Things we really like – and think you might, too!
(All Amazon links are affiliate links – we earn a tiny percentage of sales made from people who click through to Amazon. I highly recommend that you do a little Googling around for the best deal instead of just depending on the Amazon link.)
Shark Cave! (Jake loves this thing.)
Cat-headed carpet scratcher tray, AKA “the pie plate.” The permanent residents and the fosters alike love this thing. And it’s adorable! (Note: it seems to be unavailable – hopefully they’ll come back into stock, because these things are awesome!)
Ham-Micks by Forty Paws. The cats (especially Alice) LOVE these. I don’t put them in the kitten room as often, but because they get so wild in there that the Ham-Mick ends up in the water dish more often than not.
Sunny Seat Window-Mounted Cat Bed. They claim this will hold up to 50 pounds, and I believe it. My only gripe is that you can’t lower the shades/blinds with it in place, so you either have to lower the blinds/shades over it, leaving a big gap where passing neighbors can Kravitz in at you, or take it down every night, which is a pain.
The bowl scratcher – a favorite of kittens and permanent residents alike.
Pioneer SmartCat scratching post. If you can only get one scratching surface, this is the one. It’s super sturdy, high enough for the cats to really stretch up along it, and they can sit on the top. You can buy a perch to put on the top – it makes a little more room and comes with a soft pad. I have perches on top of both of mine, but there’s enough room at the top for them to sit, even without the perch.
SmartyKat sisal scratcher, AKA “The Ess.” Kittens LOVE to hang out in the curve of this scratcher, bat at each other from either side underneath, or sit judgmentally atop the up-curve. There’s a toy attached that dangles underneath; don’t get too attached to that, because they’ll detach it in about 3 seconds flat. On the up side, once they’ve detached that toy, they think it’s AWESOME (and also, the piece that the toy attaches to is apparently great fun to bat at and chew on.) I’ve also seen these at Petsmart and Petco.
I’ve provided the Amazon links on these, but most (if not all) can be found at Petsmart or Petco, and a lot of them are available at Target or Walmart, too.
Da Bird. The way the feathers move through the air drive the kitties crazy.
A simple feather teaser on a stick (with no string) is good to have on hand, too. (You can find some version of these in most pet stores.)
Crinkly mylar balls. Cats love to play soccer with them, will chase after them if you toss ’em, and if you want to get their attention, crumple the ball in your hand and they’ll almost always turn and look. I consider this toy a must-have, and buy them in bulk.
Kitty Boinks. Yeah, they’re not cheap unless you buy them in bulk (which I do.) A few times a year, Coupaw has them on sale, and I try to snatch up a bunch when they do. Oh, look – they’ve got ’em right now! Go get a pack or two, y’all, you won’t be sorry. I like to stick them on the end of my fingers and tease the kittens with them. They’re stretchy, so you can push the ends in and let go, and they’ll fly across the room. Target has 4-packs of similar toys, but I think the original Boinks last longer. (Eventually, they’ll fray at the ends and need to be thrown away.)
Cat Crazies! I love these just ’cause they look like little crowns, and provide excellent picture opportunities. They’re light and cats like playing soccer with them or carrying them around. You could get the same effect using milk jug rings I SUPPOSE, but the Cat Crazies will maim your instep when you step on them in the middle of the night, and who doesn’t want that?
A nice, light ball – table tennis balls! They fit perfectly in the wooden puzzle toy (down the page a bit), too. You can find these in the sports section of Target or Walmart – I’ve seen them in my grocery store, too. They’re everywhere!
Fur-covered toy mice. A must-have – not necessarily the ones I’ve linked, but ones that are covered in fur (faux or otherwise), and preferably ones that rattle.
Make your own cat fur toys! When we brush the cats, we save the fur. Then I take big wads of fur and roll them up, tie them in cheap nylons, and toss them in the washer with a load of laundry. I run them through the washer and dryer a few times, and they felt together. Alternately, you can just take the fur and roll them up in your hands, add a little water, and keep rolling until they hold together. Note: I’ve tried adding a bell to the center of these toys, and it doesn’t really work – I guess the fur mutes the sound the bell makes.
Make your own dog fur toys! When George and Gracie (our Great Pyrenees dogs) were still with us, they would shed like crazy in the spring and summer. Fred would go out and brush them, I’d gather up the loose fur and throw it into a pillow case, and run it through the washer several times until the worst of the smell was out. Then I’d either roll them up in balls and tie them in cheap nylons and run them through the washer ’til they felted together. I’d also (the most popular with the kittens) toss the fur loose in the washer and run the washer a few times until the fur matted together in big bunches, then I’d cut them in smaller sizes. The kittens liked that second option more, but it was also messier, because the big bundles of fur would “shed” all over the house.
