18 Interactive Pet Toys to Fight Pet Boredom & Loneliness

Entertain your pets with toys that relieve their stress, challenge their minds, and feed their hunger.
By Sandy Robins
September 08, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

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.

  • Dog Toy
    Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Link
    $26.52
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Outward Hound Ottosson Casino Puzzle
    $16.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Kong Classic Dog Toy
    $12.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Outward Hound Ottosson Tornado Puzzle
    $19.08
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    goDog Rope Durable Tug and Toss Rope Toy
    $11.77
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop Dog Toy
    $13.50
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Outward Hound Ottoson Brick Puzzle
    $19.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Kruuse Buster Activity Mat
    $44.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
    $39.95
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Planet Dog Orbee Treat Dispensing Puzzle
    $13.59
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    Kong Rewards Shell
    $8.79
    SHOP IT
    Pet Central
  • Dog Toy
    Outward Hound Ottoson Dog Twister
    $17.27
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Dog Toy
    PAW5 Rock 'N Bowl Puzzle Feeder Dog Bowl
    $19.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Cat Toy
    Cat Stacks Modern Cat Condo & Modular Cat Tree
    $29.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Cat Toy
    Catit Design Senses Play Circuit
    $39.67
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Cat Toy
    Doc & Phoebe's Indoor Hunting Cat Feeder
    $15.25
    SHOP IT
    Amazon
  • Cat Toy
    SmartCat Peek-A-Prize Toy Box
    $24.99
    SHOP IT
    PetCo
  • Dog or Cat Toy
    Outward Hound Ottoson Treat Dispensing Exercise
    $14.99
    SHOP IT
    Amazon

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

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

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

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

Four layers of fun include 12 compartments to hide treats. The spinning movement keeps pets focused.

Buy it now: $19.08; Amazon

Made from bonded plastic and tough climbing rope, this large chewable tug toy stands up to vigorous play.

Buy it now: $11.77; Amazon

Dogs need to nudge, nose, and paw this squishy, translucent toy to find hidden food.

Buy it now: $13.50; Amazon

Clever compartments flip, slide, or can be removed to offer different challenges every time a dog seeks snacks.

Buy it now: $19.99; Amazon

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

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

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

Whether rolling or bouncing, this toy randomly dispenses treats as your dog moves it around.

Buy it now: $8.79; Pet Central

White handles must be unlocked to reveal rewards, making this toy fun for savvy canine gamers.

Buy it now: $17.27; Amazon

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

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

Set up a starter track that lets kitty chase after balls. Separately purchased enrichment stations add fun.

Buy it now: $39.67; Amazon

Fill them with your cat’s daily food allowance, then hide them for a real hunting experience.

Buy it now: $15.25; Amazon

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

Toy for Dogs & Cats

Entertain dogs and cats by letting them tap, flip, and tip this toy to get it to dispense delicious morsels.

Buy it now: $14.99; Amazon