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Pictures_cat_stalking.jpgWhen choosing a toy for your cat you want one that is both safe and good for giving your cat exercise. You can buy some of these toys in the store and you can make some of them at home.

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1. Balls:

Cats love chasing balls. Just about any ball will do. Ping Pong balls are great because of their size. My cat has even played with my kids' balls from their ball pit. Balls are safe because they can not be chewed open or swallowed whole. For added pleasure give your cat a ball with a little bell inside. Then when the cat bats at the ball it will hear the bell. This only works with cats that aren't skittish. A final ball choice is to scrunch up some aluminum foil in to a ball. Most cats like shiny objects.

2. Yarn with a feather attached at the end:

Only use this toy when playing with your cat. Don't leave it out for the cat to play with alone because the yarn can get caught around the cat's neck and suffocate it. Hold the yarn out in front of the cat and slowly pull the yarn away from the cat. The cat will them leap at the feather. This is a hunting reaction that a cat would have in the wild. It will pounce on the feather like it is catching its prey. It is great way to encourage your cat's natural instincts and promote exercise at the same time.

3. Buy a remote controlled mouse:

pictures_cats_crouching.jpgThis is a funny toy to play with and also helps encourage a cat's hunting skills. You can use any remote controlled toy, but a mouse is a more natural choice. Use your remote to move the object around the room. Stop when the cat catches it so the cat can feel a sense of accomplishment. Then start up again. Play as long as the cat is interested. This is a great way to get your cat exercising.

4. Buy a catnip sack or make your own:

Make a pillow out of burlap and fill it with cat nip. Then sew it up. Cats go crazy for cat nip and will want to play with the toy when they get a whiff of the scent. If the cat goes too crazy and tries to rip open the burlap then you are going to have to take the toy away. Most cats should be fine with it, however.

5. Buy or make a climber:

Cats love to climb above all else. That is why so many of them get stuck in trees. A climber is essential if you don't want your cat to start climbing up your drapes. You can buy some that are fairly inexpensive or you can make one yourself out of wood. Just staple carpet on each step of the climber so that the cat doesn't jump up and slide off the smooth wood surface. Make sure the climber is secure and won't tip over when the cat plays on it.

Nicholas Hunt writes for a site offering information on pet insurance for cats as well as more obscure kinds of policy such as horse insurance for horse riders and owners.

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Cats love laser pointers, the little red light moving and dancing around is so intriguing to them. I had one for a while and Neo went crazy for it. He'd even come running if he heard the click when I accidentally turned the light on!

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Pictures_Kitten_cats_Attacks.jpgLaser pointers are an excellent way for cats to get some exercise and to have fun indoors. When you are looking to buy a laser, there are some things you need to know about the power levels. Before you buy.

Lasers are measured in milliwatts (mW) and you want the lowest number possible, somewhere around 5 or 10 mW is safest. To give you an example of the power of lasers, a 55mW laser can put holes in plastic and even pop a balloon. Any laser with enough power to put holes in plastic is too dangerous to use with your cat or dog. Be cautious when buying a laser pointer for your cat.

I recommend getting the laser pointers that are pens too - they are inexpensive and are the safest. They come in 5mW and cost about $5.00. You can use them as a pen too, so they serve a couple of purposes.

I spoke to two opthamologists about laser pointers because my daughter had looked directly at the light once. Both doctors said the same thing, if the power level is 10mW or below and the exposure time is low, then it is relatively safe. But both of the doctors agreed that even at such low power levels there is danger of eye damage if you point the light directly into the eye.

The important thing to remember is cat's eyes are even more sensitive than human's eyes, so the possibility for eye damage increases. The bottom line is this, have fun with the pointer, shine it up on walls, just out of your cat's reach, shine it along the floor and watch your cat chase after it. However,

Do Not Shine Lasers at a Cat's Eyes.

Post your stories about cats and lasers below, I'd love to hear about how your cat reacts to the little light.