Kick toys – this is one example, but there are zillions of them out there. Some with catnip, some without. The longer, the better – they really like to grab on and bunny-kick those things.
Packing straps – the plastic ones that come wrapped around big boxes or bundles of papers/magazines. They love to drag them around and smack at them. You can use them like teasers, tie them in knots. Something about them really drives cats crazy.
Cats LOVE toys made from real fur. I have mink tails that kittens get verrrry possessive over. I got several from my sister a few years ago, and then I bought some more off of (I believe) eBay. People sell them for crafting purposes. You can also buy toys made from rabbit fur – I got mine from Purrfect Fur Cat Toys on Etsy.
Wooden puzzle box. It comes with a few toys, but you can put any toy that’ll fit inside this box, and the cats will drag ’em out and play with them. I wish it came apart so you could clean it inside and out, but it doesn’t. I manage to clean the inside with a rag and a knife (to push the rag through) well enough. It also comes in a bigger size, but I prefer the smaller one because it takes up less room.
Sunstones’ crocheted catnip cat toys. These are so pretty and so well-made that I try to have enough on hand to send home in the bag o’ toys I send with my foster kittens. The cats love them and did I mention that they’re pretty? They’re SO pretty – and all proceeds are donated to animal rescue/ rehabs.
Laser light. I’m providing this link for reference, but I think when it comes to laser lights, they’re all pretty much the same. You don’t even have to get one made for playing with kittens, they can be the ones you find in an office supply store. Just turn the light on, race it around the room, and the kittens who are interested with be immediately VERY interested and will chase the light around.
The FroliCat BOLT laser toy. If you’re too lazy to use the laser light to play with your kitty or you get bored (I get bored. Don’t judge.), you can turn the FroliCat on and let the toy do the job. It runs for about 10 (I think) minutes, and then turns off. I’ve got sporadic success with it – sometimes cats adore it, other times they ignore it. I can tell you that it gives Jake the CRAZY EYES, and he will race around after that light as long as the toy goes.
You can go with the basic one (always a hit) that’s just a ball in a round plastic track.
There’s the Bergan scratcher/track toy with a scratching pad in the center.
The Tower of Tracks toy, which I have not tried myself, but I’ve seen it often enough on other blogs that I feel pretty confident suggesting it.
The track toy with an attached mouse for them to smack at (that one is similar to the one I currently have in the foster room, and it’s quite a hit).
Last, but certainly not least, there’s the Bergan Turbo Track, which the kittens adore, and so does Stefan.
You can buy pet cord protector to protect your cords from cats, who just loooooove to chew through wires. The problem with those cord protectors is that they’re treated with a “citrus scent” that is absolutely VILE.
What I do is buy flexible split tubing and put that on the cords instead. It’s actually more flexible than the citrus-infused pet cord protector, and so far is working really well. I ordered a 100 foot roll of it from usplastic.com. I ordered the 3/8″ black tubing, but they have it in 1/4″ as well, which would work just fine to cover most cords. I’m not going to lie to you: putting the tube on the cord (or the cord into the tube, whichever way you prefer to look at it) is a pain in the butt, but once it’s done you don’t have to do it again, and it protects your cords from sharp little gnawing teeth.
I wrote that (above) back in 2011, and since then, I’ve changed up how I protect cords (though of course, the black split tubing is still a valid idea). Now what I do is buy clear aquarium tubing and use an X-Acto knife to split it, then put it on the cord. It’s a pain to do, but once it’s on the cord, it’s done. And I think it looks better than the black tubing, though you might think differently. Also, I am a klutz when it comes to X-Acto knives, so the lines I cut are nowhere near straight. Also – did I mention I’m a klutz? – be careful with the X-Acto knife and cut AWAY from yourself. (Remind me to tell you the story of how I was making a house for the cats out of a cardboard box, stabbed myself in the thigh with an X-Acto knife, and thought I was going to bleed out on the floor.)
Of these, the only fountain I do not recommend is the Cat-It with the globe. I was cleaning it and broke the globe within weeks of bringing it home. The Drinkwell and Petmate fountains were what I had in the house for the longest time, and the cats liked and used them just fine. The problem is that they’re made of plastic, and plastic can develop hairline cracks and hold bacteria, which can make your cats sick. So I got the Big Max, which is made of ceramic. I actually got two of them, with the intention of putting one in the upstairs bathroom and one in the laundry room. The one in the laundry room was fine, but the one in the upstairs bathroom didn’t work out because the hum was just too loud – the upstairs bathroom is across the hall from my bathroom, and even though I wear earplugs at night, I could still hear the hum of the fountain and it drove me batty. So I sent that one back, looked around some more, and tried the Cat Mate.
