18 Interactive Pet Toys to Fight Pet Boredom & Loneliness
You've seen the pics online. A guilty dog stares at the camera while behind him lies a mountain of destruction: ripped wallpaper, a tipped-over trash can, a pillow leaking feathers.
Pets left alone for hours often suffer from separation anxiety and/or boredom as they wait for their owners to return home. Loneliness can lead to unwanted behaviors such as chewing on your favorite shoes, hiding, and even vomiting. Pet stress can also be triggered by common situations such as houseguests, renovations, or even a new baby. Add fireworks, loud music, and raucous parties to the list too.
What can you do to help your cat or dog cope? Turn to enrichment toys and puzzle games designed to reduce pet stress. These products keep cats and dogs mentally stimulated and physically engaged so they're more relaxed, not as anxious about being alone, and less bothered by their environment.
Enrichment toys offer different levels of difficulty and a variety of challenges. Most are reward-based, which means they involve yummy treats or food. For cats, catnip buds or even a catnip spray will help rev up feline curiosity and lead to pouncing and playing. Check out the 18 interactive toys we found to keep your pet engaged and entertained.
The Ins & Outs of Toys
Pounce on these tips for sharing puzzle toys with your furry friend.
- Start with simple toys, then let your pet’s intellect and curiosity dictate interest in more advanced games.
- Choose toys that are appropriate for your dog’s size and chewing style (such as teething, moderate, aggressive, or aging). Toys that are too small for your dog can be a choking hazard.
- Introduce pets to puzzle toys by placing treats in sections that are left open. Once pets’ noses take over, close the sections after filling and let the games begin.
- Some puzzle toys can be used as feeders. Just fill them with your pet’s daily food allowance.
- Slow down dogs that eat too fast with food puzzle toys.
- Dogs that refuse to eat will often eat more when a puzzle toy makes them work harder for their food.
- Wash food-dispensing toys daily and rinse them to avoid the buildup of bacteria.
- Treats should not provide more than 10 percent of your pets’ daily calorie intake.
Toys for Dogs
Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Link
Perfect for curious canines, this soft translucent toy lets dogs see and smell their treats while working to get them out. Shift the pieces into different shapes to keep your furry genius engaged.
Buy it now: $26.52; Amazon
Outward Hound Ottosson Casino Puzzle
Smarty-pants pooches need to figure out how to unlock bone pieces to open the drawers and get their rewards.
Buy it now: $16.99; Amazon
Kong Classic Dog Toy
Help dogs relieve boredom by giving them an ultra-durable rubber Kong to chew. Fill it with kibble to extend playtime.
Buy it now: $12.99; Amazon
Outward Hound Ottosson Tornado Puzzle
Four layers of fun include 12 compartments to hide treats. The spinning movement keeps pets focused.
Buy it now: $19.08; Amazon
goDog Rope Durable Tug and Toss Rope Toy
Made from bonded plastic and tough climbing rope, this large chewable tug toy stands up to vigorous play.
Buy it now: $11.77; Amazon
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop Dog Toy
Dogs need to nudge, nose, and paw this squishy, translucent toy to find hidden food.
Buy it now: $13.50; Amazon
Outward Hound Ottoson Brick Puzzle
Clever compartments flip, slide, or can be removed to offer different challenges every time a dog seeks snacks.
Buy it now: $19.99; Amazon
Kruuse Buster Activity Mat
Clip activities to this sturdy nylon mat, then challenge your dog to retrieve hidden treasures. The starter set includes three activities; additional ones can be purchased separately.
Buy it now: $44.99; Amazon
PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
Perfect for foraging, this washable food mat relies on a dog’s sense of smell to snuffle his way through dinner or treat-time fun.
Buy it now: $39.95; Amazon
Planet Dog Orbee Treat Dispensing Puzzle
Clearly engaging, this pliable ball lets dogs hear, see, and smell treats as they try to solve the puzzle.
Buy it now: $13.59; Amazon
Kong Rewards Shell
Whether rolling or bouncing, this toy randomly dispenses treats as your dog moves it around.
Buy it now: $8.79; Pet Central
Outward Hound Ottoson Dog Twister
White handles must be unlocked to reveal rewards, making this toy fun for savvy canine gamers.
Buy it now: $17.27; Amazon
PAW5 Rock 'N Bowl Puzzle Feeder Dog Bowl
Every meal becomes a brain-teasing challenge as your hungry pooch works out a way to get his bowl to dispense kibble.
Buy it now: $19.99; Amazon
Toys for Cats
Catty Stacks Modern Cat Condo & Modular Cat Tree
Heavy-duty cardboard boxes secure to each other to form climbing structures that keep kitty entertained. Move and rearrange them at will.
Buy it now: $29.99; Amazon
Catit Design Senses Play Circuit
Set up a starter track that lets kitty chase after balls. Separately purchased enrichment stations add fun.
Buy it now: $39.67; Amazon
Doc & Phoebe's Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder
Fill them with your cat’s daily food allowance, then hide them for a real hunting experience.
Buy it now: $15.25; Amazon
SmartCat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box
Help FiFi hone her hunting and prey-seeking skills by letting her stalk toys positioned inside this sturdy box.
Buy it now: $24.99; Petco