If we are used to seeing our cats used their stuffed toys as prey, and then picking up the scattered parts afterwards, we might be surprised to know that there are toys cats do not tear apart.
Giving our new cat or kitten a special stuffed toy can be an excellent bonding opportunity.
The questions is why? Why cats love stuffed animals?
Cat loves Soft Surfaces
Sometimes, licking and gentle nibbling can be your cat's way of showing affection. Mother cats lick and nibble at their kittens in grooming, and it may be that your cat is trying to show you the same love his mom showed him. That is why you might love to see cats hugging their plush!
Some cats still treasure their little stuffed dog. It’s the tactile qualities of stuffed animals which make them so appealing. They offer a cuddly heft which mimics another mammal, and a highly textured surface which holds scents well. This is a big part of their appeal; a cat’s sensitive nose can recall layers of memories in a well worn toy.
Their own special stuffed toy can become their “security object” that we can use to reassure them during stress and anchor them through changes. Whether our cat is a tiny kitten, or a grown cat in a new home.
Now that we know why, we might think what kind of stuff animals that my cat might love? Here’s how to present their special stuffed animal:
1. Choose the right size, If we have a kitten, get a toy the same size, or larger, than they are. This will suggest a littermate or mom, instead of prey. If we have a grown cat, they will want to pick it up and carry it places, so we should get one about the size of their own head.
2. Get a fluffy texture, Not a close nap, so it will be snuggly and retain odors well. A soft and floppy structure works the best.
3. Give the right scent Whether the toy is old or new, we need to “mark” it as something of ours by rubbing the toy on the back of our neck or our hair, before we wash it. It might sounds weird to you but such scent marking will help the object feel familiar right away. If we are going to wash it, do that first, so our scent tactics will be the freshest.
4. Present it right We want to make a little ceremony of it. Tuck it in beside a sleeping kitten so they will wake up feeling comforted by it. For adults, present it to our cat in cupped hands, with a name that makes us smile as we say it. This is important first impression :)
5. Treat it right We treat the plush toys as something important to our cat, as we want it to become. Begin a play session or a homecoming by referencing the toy, petting it, and talking about it to our cat.
If we are successful in creating a special teddy bear-like object for our cat, we will find it appearing in places of interest to our cat as they move it around our home. I knew one cat who faithfully took her little stuffed bean bag kitten to the food station, and then it would appear in the litter box.
If our cat does not seem interested in their special stuffed animal, we can always try again. Or we can pick up on our cat’s attachment to another toy, and build that one into our connection object.
Not every cat will respond to such a toy tactic. But for the ones who do, it creates a wonderful feeling of caring between us.
It’s a gift which keeps on giving.