In my opinion, the best cat toys are the ones your cat actually plays with. Not the ones that look cute on Instagram or that match your rustic farmhouse décor, but the ones that actually get destroyed or worn and eventually disappear under the sofa.
I know, I know. Those trendy cat towers and cute sushi-shaped catnip toys are fun — for us. But our cats have different taste, and that means we need to defer to them on the look and feel of the toys.
One thing cats can’t resist: a play rug. Whether they're hiding, foraging, pouncing, or playing, cats love play rugs for all their myriad uses. And you’ll love them too because your fluffy pal will stop shredding that new bath mat you spent way too much on.
So here are our four favorite ways to use play rugs for cats.
Indoor camping adventure
Indoor cats love hiding, and they love stalking. So why not combine the two into one activity?
You can create a homemade "camp site" for your cat by laying down a play rug or towel in a corner of your living room. Grab a chair, table, box or cat tower, and cover it with a blanket or another play rug. Place some toys inside and show your cat their new digs.
You can even make this “camping trip” more exciting by using a flashlight or laser pointer to simulate bugs flying by or dangling a wand toy inside.
Indoor camping is also great for cats who like to hide — it gives them something to do when they're feeling shy or anxious. Try playing with them in this space so that they get used to it as a fun place rather than a scary one.
Stalk and pounce playground
Stalking and pouncing are some of the most exciting parts of being a cat. But if you don't have the space for a kitty play room, don't worry. You can still give your cat a way to tap into those hunting instincts.
All you need is a play rug and a cat tunnel — and a few treats or toys to entice her with.
The play rug is the base of your playground. It can be made of just about any material: sisal, carpet, paper, plastic, felt, or a scrap of fabric. I recommend a lightweight fabric so your cat can dig under it and move fairly easily. Bonus points if it makes a fun crinkly or rustling noise. To create an extra challenge, add in a tunnel or two for your cat to hide in while they plan their attack.
Then start moving those toys like prey. Use a wand toy to slither, dance, or fly. Roll a ball across the play rug like a mouse running by. Toss a few treats or kibble into the tunnel for her to chase. Anything that will entice her to stalk and pounce on her “prey.”
The best part about using this setup is that it gives you an easy way to watch your cat's natural behavior without having to build anything complex. Your kitty will love exploring the tunnel and digging up her prey, while also getting some exercise from all that chasing around.
Cats are natural foragers. In the wild, they like to dig in the dirt for prey, and they like to sniff out new smells. In your home, a fan of digging might be the cat who kicks all the litter out of the box. To recreate that experience in the safety of your home — but outside of the litter box — you’ll need a play rug, a few toys, a pinch of catnip or silvervine, and some treats.
First, set up a play rug in a room where you want to encourage your cat to explore. The rug will give them a place they can dig around in and sniff out new smells. Put a few treats under the rug or fold it up in a fun shape and hide the food throughout.
You can also sprinkle some silvervine on the play rug and toys — think of silvervine like a more powerful version of catnip that’s just as easy to sprinkle on soft toys and play rugs. Silvervine and catnip are members of the mint family, so if you have any mint plants growing in your garden or houseplant collection, you might want to try cutting off some leaves from those plants as well—they'll add another layer of scent for your cat to enjoy.
The thrill of sniffing out their prize will tap into your cat’s foraging and hunting instincts and make them feel like they're really stalking prey.
Shred til the end
Not all play rugs for cats are created equal. Some are super durable, which is great for foraging and pouncing. But what if your cat loves to use her teeth to shred and tear? That heavy-duty sisal rug isn’t going to cut it.
That’s why the Magic Carpet is made of shreddable material. Your cat can sink her teeth (and claws) into her play rug and absolutely destroy it. And it makes a fun rustling sound too.
To satisfy her killer instinct, you just need to place the rug on the ground, the cat on the rug, and let her rip… literally.
Although, I do recommend supervising cats who are fans of shredding – just to be sure they don’t swallow any of their “kill.”
Improvise and make a custom play rug for your cat
Cat enrichment toys don’t have to cost a lot. You can find inexpensive play rugs online or get creative and make your own out of your cat’s favorite textured fabric. Or keep it simple (and free!) with an old towel or blanket.
And if you simply can’t resist that taco truck cardboard scratcher, buy it. And then design your own play rug to match!
The point is, cats need more than wand toys and stuffies to satisfy their instincts. Play rugs are a great way to add a little variety without spending a lot or redecorating the house. And it just might keep your cat from digging up your new succulent collection.