gifts they might actually want

The 64 Best Gifts for Cat Lovers, According to Feline Behaviorists, Advocates, and Enthusiasts

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

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Temperamental loners indifferent to human affection, cats have long played second fiddle in public opinion to man’s best friend, the simple-minded dog. But cats have won the internet, as some famous felines (Suki, the Dark Lord) have more followers on Instagram and command higher appearance fees than the average B-list celebrity.

While it might be second nature to tag your cat-loving friends in a cat meme every now and then, it can be baffling to buy an actual gift for a cat parent now that there are more cat-themed items available than ever before. With help from experts — including animal-behavior specialists and pet-store owners — we’ve sifted through the vast world of cat products to find the very best gifts for cat lovers, including some favorites we’ve found in our own years as cat parents.

Catnip toys

Kitten rescuer and animal advocate Hannah Shaw told us these rattle mouse toys “make enticing sounds that spark cats’ curiosity — and kick their hunting instincts into high gear.” She says they’re perfect for kittens since they’re small enough for little ones to toss and carry around in their mouths, but we think older cats would love them too. And at $12 for 36 mice, it’s easy to have some extras around for when your cat inevitably loses a few under the couch or behind the refrigerator.

Yeowww! Catnip Toy
$6

For years we’ve wondered why every cat we’ve ever known was obsessed with this catnip filled banana. Nora Wood, adoption-event coordinator for Anjellicle Cats, a New York-based all-volunteer cat rescue and nonprofit with foster homes throughout the five boroughs, told us it’s the “best catnip toy” because it’s the “perfect shape” for cats to sniff, snuggle, and kick, and it’s better than “lots of crap catnip out there.” We’ve had cats with very different interests and personalities, and all of them have gnawed on the banana until it’s covered in drool.

Tazz Latifi, owner of pet-supply store and grooming parlor Petropolis in lower Manhattan, called Colorado Kitty Pot “one of my favorite companies” for their “amazing catnip toys,” and because “they give a lot of their money away to animal shelters and rescue.” She said even cats that aren’t usually interested in catnip go crazy for it. The cute “munchie” shapes (there are also taco and cookie versions) are adorably Instagrammable when paired with a loopy-looking cat indulging in some ’nip.

According to Stray Cat Social Club founder Scott Bleicher, Polydactyl Cats “creates unique cat toys with equal parts irony, pop culture references, and a dash of fast-food fun.” Their organic catnip toys come in shapes like popcorn and sushi, guaranteed to appeal to owners and cats alike. Leilani Shimoda, the owner of Instagram darling Bunni (and the late Shrampton), also loves the brand and said, “I love to make themed gifts [like] the hot-sauce toys with sombrero combo.” And, yes, the included sombrero is for the cat.

GoCat Da Fur Thing Cat Toy
$9
$9

This kicker toy comes recommended by “Hana,” the anonymous owner of two adorable Instagram-beloved kitties: Dewey and Rudy. She’s had to repair it a few times and put more catnip inside because her cats were “kicking the crap out of it.” She suspects the fact that the toy is made from genuine rabbit fur activates their hunting instincts because “they feel like it’s real.”

Art curator Celine Wong Katzman says her cat Melon doesn’t really bat this sausage-shaped rope toy around, but instead loves “cuddling with it and sleeping on it.” Since it’s soft and squishy, and the scale of the toy is fairly large, it makes for a perfect snuggle buddy.

[Editor’s note: The sausage rope toy is currently sold out, but these pierogi toys are just as squishable.]

Wand toys

In addition to helping sedentary cats with weight loss and maintenance, Shaw said that “keeping cats physiologically enriched will make them less inclined toward destructive behaviors.” One of the best ways to get cats up on their toes — and in the air — are wand toys and teasers, which also make great gifts for owners dealing with misbehaving cats. Along with staving off boredom, cat-behavior expert Mikel Delgado said “playing with your cat provides them with exercise and can be a great way to bond.” These toys from cat behaviorist and My Cat From Hell host Jackson Galaxy’s collection were top picks among experts we spoke to. The air-prey version, for cats that enjoy leaping into the air, is Shaw’s personal favorite.

