for your pet

OUR pets are beloved members of our families and their needs and care are an important part of our everyday lives.

Like young children, pets benefit from play and having a few toys that stimulate the brain and work the muscles is a must.



Have you ever spent a fortune on toys at the pet shop only to bring them home and have them sniffed at once by your dog and then discarded?

Well, studies published in the journal Animal Cognition show there is actually a science behind choosing toys.

Apparently dogs perceive toys much in the same way they would look at food in the wild and to that end they prefer toys that smell like food (RSPCA Busy Buddy Dog Toy Bouncy Bone, $16.50) or can be torn apart (although that would have a few choking hazards).

They also favour soft, manipulable toys that can be chewed easily (Animate Naturals Plush Dog with Rope Body, $14.76) and make a noise (Toy Duck Plush Quacker, $12).

Researchers say, and vets agree, that dogs become bored if the toys have unyielding surfaces and don't make a noise at all.

They also quickly lose interest in a toy so you should try to rotate them every couple of weeks so they fall in love again with old favourites.

Also, remember that dogs are social animals and some toy-like balls (RSPCA Astroidz Foam Pet ball, $6.95) are only interesting when they are part of a game with humans.



Like their canine counterparts it is important that you choose the right toys for your feline friends.

They may be interested in things like ribbon, rubber bands and knitting wool but these are in fact quite dangerous and can become lodged in their tummies.

Choose toys that account for the natural behaviour of the species, opting for things that offer unpredictable movement (Chomper Kylie's Jungle Motion Critters, $7.95), rapid movement (Senses Speed Circuit, $24.95) and high-pitched sounds.

Cats like to pick their toys up so smaller items (Bliss Cat Toy Felt Mice, $8.95) may hold more interest than larger ones.

Scratching posts are an important accessory that offer the opportunity of play but are also an important outlet for the natural scratching behaviour of cats.

Cat puzzle feeders can be a good way of increasing activity in older sedentary or indoor cats as well as providing a means of entertainment.


Small pets

Animals like hamsters, guinea pigs and mice have teeth that grow throughout their lives and need to have constant access to items to wear them down.

The little critters love chewing on cardboard and wood but you have to make sure that these items are free of glue, ink and poisonous coatings.

You would be better served in investing in a small wooden (Fruit wooden chews, $4.95) or squeaky toy for your pet from a good pet store.

They usually have a colourful and inexpensive selection.

Toys that help provide exercise (Fun-a-Maze Workout Centre, $59.99) and ones that can be filled with treats for mental stimulation (Treat Dispenser Ka-Bob, $16.95) are also a good idea.



There is a growing trend for birds like parrots, cockatoos and parakeets to be kept as pets.

Because these birds are kept in cages for large periods of time they are rather susceptible to boredom, obesity and depression.

Of course nothing can replace the attention your bird receives from you but the appropriate toys can help fill in the hours.

Ensure the toy you chose is non-toxic.

Birds will chew on everything they see so go for toys without metal parts and that are dyed with vegetable dye or untreated.

Birds like toys that dangle and jingle (Acrylic Bird Toy Diamonds and Ring, $6.95), that allow them to preen and impress (Rectangular Bird Mirror with Bell, $5.95) and provide exercise (Bird Activity Gym, $31.95).

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What makes a good chew toy

  • Made of safe material
  • Size - large enough that your dog can't "swallow"
  • Without small parts, buttons, strings - that can be swallowed (similar to children's toys)
  • Easy to wash
  • Durable
  • Show no signs of deterioration