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Cat toys are a must when you are housing a feline in your home. Many popular toys you see in pet stores have feathers on them. But are feather toys safe for cats?
If feather toys are safe for cats, what about the dyes used to color many of them? What happens when cats accidentally ingest these dyed feathers? Can it result in any health complications that you should know about? And why are cats so attracted to fake feathers in the first place?
Wow! Those are a lot of questions to begin with right?
But these are legit questions and most cat owners are looking for answers to these queries.
In the paragraphs below, we’ve tried to answer all these questions. We also explain how you can safely play with your cat using feather toys.
For cats who love to chase feathers, we even go over some natural alternatives to feather toys that you’re sure to love!
Have you ever wondered why cats are so attracted to feather toys even though they don’t smell like a bird?
The reason is their prey drive.
Even cats that won’t play with balls or ribbons, may be attracted to the sight of feathers. Feathers give off a specific sound and the soft fluttery movement is attractive to a cat’s eyes. Many kittens even mistake the toys for an actual meal.
In the wild, most feral cats will pull the feathers off the bird and only eat the meat. Some domestic cats though may have lost their natural instinct to completely pluck their prey before trying to ingest the meat. This can be problematic.
Whether or not the feather toys are safe, depends on the cat, that particular toy and the type of feathers used to make the toy.
Sometimes, you’ll notice that the feathers fall off easily from the cheaper toys than some of the more durable ones. If the feathers are regularly falling or even coming off in pieces, it can lead to accidental ingesting.
While cats do regularly eat birds in the wild, many feather toys use synthetic feathers. These feathers may have been made out of harmful dyes or materials that can cause a blockage in your cat’s intestines. Injury from feather toys is rare, but can happen without proper supervision when the toy is in use.
The risk of ingestion goes up even more when you expose kittens to a toy with feathers. Many young kittens will try to chew the toys or eat anything they have determined may be prey.
So until a kitten has gotten through their initial teething phase and is around four months of age, avoid giving them any toys that have parts that can be easily swallowed. This includes any feather toys, whether they’re natural or not.
Also no matter what age your cat is, be sure to research the toy manufacturer. Learn whether you are buying cat toys from a reliable source.
Additionally, some feathers have sharp ends that can cut your cat. Artificial feather toys are often cut unevenly.
Broken feathers can be a cutting hazard if your cat manages to remove the feather from the rest of the toy.
The plastic parts of a feather are easily chewed into small sharp pieces that can then be stepped on or ingested. While cats aren’t huge chewers, don’t be surprised to find the occasional part of a broken feather stem lying around the house.
Before you go plucking all the feathers off your toys though, know that they aren’t all bad. With proper supervision, your cat can still enjoy their feathered toys.
Even if your cat is allergic to dyes, there are natural options available.
Some cats may even instinctively just pluck the feathers out and leave them on the ground. The only way you will know the level of safety for your cat is to observe them when playing with feathers.
The most common impact, if your cat ingests feathers, is to the intestine. Depending on your cat, this can be as severe as needing emergency surgery or inconvenient as having a constipated cat.
Certain dyes used to color cat toys, can cause rare allergic reactions in cats, especially if ingested. These complications can be life-threatening if your cat’s body has a more severe reaction.
In either of these cases, there are some signs you can watch out for.
If your cat has recently consumed feathers, then look out for these following signs.
- Lethargic Behavior: A lethargic animal will start sleeping or laying around more than average. This behavior will increase with time.
- Decreased Appetite: It is normal for an impacted cat to avoid consuming food. If your cat stops drinking altogether or chooses not to eat for more than a 24 hour period, seek veterinary care immediately.
- Bloody or Black Stool: This indicates a problem. If you notice blood in your cat litter box, seek care immediately as they may have bleeding in their stomach. Bleeding can be caused by small cuts in the intestines.
- Excessive Vomiting: Vomiting can be a good sign if your cat is getting the feathers out of their system. If you see any blood, however, then seek veterinary care.
- Increased Aggression: Aggression may become apparent in affected cats. Aggression is usually caused by pain or touching the pain area.
If the cat has swallowed a feather, observe them carefully over a 24-hour period. Provide plenty of water to help flush it out of their system.
If you have a cat that likes to eat their toys, then you will want to look for some alternatives to feather toys. You will want to go for other toys that don’t have loose parts or ribbons.
Safe options will include toys that are well sewn or not made out of multiple pieces like some toy mice. Here is a list of some alternative toys and why your cat will love them:
- Plastic Balls: Plastic balls can be a great toy for cats who love the chase. If your cat enjoys noise, then choose a ball with a bell built-in.
- Well-Sewn Plush Toys: You can get tons of well-made plush toys with the scent of catnip to entice play.
- Kickers: Kickers are long pillow-like toys that are often coated with catnip. This toy is made so that your cat can attack them with all four paws.
- Laser Toys: Many electronic laser toys are a great way to incorporate movement into your cats play routine.
If your cat only wants to play with feather toys or they simply loves them, there are some steps you can take to avoid health issues. If you’re worried about you cat swallowing the feathers, then limit playtime with the toy.
Only allow your pet to use the feather toy under your supervision. Using a feather wand is the best way to do this as you will be in control of the toy.
Avoid using feather toys even under supervision with kittens.
Additionally, check to see if the dye on the feathers comes off easily. This can be done by rubbing the feather of an extended period of time between your fingers.
You will also want to dip the feather in some water to make sure it won’t come off due to your cat’s saliva.
Make sure to put any feather toys away in a drawer or cabinet that your pet can’t get into while you are gone.
If you want to go a step further, then look into all purchasing natural feather toys. These toys won’t contain any unnatural additives that can upset your cat’s body.
If your cat is crazy about feathers, then try out some natural toys. These feather toys are only made with feathers that come from real birds. This way there’s no artificial dyes or plastics involved. Some great places you can get natural toys from are:
- Peacock Feathers: Peacock feathers are a safer natural solution that can be ordered in bulk. Most peacock feathers are naturally molted by tamed peacocks from around the world.
- Natural Batting Toys: Natural batting toys are made from materials that are biodegradable. Popular toys use ingredients like fiber of hemp.
- Feather Flyer: This toy is similar to the popular Da Bird toy; the feathers come from parrots and are naturally shed. This wand by VNthings comes with interchangeable feather heads for quick replacement.
Choosing a healthy toy for a pet is important to pet parents. Are feather toys safe for cats? In moderation, yes. You shouldn’t be afraid to play with your cat with a feather toy.
As with most things involving pets, supervision is needed. If you feel that your cat is trying to eat the toy, then take it away. There are plenty of other options that can help activate your cats prey drive while keeping possible hazards away. Remember that there are also natural options that can further reduce the risk to your pet.