Latifi also raved about the ground-prey wand for cats that prefer to hunt low.

Singer-songwriter Judy Collins is a self-proclaimed cat lover and currently owns three Persians. “When I adopt cats, it’ll be three at a time because I like them to have company,” Collins told us. They love to chase ribbons, so she keeps this toy on hand to “run around with” and usually pulls it behind her “so that the cat will chase me. It’s very good for them, it’s healthy.”

You can’t go wrong with a Da Bird wand toy that earns rave reviews from experts and cat owners alike. Anjellicle cat-behavior specialist Astrid Hanenkamp said, “It offers hours of interactive playtime for a cat and its owner.” Heather Henley, a certified feline-training and behavior specialist at Best Friends Animal Society is a “big fan” of the simple feather toy, and it also received shout-outs from Latifi, Delgado, and proud cat lady Kristin Perrotta, who said “all cats go mental for it.”

“I’ve always given Cat Catcher teaser wands as gifts because I never met a cat who didn’t like them,” said Yuki Atsumi, an Anjellicle seminar leader. From the maker of the beloved Da Bird teaser, the Cat Catcher will also give cats the thrill of the hunt, but for a mouse instead of a bird. Atsumi adds, “Wand toys should always be put away after playing because cats might chew the string or wire and ingest it.”

It’s a well-known fact that cats will ignore fancy, expensive toys in favor of the most simplistic, inexpensive thing you have lying around — a cardboard box, a hair tie. The Cat Dancer is made from just two components — steel wire and rolled cardboard — and costs less than $3, which, of course, means cats go wild over it. “It’s had a 100 percent success rate with all the cats I’ve given it to,” Hana says. “It’s really minimalistic. You hold onto one end and just shake it. But they get so into it.” Considering this toy has been around for a few decades, it’s just about the most failproof, tried-and-true toy you can gift.

Puzzle feeders and treats

“Cats love this shit,” Wong Katzman declares of these Churu treats. “I’ve never opened one for a cat before and not had them go totally crazy for it.” She calls them “cat Go-Gurt” because they come in small squeeze tubes filled with paste in multiple enticing flavors, such as tuna, chicken, or beef. And Hana has also witnessed firsthand the powerful effect Churu has on kitties, describing it as “the ultimate cat treat” that will cause her cats to “come running the moment they hear me opening the jar.” She’ll sometimes even freeze them to make cat Popsicles on a hot day.

“Your cat’s mouth is the gateway to their health and comfort,” says veterinarian Liz Bales, but not all cats will take kindly to getting their teeth brushed. Fortunately, Bales estimates that dental foods and treats can improve cats’ oral health by up to 20 percent. These catnip-flavored Greenies treats are VOHC-approved; their crunchy texture helps reduce tartar buildup and freshen breath.

Another way to tap into a cat’s natural hunting instinct is a puzzle feeder that hides treats or dry food pieces so that cats have to actively poke around to find them. Henley loves that this SlimCat dispenser makes cats “move with it, so they aren’t sitting still and eating.” Since it’s simple to use, it’s a good entry-level feeder toy for cats who are new to the concept. Latifi, also a SlimCat fan, advises filling it with freeze-dried raw food, which is easier on cats’ digestion than conventional food. (Primal Pet Foods’ Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets Formula for Cats is a healthy option that will fit in a feeder toy.)

Created by a veterinarian, these mouse-shaped toys can be filled with food or treats and hidden around your house for cats to “hunt.” Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, says the toy will “engage your cat’s inner predator.”

Cat owners working from home know the challenge of keeping their pet from walking on their keyboard and disrupting Zoom calls. This treat maze, which is basically a cardboard box divided into three sections with random holes, is the only thing that has distracted former Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson’s (very food-motivated) cat. Pair it with some treats and you’ve got a gift that will save your cat-loving pal from hours of annoyance.

