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Play

Keep your pet entertained for hours with our top picks, from cult-favorite toys to interactive puzzles.

by The Wildest Editors
October 6, 2022
Woman with white cat on her lap
Splash is still looking for his forever home! Adopt him at Cat’s Cradle Rescue.
Photo: Robbie Augspurger

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

You and your pet can agree on one thing: “Play” is a very good word. “Work” might be the reason your pet gets to live their lavish life and has all those toys in the first place, but that’s your problem, not theirs. All your pet wants to do is play with their favorite feather toy, pretend-stalk you down the hall, go for a walk, or chase a ball or frisbee on the beach or dog run — and they want you to do it all with them.

But sometimes, “work” gets in the way of “play,” and you have to focus on your laptop instead of your dog’s favorite rope toy or your cat’s cutest fuzzy glitter ball. In times like these, your pet has to take playtime into their own paws. Below, we have a selection of toys that are perfect for the days you can put that laptop away — and the days you need your pet to entertain themselves. Either way, ready, set, go: It’s play time.

Adopt Splash and his brother Anchor here.

Best Treat-Dispensing Dog Toy

up dog toy in purple

Dogs love squeaky toys. Dog parents, not so much. The Up Dog Odin is a 3D-printed puzzle toy that provides a mental workout for pups. The minimalist, modular design comes in cool pastel hues like rose quartz, slate gray, and powder blue, and looks like something you’d pick up at the MoMA store. But this enrichment tool has beauty and brains. Simply fill it with dog treats and watch your pup roll it around — quietly — as it gradually dispenses treats.

“It’s fun to roll it around with your pup and to use it as an opportunity to bond and play together,” suggests certified dog trainer and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann. “Once they figure out how it works, it’s like winning the jackpot every time.”

If your pup prefers messier treats like peanut butter, Up Dog’s Ubbe toy is designed to be filled with liquid substances. Both are dishwasher-safe, made of TPR (aka thermoplastic rubber, which is non-toxic and free of chemicals such as BPA or latex), and quality-assurance tested by founder Michelle Moy’s dog, @odinthecorgi. What’s more, the brand donates 10 percent of the their profits to the Humane Society. —Samantha Gurrie

$20 at Up Dog

Best Catnip Toy

the crystal cat toys in pink and white

In times like these, we humans should be charging our crystals before we charge our phones. If we’ve had a tough go of it, just think of our cats. They spend all day curled up on our laps, feeling our stress as we practice a daily routine of live, laugh, disassociate. Merci Collective’s crystal-infused catnip collection, Happy Together, is on a mission to help your cat heal from this stressful world.

“Crystals create a vibrational healing that aids in the elimination of negative energies and establishes grounding that discourages inappropriately excessive stimulation from environmental triggers,” says integrative veterinarian, Merci Collective consultant, and The Wildest Collective member Dr. Lindsey Wendt. In 2022, maybe happy together is a stretch, but significantly chilled-out seems like a good step. —Hilary Weaver

$18 at Merci Collective

Best Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy

mint dog treat toy

“Many dogs are under-stimulated and under-exercised...or pretty bored,” says certified dog behaviorist Stacy Alldredge. “Interactive toys are a great way to give your dog something to do.

With seven hidden compartments, this intermediate-level puzzle game designed by Nina Ottosson for Outward Hound allows pet parents to adjust the toy’s difficulty to meet their pup’s needs, until they’re ready to work up to more advanced puzzles. Worried your pup will outsmart your brand new purchase? Fear not! Alldredge shares, “I bought every dog puzzle game on the market and the Nina Ottosson ones are so hard to figure out!” Plus, this seafoam green edition is candy for pet parents’ eyes. —Marisa Meltzer

$16 at Amazon

Best Feather Wand

the feather wand in a hand

Ever wondered why your cat seems offended by a felt mouse but will ambush a feathered lure like a tiger shark? According to certified cat behaviorist Dr. Mikel Delgado, “All cats have the instinct to hunt, and play behavior is an expression of their hunting instincts, just directed towards toys instead of prey. [So] it makes sense that cats would prefer toys that resemble prey animals in different ways — toys that move easily when touched, toys that have fur or other interesting textures, and toys that have tails or that appear to look like a bird.”

That’s why cats respond more to toys attached to a wand that pet parents can manipulate to move in ways prey naturally does in the wild. This handmade wand by year-old, Los Angeles-based brand Ocatnip comes with four pastel-hued feather teasers and tiny bells, and is approved by the founder’s discerning product testers — her adopted cats Brunello, Linguini, and Toast (a.k.a. BLT). —Avery Felman

$25 at Ocatnip

Best Rope Dog Toy

zoo rope toys

“When I started this line, I knew I wanted to make a collection of toys that are colorful — and color comes from food and vegetables! So, each hand-tied rope toy gets its bright color from vegetable dyes,” says Jax & Bones founder Tina Nyugen of her Good Karma rope toys.