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Brother, can you spare a twisty-tie? Hard economic times can mean fewer holiday gifts — for your pets, too. Fortunately, cats were into recycling and repurposing long before “green” became the latest buzzword.

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If you've ever seen your cat walk past a nice stuffed mouse to bat around one of those wire twisty-ties that close a loaf of bread, why not take the hint? Here's what your feline family really wants you to do for the holidays:

— Get milk! Or juice, as long as it's in a plastic jug. Those little caps make great toys, especially the kind with the tear-off plastic strip.

— Drink wine to relax. If watching your portfolio crash means you're going through more wine these days, you've also got more corks for your cat to bat around.

— Wear your wristwatch, even if you can't afford new batteries. On a sunny day, you can get the sun to reflect off it and make a spot of light that your cat will chase around the floor and walls — just like a laser pointer, but totally free.

— Let your hair grow long. You'll save money on haircuts, and once it's long enough for a ponytail, you can share your hair ribbons. Cassandra Zaruba of Westminster, Md., has a cat that loves a particular kind of hair ribbon. “I keep them in a Rubbermaid box, and a sure way to lure her out of any hiding place is to pop the lid of that box,” she says. (Don't do this with rubber bands, which some cats might be tempted to eat.)

— Buy presents for other people. Not because your cat is so generous, but because your cat will enjoy trying to help wrap presents. Tear off a piece of the wrapping paper and crunch it up on ball for her to chase around. When you run out, try aluminum foil or candy wrappers.

— Shop by mail. Online or catalog, it doesn't matter what you buy as long as it's delivered in a box. Leave the empty shipping carton on the floor or a table, and cats are sucked in as if by a magical force.

— But shop local, too. Your cat doesn't give a fig about keeping independent neighborhood shops in business, but you'll bring things home in paper bags that are great for hiding in and make that irresistible crinkly noise.

cat1px00010_91_2.jpgIt's OK if you have to cut back on the shopping, because you only need a few of those boxes and bags. “What I've discovered is that if you move them to a different location, the cats think they're brand new and will start playing with them again,” says Karen Duvall of Bend, Ore.

Don't forget that many activities that you think are chores are really cat games: You want to tie your shoes; your cat will want to bat the shoelaces. You want to change the sheets on your bed; your cat will want to play hide and seek.

Speaking of beds, there is also no need to buy a special kitty bed. Cats love to lie on things on top of other things, no matter their texture or height: lying on a shirt that's on the bed is better than lying on any other spot on the bed, even if they're made of nearly identical fabric. A magazine on a table, even a piece of paper on the floor — if it's flat enough to lie on and it's on top of something else, it's a free cat bed.

Kyle McCowin of Arlington, Va., has noticed this phenomenon, and wondered, is there such a thing as too much “on-topness”?

“Like is a magazine on a newspaper on a shirt on the bed better than just a shirt on the bed, or is that too many layers?” asks McCowin. “These are the questions that keep me up at night.”

And if other worries are keeping you up at night, you can both make use of another arrangement that pleases cats: read. Your cat loves to get in the way of a good read. When your cat sits on the newspaper, don't push him away. He'll be happy at no cost — and maybe skipping that bad economic news will be good for your mood too.

Photos: Lucy hides in a paper bag (top) and chases the tear-off plastic strip from the cap of a gallon of water (above). Stace Maude/The Associated Press

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maxfootball.jpgM.A.X scratchers make cardboard cat furniture for large cats. Cardboard? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But really, think about it, if your cat is scratching your furniture, you’ve got to find an alternative. My cat, Maddy doesn’t like those carpet-covered scratching posts but she loves scratching cardboard

Maddy’s favorite (and my favorite because I love football) is the M.A.X Football she sleeps inside it and scratches on the outside of it. M.A.X has got some really kewl stuff that your cat will like and won't look like an eye sore in your home.

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