I recently purchased a remote-controlled cat toy. While this toy snake does move very realistically and my cat enjoys pouncing on it, there are small parts that he could demolish if I let him play with it too long. This plastic snake moves about on small wheels, and has a small, moving tongue, as you can see in both the photo and video included with this blog. My boy is bold and rough, so I only let him play with the snake a few minutes and I don’t take my eyes off him. The instant my cat catches the toy, its wheels are off the ground and the snake cannot move. It is too big for him to carry, as he likes to do with his toys, so not very satisfying. Satisfying hunts end with the cat holding the prey.
The large size and fast movement of this remote-controlled toy could be frightening to many cats. I do not recommend it. If you go ahead and purchase it anyway, use it at a distance the first time to see if it frightens your cat. It makes a noise, so your cat will notice it even if you use it in an adjacent room. I recommend being at least 10 feet away from your cat the first time you use the snake. Have it move away from your cat. Stop and start frequently, as I do in the video. Prey moves away from cats in this manner, so this is the way to entice them to hunt the toy. If it seems too large to hunt, the cat will not pursue it. He may, however, follow it with his eyes, which can be satisfying if your cat is not scared. To keep your cat from being frustrated afterwards, toss a safe toy as you put away the snake. If your cat is nervous before or after seeing the snake, put it away and don’t use it again.
The ads for this cat toy show the snake going toward the cat and bumping into him, startling the poor cat. If you attack your cat with the toy you will only stress him, and that can lead to many behavioral problems. Remember, play should be, first and foremost, about mental health. Simulating successful hunting is very satisfying to cats and should be a part of your daily play. It actually prevents many behavioral problems. Amusing yourself by startling your cat, as shown in the ads for this snake, has no place in a pet-loving home.
It’s fun to buy presents for you cat, but make sure that any toys that you buy are safe. Remember that string and small parts are easily swallowed. It often requires surgery to remove them. So, supervise your cats when they are playing with this type of toy. Many cats are enthusiastic players, and will eventually dismantle toys – beware toys such as jingle balls that have small parts inside. Only let your cat enjoy these when you are monitoring their use.
Patience Fisher owns Patience for Cats LLC, a cat behavior business based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is Associate Certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, a Diploma of Feline Behavior Science Technology, and is a certified veterinary assistant. Visit her on Facebook at Patience for Cats.