On the other hand, if you know you’re shopping for a puzzle-feeder pro, this tree-style toy is more difficult, as kitties have to move their treats down each level by sticking their paws in the side holes before the food lands in the bottom dish. “[It] helps mimic a cat’s hunting behavior,” said Angie Krause, a holistic veterinarian and consultant for I and Love and You pet food. “It helps relieve stress and prevent boredom.”

“Cats are notoriously poor water drinkers,” according to Krause. Feline dehydration can lead to fatal kidney issues later in life. (It’s one of the reasons vets prefer cats eat moisture-rich canned food.) To encourage a friend’s pet to up its water intake, Krause recommends a flowing drinking fountain because many cats prefer “fresh, running water and will drink more when water stays fresh,” she said. There are tons of designs on the market, but Wong Katzman says multiple people have complimented her Miaustore ceramic water fountain: “When people come over, they’re like, ‘Wow, you really got that for your cat? That’s so nice.’” It even comes with attachments, if you want to add some cat grass or an extra bowl, and is dishwasher-friendly for easy cleanup.

Scratching posts and cat furniture

“Every cat needs a scratching post,” advised Latifi, and Delgado explained that scratching is a way for cats to “mark their territory, and it keeps their claws in good shape.” Because cats love stretching out, Latifi said a post should be at least 24 inches high to make it an attractive alternative to cat owners’ furniture.

At 32 inches high, the SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is a top choice among experts. Wood said it’s the ideal gift because “cats can’t knock it over — very important! — and the cat can stretch out her back while scratching.” Hanenkamp calls it “the best out there,” and Delgado mentioned it by name as well.

Since it takes up more space than a vertical scratching post, Wood said this “wonderful” scratcher lounge is a great and stylish gift “if your friend has a good-sized apartment.” Conrad Russo, blogger and owner of Pet Gear Lab, also said the PetFusion scratcher is a “favorite” among cat lovers, and Perrotta agreed. “It’s cool-looking and you can flip it over when your cat annihilates one side,” she said.

There are plenty of splurge-worthy cat trees out there, but if you feel a little silly spending triple digits on furniture made for a cat, this affordable version is both feline and human approved. With natural wood grain and plush white carpeting, it looks nice in any home, and it has plenty of space for kitty to perch on. Adelson says her cat Lovey likes to hang out in the cubbyhole or on the top level.

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

Shaw stresses the importance of “providing [cats] with an enriching home environment. Cats need access to vertical spaces and climbing structures in order to feel mentally stimulated.” A first-time cat owner, or one moving into a new place, may appreciate a perch, lounger, or tree that will make their home more welcoming to cats. Shaw buys a lot of her cat furniture from Hauspanther, like this wall-mounted perch that doubles as a scratching post and has room for toy storage.

A perfect gift for a multiple-cat household, a cat tree with tiered perches and resting spots offers each kitty a little personal space. “Cats are territorial so giving them a space that feels like their own is important,” says Delgado. “Being up high can help cats feel safe, and if you have more than one cat, it helps them share the territory.” If a traditional cat tree doesn’t mesh with your recipient’s décor, Russo recommends this “more quirky” style. It has faux-suede covers and a modern curvy design, but still caters to cats’ needs. A more skittish cat might feel safest on the highest level, from which she can observe the room below while staying out of reach, and a cat looking for some peace and quiet for napping will love the enclosed hideaway on the bottom.

This compact cat tree takes up less than two square feet of floor space while providing a perch for cats who like to take in the view from above, a hideaway spot for moments when they need some alone time, and a scratching post to distract them from the furniture. Its wood frame will look nice in your living room, and it’s popular among Amazon reviewers, with one satisfied shopper calling it “sleek and modern.”

This unicorn tunnel looks pretty silly, but Strategist writer Rio Viera-Newton says her cat, Martini (along with her parents’ and sister’s cats), goes nuts for it. “She sprints through all the little tunnels, weaving in and out of them like a maniac,” Viera-Newton writes. “And then when she’s finally out of energy, she slinks up into a little ball in one of the unicorn arms, all cozy.” The four-foot-long tunnel has lots of room for cats to play in, but it also folds down into a compact ring that’s easy to store, even in small spaces.

