How do I choose toys that are safe for my dog or cat?


Play is an important part of a healthy animals balanced life.   A toy provides exercise, mental stimulation and can be tools for pets and their humans to communicate and form a special bond. 

Choose toys that are safe, being aware of structural integrity (e.g. plastics with sharp edges, feathers that have toxic dye, tennis balls specific for pets use since regular tennis balls may break teeth etc.).

Chew Toys:

The correct toy that fills your pet’s need may be the key between appropriate chewing and destruction.

Dogs need to chew, especially puppies, and this should be taken into consideration when choosing toys.  Kongs are strong toys that can be filled with a treat can fulfilling your dog’s need to chew as well as keep them stimulated trying to remove treats.   This can keep a dog occupied when they are left alone--avoiding the temptation to destroy shoes or furniture.


Lasers that may be used as a toy could lead to frustration in pets. Cats especially have a high “prey drive”.  Animals may see the light as moving prey and their instinct is to hunt.   If the animal can never catch the prey (laser light), it will unable to fulfil the need to hunt and catch their prey.  This may lead to escalating frustration and may be redirected on another pet or human. A research study showed that cats do not play for the sake of play and that they get bored with their toys because they have a high prey drive and not a high play drive. They need to be stimulated with a variety of toys that speak to their ability to fulfil natural cat behaviour. (1992 University of Southampton: Cat Sense by John Bradshaw)

If laser pointer is shone along a wall and in high places also increases the risk of injury to a cat as it is stalking and focussed solely on its prey and blind to dangers objects in way (observations from years of observations by staff and volunteers at various shelters). 

Fetch &Tug of War:

Balls should big enough dog will not choke, Frisbees should be made of nylon or fabric since plastic may break off and cut gums or mouth.  A lip on the Frisbee makes it easy to pick up when on the ground.   Tug of War is best to be played with an adult offering the rope toy to the dog. The person needs to be in control of the game, starting and ending the game on cue.   This is a good exercise and can be used as part of the “take it, leave it" training.

Maintenance of Toys:

Toys used by a cat with a URI (Urinary Respiratory Infection) should remain with that cat alone. Even after the cat is not showing signs of infection, they will continue to shed the virus for weeks after, therefore the potential to spread the virus is high.  All pet’s toys should be washed with non-toxic soap on a regular basis.

Bow Valley SPCA believes every animal should have shelter, food, water, a name, bed and at least one toy.  Our animals have many safe and durable toys to play with, thanks to the generosity of others.

Happiness is someone to play with!