The good thing about the Cat Mate: it’s super quiet. The bad thing about the Cat Mate: it’s made of plastic. The good thing about the Cat Mate: It’s dishwasher safe, so (I hope) any bacteria that get on/ in it is taken care of by the dishwasher; I run each Cat Mate through the dishwasher once a week. The other good thing about the Cat Mate: all the cats like it. The potential bad thing about the Cat Mate: a review I read (after I’d bought a couple) said that the pumps don’t last more than 8 months or so, and the company doesn’t sell replacement pumps. If that’s true, I won’t replace the Cat Mates, because that’s too much to pay for a fountain that only lasts several months. (I wrote that in 2011; it’s now 2016, and I haven’t had a Cat Mate fountain die on me yet. We have one in the laundry room, and I occasionally run one in the foster room, depending on how wild the fosters are.)
Litter & litter accessories – making life easier.
I am (as of October 2018) using Tidy Cats Free & Clean Unscented litter. For years I used – and recommended – Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat. Dr. Elsey’s is close to dust-free and clumps nicely, but I find that it doesn’t control the smell as well as the Tidy Cats litter does. I also use the Cat Attract in the foster room when I have a new bunch of fosters, or am switching from non-clumping to clumping litter. I keep a container of the litter attractant on hand, just in case, and if I don’t have any Cat Attract litter on hand, I’ll sprinkle some of the attractant on top of the Precious Cat litter. (Note: I prefer unscented litter because I can’t tolerate the scented stuff – even if I find the scented stuff pleasant at first, after a while I mentally link the scent to cat poop and pee, and I start to hate it.)
second third place – in my opinion – is Nature’s Miracle litter. It’s nearly as dust-free as the Precious Cat. It’s more of a sandy texture (the Precious Cat is a bit coarser), and (this is just my opinion) I don’t think it clumps quite as hard as the Precious Cat. It does a decent job of keeping down the odor, but it’s more expensive.
KKat Innovations – It’s the Scoop litter scoop. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this scoop. It makes scooping so fast and easy that I’ll never go back to another scoop. I’ve got one at every litter station in the house, and I am so worried that they’ll stop making them that I’ve bought 5 extra to have on hand. LOVE them.
Of course now that I’ve said that, I have to admit that I also have the Litter Lifter on hand in the foster room. Sometimes, the things little kittens leave in the litter box don’t clump together as they should, and the Litter Lifter picks up the stray pieces that are too small for the KKat Innovations scoop. I don’t need it near the other litter boxes, but I keep one in the foster room at all times, just in case.
I have chenille rugs – this one, in the “runner” size – under the litter boxes in the kitten room, as well as in front of the litter boxes downstairs. I also have a smaller one – this one, in size “medium” – in front of the litter box in the upstairs bathroom. They do a good job of catching litter so that there’s not as much scatter (there’ll never ever be zero scatter when it comes to litter), and they’re washable. I like washable things, can you tell?
UPDATED: 11/15/2019: I now use the iPrimio litter-catching mats and they work great! I have them in front of every litter box in the house and love them. (I also have a cheaper version that I bought off of Wish, and they don’t work nearly as well – they’re also noticeably flimsier and the litter seems to slide across the top instead of into the holes.)
The Litter Genie. Back in 2012, a reader suggested the Litter Genie to me. I thought “Oh, gross. A container of cat poop? Ugh!” and didn’t buy one. Then, about two years ago, I got REAL FREAKIN’ TIRED of having to run out to the garage every time I scooped the litter boxes (and with fosters, I scoop at a minimum of 4 times a day – usually it’s more like 6 or 8). So I bought a Litter Genie, expecting that I wouldn’t like it and the house would stink, but I was desperate. And y’know what? It’s magic. I’ve got four of them in the house (one at each litter station), and I empty them all once a week. The one in the foster room needs to be emptied twice a week if there are a lot of kittens in there, but the other three can go the entire week (they could go longer, but I’m a stickler about emptying them once a week). The house doesn’t smell (I promise you, it doesn’t) and scooping is SIMPLE. They do come with scoops, but they’re useless little things that I immediately recycle, and I use the ones I linked above. There is a cost to having the Litter Genies – you have to buy refills, and they aren’t cheap. I buy refills in bulk – I bought 24 refills about a year ago, and am down to my last six – which makes it a bit cheaper.
Note: There are hacks you can do so that you don’t have to buy refills, and I tried them (go to YouTube, search on “Litter Genie hack”), but I prefer the refills. Also, I’m sure someone’s going to mention that they use an old covered litter bucket and just toss baggies of poop into the litter bucket and empty it into the trash when it’s full. I have tried that, with a thousand different additions to the litter bucket to kill the smell. Nothing works well enough in that situation, and I just can’t handle it. The stench that boils up out of a half-full litter bucket full of bagged litter box leavings is VILE and just thinking about it makes me want to toss myself out the nearest window – but if it works for you, go for it!