Nyugen reimagines soda bottles and fabric scraps into upcycled plush dog beds, durable toys, and other accessories — all produced locally in Los Angeles. “Our dogs are really like our children, so every type of fabric, every dye, every raw material we give to them needs to be really closely inspected,” she tells The Wildest. When I’m trying out a new material, I actually scratch it — kind of like a dog! — and smell everything. I’m a little bit obsessive — but I think we’re all obsessed with our animals.

Your pup might not be able to join you at the zoo, but they can cuddle up with this giraffe, hippo, and elephant toy bundle while doing some good for the world. —Emma Loewe

$48 at Jax and Bones

Best Catnip

the jar of catnip

Every cat parent knows the amusement of watching their pet trip out on catnip — rolling around in kittenish excitement with a catnip-stuffed toy, which the cat sucks and mauls and chews into a shapeless, saliva-soaked blob.

Catswort. Catmint. Kush for cats. Whatever you call it, catnip is an herb that, according to veterinarian Dr. Sarah Dougherty, causes 60 percent of cats to “experience euphoria-like effects, characterized by licking, chewing, and head shaking, followed by cheek and body rubbing.” It can also mellow out other cats, so some veterinarians recommend it to help manage separation anxiety and stress.

Dr. Dougherty adds that fresh catnip — like the organically grown leaf and flower by sustainable brand Public Goods — “is more potent than the dried form,” not to mention a new study found that its a natural mosquito repellant. —Robb Fritz

$9 at Public Goods

Best Sustainable Dog Toy

milkshake plush toy

Pet products may not be the first area that comes to mind when thinking about how to live a more eco-friendly life, but many brands are offering alternatives to help lower our carbon paw prints. And Bay Area brand P.L.A.Y. is one of the more impressive ones: their pet beds and toys are made with PlanetFill® which consists of 100% post-consumer certified-safe recycled plastic bottles. The B Corp certified brand also gives back to too many organizations to list, and their toys meet the quality manufacturing standard for children toys — pets are our kids, after all.

P.L.A.Y.’s plush, crinkly toy collections offer something for everyone, and at an affordable price (stuffed toys start at $5.90) — from ’80s classics like joysticks and hair spray cans to brunch staples like bloody marys and avo toast. But the American Classic fast food-inspired toys are, in a word, classic, and the squeaky milkshake is sure to bring all the pups to the yard (or dog run). —Rebecca Caplan

$7 at P.L.A.Y.

Best Cat Scratching Post

green cactus scratching post

No matter how much one loves cats, there’s one thing that unites all cat parents in endless and insidious dread: the incessant drive of almost every cat to shred their favorite — and most costly — couches and chairs.

Veterinarian and The Wildest Collective member Dr. John Iovino says that, for a cat, scratching is a healthy expression of emotions from excitement to stress, adding “The best example of a good cat scratcher would be a tree — it’s tall enough to allow cats to stretch their full bodies; and it’s heavy, sturdy, and won’t move while cats forcefully scratch to sharpen their nails or mark their territory.”

This cactus-shaped scratcher checks all the boxes: it’s handcrafted from durable PVC pipe and wrapped with natural, sustainable sisal rope. And hey, cactus-themed cat products are having a moment. —RF and AF

$100 at Amazon

Best Kibble-Dispensing Dog Toy

fable the game toy in green

“Who wants to eat out of a boring old bowl when you can make meals an adventure?” says certified dog trainer and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann. “Wobblers are great for dogs who only eat kibble, as they’re designed for small dry-food items. This interactive feeder is weighted on the bottom and wobbles when batted around by your dog, which allows the food to drop out of a small hole on the side.”

The Game’s design was inspired by Fable founder Jeremy Canade’s own dog. “I tried a bunch of other [interactive] products, but he would slam them against the wall,” he tells The Wildest. “It was like a bowling ball knocking around my apartment, and just for a tiny piece of food to fall out. Plus, he is a very smart dog and can get through a puzzle toy within five minutes, so it wasn’t really a distraction. So that was the bar: it had to be quieter and last at least half an hour for him — and everything we make has to look good, at least in my eyes.”

Canade more than delivered. This game-changing toy holds up to 1 1/2 pounds of dry food, making it ideal for fast eaters who need a side of stimulation — both mental and physical. —RD and MM

$55 at Fable

Best Cat Tumbler Teaser Toy

cat tubbler toy in white

All cats need play. Even cats who seem like they couldn’t care less. It’s instinctual. Primal. “Play helps satisfy a cat’s natural need to hunt. While many domestic cats spend most or all of their time indoors and rarely actually hunt, the instinct is still very much hard-wired,” says cat behaviorist and The Wildest Collective member Cristin Tamburo.

