How Safe Are Your Cat’s Toys?

Whether you give your cat common household toys, do-it-yourself toys, or store-bought toys, the safety of your cat’s toys should be a top concern.


While researching low-cost fun for cats, I discovered a long list of common household items that cats like to play with. Unfortunately, I also soon realized that many of these are dangerous. Experts recommend that all of the following should be kept out of your cats’ reach, and certainly shouldn’t be used as toys:

  • Aluminum Foil
  • Dental Floss
  • Feathers
  • Gift bows
  • Paper Clips
  • Pins and Needles
  • Hair Ties
  • Plastic bags
  • Ribbons
  • Rubber Bands
  • String
  • Tissue Paper
  • Yarn

While you cat might enjoy playing with any of these items, they can all pose risks to your cat’s health. For example, small items can be a choking hazard, feathers can lacerate your cat’s mouth, and plastic bags can suffocate your cat.

It’s also far too easy for cats to chew or swallow the listed items. If your cat swallows pieces of tinfoil, the pieces can perforate your cat’s stomach lining, and require a trip to surgery. Or if your cat swallow pieces of gift bows, the pieces could cause gastrointestinal blockages or lacerate the intestinal wall.

String-like materials receive a particularly bad rap for being lethal. They too can cause damage to your cat’s intestines. Experts advise that if you find string that’s been partially swallowed (or coming out of the rectum) don’t try to pull it out, as it could cause fatal intestinal damage. Instead, take your cat immediately to the vet. String-like materials can also cause strangulation.


Although do-it-yourself or store-bought toys might be safer, many of them should only be used by your cat under supervision. These toys include plush mice, plastic balls, toys that dangle, and wand toys.

Plush Toys: The sad reality is that sometimes the prettier the toy, the more harmful it can be. Many mice have plastic eyes, noses, and whiskers glued on them, which your cat could chew off and swallow. Many mice also have feathers on them, which can pose multiple risks. If ingested the feathers could create a choking hazard, or the sharp points on the quill end of the feather could cause lacerations on your cat’s paws or in your cat’s mouth. Many mice have toxic fillings such as polystyrene beads, nutshells or beans. Finally, while remote-controlled mice are fun for you and your cat, they should always be put away when done playing as your cat could suffer harm if it were to get access to and remove the batteries. Your cat could damage a battery enough to cause leakage, and the acid could burn your cat. Also, just like other small objects, batteries can cause choking or intestinal damage.

Balls: As a whole, balls are considered relatively safe for cats, but there are still precautions to consider. For example, only give your cat balls that are too big to swallow. Ping pong balls and practice golf balls (the ones with holes in them) are considered a good size for cats. Some versions of the popular sparkle balls are unfortunately small enough for a cat to swallow. If your cat does swallow a sparkle ball and doesn’t vomit it up, it can cause internal damage or obstruction. Finally, many balls include a bell inside as a lure. If your cat manages to swallow this bell, the metal can break down in your cat’s stomach and expose your cat to toxins.

Dangling Toys: Toys that dangle from the edge of a table or over a doorknob present a dual hazard of intestinal damage or strangulation. The latter can happen if the string is long enough that a cat can become tangled in it.

Wand Toys: Despite their popularity as an interactive toy, wand toys can be dangerous. Many of them have an elastic string which a cat can swallow if it breaks, and if swallowed it can loop around the intestines.


Some of the safest toys are objects that aren’t even designed to be used by cats, such as paper bags (with the handles removed) and boxes. This doesn’t mean you can’t use other toys. Simply remember to supervise your cat during playtime, just as you would supervise a toddler. In addition, regularly inspect your cat’s toys for signs of damage or wear, and replace them when needed. And, finally, put any potentially harmful cat toys in a secure spot after playtime is over.

Whether you give your cat common household toys, do-it-yourself toys, or store-bought toys, the safety of your cat’s toys should be a top concern.

Written for The Cat House. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2019.

The Cat House is a no-kill shelter located at 3633 “O” St Lincoln, NE 68510. Open hours are Tuesday and Thursday 6 pm – 8 pm; Sunday 1:30 pm – 4 pm. 

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