Nose Offense. I don’t remember where I read about this stuff, but it is flat-out amazing. I’m listing it first not because it works so much better than the other two, because they work very well too, but because it works well AND it has no smell at all. The problem with anti-odor sprays is that they have a scent added to them, and after you’ve used them for a while, in your mind you link the smell of the spray with the smell of cat urine and then you catch a whiff of the anti-odor spray and you think “Did I just smell cat pee?”. Nose Offense works immediately, it takes the smell of cat pee (or whatever horrendous smell you’re trying to get rid of) away and leaves no smell in its place.
16 0z Hydrogen Peroxide, 1 Teaspoon dishwashing liquid, 1 Tablespoon Baking Soda. I used this on a couch the cats had peed on several years ago. Mixed it up, soaked the couch, and let it dry. The smell has never come back.
Anti-Ickypoo and Simple Solution Extreme Cat Stain & Odor Remover. If for some reason you’re against trying Nose Offense (you weirdo), both Anti-Ickypoo and Simple Solution (which you can get at Petsmart) work really well. I like Anti-Ickypoo because the trace scent isn’t a flowery one, it’s more a spicy smell, kind of cinnamon-y, and it works just fine. They both work perfectly fine, but they do have those trace scents, which Nose Offense does not. I’m just sayin’.
Jackson Galaxy highly recommends Fizzion. I’ve tried it, I’m not crazy about it, and I don’t like the trace scent it leaves behind, though I just noticed that it comes in an unscented version now, too. I don’t know – you try, you report back to me? (Dawn reported that she likes the scent of the Fizzion – and you can order it on The Home Depot website and have it delivered free to your local store!)
Miscellaneous things I use frequently.
Washable pee pads. I have a ton of washable pee pads on hand in three sizes (each size listed below) – they make cleanup so much easier, and I’m all about making it easier!
I use the huge ones (35×80) over furniture to protect from spraying cats (not currently a problem we have, thankfully, but I do have two sewn together and hanging over the back of our couch, just to be safe. It doesn’t look particularly great, but I can live with that.) I also use them in the foster room when I have little ones who haven’t quite gotten the hang of using the litter box.
I use the medium ones (34×36) under litter boxes for cats who pee over the edge or prefer to go just outside the litter box. I also use them, folded up, in carriers if I have a cat (JAKE) who pees in the carrier on the way to the vet, or kittens who might not be able to hold it.
I use the small ones (17×24) as needed – lately, I use them under the water bowls in the foster room when I have kittens who race through their water bowls while they’re playing like wild things.
Scales. When the fosters are teeny-tiny, I use a bowl on a kitchen scale. When they get bigger, I switch to the Zeiss animal scale. I used to use – and like – the W.C. Redmon scale, but a couple of days ago I knocked it onto the floor (not recommended), and can’t get it to work right, so I went back to the Zeiss (which I kind of prefer because it’s smaller than the Redmon). Connie also mentioned the Health-O-Meter Baby/Toddler scale – which reminds me that I also have a Health-O-Meter baby scale (not the one that Connie mentioned, but one that I can’t find a link for – I’ve had it for a long time) that I use to weigh the permanent residents. Yes, that is correct, I have two scales meant for cats. What’s your point?
Arf Frame Dog House, size X-Small. I’m providing the Amazon link for reference, but recommend you Google to find it cheaper elsewhere – we have three of these houses in various locations on the property, and they all get plenty of use. I stuff straw in them, and even have heated pads in one on the front porch, and the cats love them. We have two similar houses, Trixie Small Log Cabin, in the back yard. In the winter, especially when it’s raining, Kara loves to hang out in one of the houses in the back yard and snooze the day away. (FYI, according to Fred, the Arf Frame house is easier to put together than the Trixie.) The ones in the back yard have been back there for about three years now, and they’re weathered, but holding up well.
Room with a View. I have had a Room with a View – which is technically a dog house, apparently – next to my desk for six years now, and it is constantly in use. Kara, Newt, and Joe Bob all really like to curl up on the top, and occasionally Alice will curl up inside. I’ve got a second one on the front porch that gets occasional use from Maxi, and I suspect that (since the bottom part is stuffed with straw) that the occasional passing stray (and okay, probably an occasional possum or raccoon) curls up in there.
If there’s anything you think belongs on this list, say the word and if I agree, I’ll add it!
ALSO, if you know of a place where any of these items are cheaper, please say the word and I’ll add the info