That’s why your cat will find Pidan’s feathered tumbler toy endlessly entertaining. The weighted water-droplet design wobbles about while the (replaceable) feathers tease your cat, keeping them on their toes — mentally and physically. The Paris-based brand has won awards for its artistic, innovative pet products, including an igloo litter box and a shock-absorbing leash. And this pretty pink ombre toy is made from an anti-oxidative hybrid resin so you can rest assured it will stand up to kitty claws.

Pro tip from Tamburo: “It’s important that you give your cat the opportunity to ‘catch’ what they are playing with, so they can fulfill their prey sequence.” —Charles Manning

$16 at The Tail Story

Best Dog Lick Mat

magenta lick mat

Dogs are nothing if not huge fans of licking. So it should come as no surprise that a lick mat would be a simple solve for health and behavioral issues like anxiety, boredom, and speed-eating. If your pup has a habit of scarfing down their food as though it will self-destruct in 30 seconds (or you just need to keep them entertained for the duration of a Zoom call) a lick mat will help them slow their roll.

“Lick mats engage your dog’s mouth and are especially helpful in giving vigorous chewers and nippers something else to do besides eat your rug,” says certified dog trainer and The Wildest Collective member Robert Haussmann. “You can smear soft foods, such as peanut butter or canned pumpkin, on the textured surface for your dog to lick clean. To keep your dog stimulated and busy, you can freeze the mats, which allows them to last much longer. I use these to create positive associations with bath time and other grooming activities. It’s highly enjoyable, engaging, and — most importantly — delicious!”

Of all the lick mats on the market, SodaPup is our pick for durability and design. Whether flowers, jigsaw puzzles, or zombies are more your style, your pup will enjoy working for their food. And you can feel good about your purchase: SodaPup donates to animal rescues, partners with CarbonClick to reduce their carbon emissions, and manufactures ethically in the U.S. If your dog manages to destroy the ultra-durable mat within 30 days, SodaPup will replace it for free. —Sio Hornbuckle

$14 at Sodapup

Best Durable Dog Toy

purple dog bone toy

Are power chewers made or born? Either way, anyone who pet parents one knows how difficult it can be to find a toy that lasts longer than a few days, if not minutes — which is a pain in the butt and bank account. “Some dogs just like to chew hard, other times it can be related to anxiety,” veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valli Parthasarathy tells The Wildest. “If a dog is chewing for self-stimulation or exploration, provide toys that are strong and difficult to destroy.”

Though the existence of one truly indestructible toy is a myth, Modern Pet Co.’s Busy Buddy Bone stands the test of time. This geometric dog bone is made of rubber so durable it’ll withstand the best efforts of dogs whose bites are stronger than their barks. It can be stuffed with treats for added mental enrichment, and its angular design may even help clean their teeth. Available in myriad colors, it’s also oh-so-Instagrammable. —Sean Zucker

$10 at Modern Pet Co.

Best Dog Snuffle Mat

pizza snuffle mat

There are few things New Yorkers love more than our pets and pizza, and you can find an adorable combination of these two Empire State staples in Injoya’s pizza-shaped snuffle mat. Snuffle mats are essentially 3D rugs that enhance the feeding process for our pups, making it more fun and rewarding.

“Snuffle mats are a great way to provide enrichment and entertainment by helping dogs use their amazing sense of smell to find the hidden food,” veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valli Parthasarathy tells The Wildest. “Sniff-based mental stimulation can help promote overall relaxation in dogs, as well.”

Injoya’s ‘za-inspired option is machine washable, made of non-toxic materials, and the mat’s non-slip base will help minimize any mess or movement. There are even squeakers inside two removable “slices” at each end to entice dogs who do not share my enthusiasm for cheese and dough. —SZ

$45 at Shop Dog & Co.

Best Cat Puzzle Toy

cat interactive puzzle in green and red

According to certified cat behaviorist Ingrid Johnson, your cat is constantly strategizing and — go figure — could be bored. “It’s hard to take the hunt out of them,” she says. “It’s an innate need.” Don’t feel bad — you’re about to splurge on a bunch of interactive cat toys and engaging cat food puzzles that even the softest-skilled kitty can master. If your cat is no stranger to mind puzzles, this Nina Ottosson puzzle may be the perfect toy to challenge their skills. With 16 hidden compartments that allow your cat to access the treats within the toy, there’s no shortage of ways to keep your cat engaged and concentrated. They’ll be lady buggin’ out for this one (sorry not sorry). —Katherine Tolford

$20 at Amazon

Best Frisbee

green frisbee

If any product line can give Kong a run for the title of most reliably indestructible toys, it’s West Paw. Made with zero-waste and recyclable materials, the frisbee Zisc is lightweight yet tough enough to withstand the jaws of gentle chewers. It’s soft, pliable, floatable, and flies far, giving your pup a mental and physical workout. Today, West Paw remains a fixture in the local community, a leader in the sustainable pet movement, and a treat for dog parents looking to buy thoughtfully and transparently made products for their pet. —Emma Loewe

$15 at West Paw

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

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