What is it that gets some animals hooked on certain object of their choice? Pets certainly seem to become enamored with certain inanimate objects. They have a habit or spurning some, and loving others, even unlikely objects that were sometimes not intended to be a toy at all.
I once had a cat that loved his tiny green stuffed alien toy so much, I had to give the toy it’s own name. The cat had other toys to play with, but he was massively fixated on this one in particular.
Everyone knows if you give a cat a toy from a box, she is going to opt to play with the box instead of her new toy. So how is it that animals choose which object is to be their object of attention?
The cat in the box can actually be explained fairly easily. Cats enjoy small spaces, they make them feel hidden, secure, and as if they have an excellent vantage points.
So what about the infamous red dot? Cats are natural hunters, you just can’t take the hunt out of the cat. This is why cats seems so fascinated with red dots. They recognize it as a kind of prey, and the fact that they are never able to catch it only makes it even more enamoring. Obviously you shouldn’t try this at home, but even big cats such as lions are not immune to the lure of the red dot.
Some experts even argue that laser pointers are not good for cats. They say a cat can never truly be satisfied by the red dot because they never get the thrill of actually capturing it. This can apparently frustrate cats, which many would assume is the case anyway, but it probably won’t drive them to madness.
The same theory exists with a dangling string. It is a moving target that naturally, your cat wants to see dead. It’s much more exciting to your cat than a stagnant toy that they can only bat around. Cats are not interested in dead prey, or another animal’s prey.
While a similar toy, and slightly cliche, you should never let your cat play with a ball of string. They are sure to get the thing unwound, and when they do, if unsupervised can get string around their neck and asphyxiate themselves.
Dogs have a myriad of toys that they have loved to play with throughout the ages. From the iconic bone, to objects that aren’t really toys, like your favorite sneakers. One they have always seemed to love is just a simple squeaker.
Have you ever noticed your dog seems much less interested in a toy of his after the squeaking mechanism? For some reason the squeak sound is what makes a toy a good toy. You’d possibly have to be a dog to understand, but we’re going to try anyway.
The first squeaky toys that seemed to pop up were simple balls that didn’t actually contain a mechanism inside to make a squeak. They had a small hole that when bit down on, air would be released through creating a high pitched squeaking sound. Whether this was the original intent, we can’t be sure, but humans noticed how much dogs seemed to enjoy them and started manufacturing dog toys with built in squeakers.
Some theorize that the reason dogs are so attracted to the squeak is because they want to annoy the humans around them. It’s an amusing theory but there are some much more likely scenarios.
Others think that dogs love the sound because modern dogs are descended from wolves, and that they’re prey when wounded would make a shrill squeaking sound. This has led to the theory that your dog seems uninterested in a toy once the squeaker is no more because that toy is ‘dead’ and thus the hunt is finished. Another simpler explanation is that in every bite of that toy your dog takes, he gets an instant auditory reward. Bite, squeak, win.
Your everyday household pets like dogs and cats are not the only animals that are lured by toys. Other pets, such as birds have been known to love playing with toys as well. Parrots are a good example, but far from the only domesticated birds that like to have a good time.
Birds are very smart creatures. If birds develop well, they become interested in playing with toys around the time they become mature. They learn from humans by observing them, so if your pet bird sees you playing with toys they are much more likely to develop the behavior themselves.
If they are healthy, they develop a natural interest in playing with toys, especially “construction toys” which have moving parts that are much more interactive. Objects on sticks and strings that they are able to slide things back and forth with their beaks. They enjoy toys that dangle, bang together, and make a little noise.
Some of the most simple household items can make the most fascinating toys for birds. For example, anything made out of paper is sure to delight your feathered friends. Birds simply cannot resist the urge to poke holes in things with their beaks. They love to rip up napkins, light-weight paper, and paper towels. Paper cups are also a fun toy for birds to poke and crush.
Your bird will give you extra brownie points for rolling paper up into balls for them. You can make it a very fun game for them by putting treats inside of some of the balls but not in others. This is a great way to train them how to play on their own.
Birds are known to invent their own games once playing is second nature to them. They will make paper balls and try to catch them, and similar activities. Birds have been observed to even create their own type of reward systems. After being trained with treats in their toys, they will take bites of their food to reward themselves for playing.
Toys are just as important to any kind of pet as they are with human children. They assist with healthy development socially, and with the body and mind.