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendor/B) 2020 Hannah Rosa Lewis-Lopes

Cathaus’s good-looking, sustainably sourced cat furniture was featured in our 2021 holiday gift guide, and it comes with Wong Katzman’s stamp of approval as well. “They’re so nice, they’re kind of like artworks,” she said. “There’s an environmental bent to them because they’re made of carpet scraps and scrap wood, which is why they have that collaged look.”

According to Henley, “Senior cats can have issues with arthritis just like people. It’s nice to have pet stairs for them to use when jumping becomes painful.” A set of pet stairs is a good gift for a friend with an older cat that’s having trouble getting on the couch or bed. With natural wood siding, these stairs will fit right in in a cat lover’s living room, and there’s an area for storage under each step.

This high-end Tuft + Paw cat tree is probably the only cat tree that has ever been featured in Dezeen. It’ll set you back about $1,000, but if you have the money to spare (and a cat-loving friend who’d appreciate it), it’s a rare contemporary-looking piece of cat furniture that looks like it can actually stand up to regular use by multiple cats, thanks to its heavy-duty rope and carpet designed for scratching.

Cat beds and carriers

If a friend is welcoming a new cat to the family, Shimoda recommended “a cozy bed or cat cave to help ease their anxiety by giving them their own private space that feels safe and warm.” Lorbes says Nori heads straight for this Whisker City cat hut and hides “whenever the fire alarm in my apartment goes off.” Since the inside is padded with a removable pillow, it’s “very comfortable for her. I think she likes feeling protected.”

Even your most design-conscious friend won’t be ashamed to display this handsome tent in their living room. It’s more expensive than most of the cat beds out there, but when Adelson had a chance to test it out, she was impressed by the high-quality construction, sturdy wood base, and thick canvas cover.

If you’ve ever seen a cat sprawled out in a patch of sunlight or enjoying some outdoor time on a hot summer day, you know that felines seek the heat. Delgado told us “a cat’s comfort zone starts at around 82 degrees” and they’d appreciate the added warmth of a heated bed. Krause agreed that “cats love to be warm,” and suggested this style of bed. While the brand advertises its electrical cord is “MET listed for safety,” it’s always best to use a heated bed under supervision.

When choosing a gift for the cat owner of an older cat (cats are considered seniors once they turn 11), Atsumi recommends “a cushioned, heated cat bed for achy joints.” While all cats appreciate a warm napping spot, it’s especially important for seniors. Krause explained that “as they age, cats tend to seek heat and have more trouble staying warm in the winter.” Henley suggested a mat, like this one, with an insulated layer that keeps cats warm using their own body heat (instead of electricity) so you don’t have to worry about letting your cat use it unattended.

Even though it’s technically for dogs, the smallest version of this cozy, shaggy bed (that several Strategist team members own and love) is perfectly sized for cats — to which lots of Amazon reviewers can attest. As certified professional animal behaviorist Jessica Gore told Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo, “It’s great for warm snuggling and cuddling and provides just enough support and security for smaller body types.” And one Amazon shopper reports, “I bought the bed for my Chihuahua, and she loves it a lot but then my cat took over and she loves it, too. So I bought another bed for the cat.”

Or you can take a cue from confessed cat lady Taylor Swift, who uses this stylish backpack to carry her cats around. Over at Vulture, former senior Snapchat editor Devon Sherer tested one out herself with her cat, the Captain, and discovered it’s “as life-changing as it looks.” As Sherer reports, “I will even leave the bag out when we aren’t using it, since the cats enjoy getting into it and glaring at me through the bubble window.”

Unlike dogs, who often get excited for a ride in the car or a walk around the block, cat owners know that coaxing an unenthusiastic kitty into a carrier can be a bit like, well, herding cats. Kerrie McKeon, resident cat expert at the animal welfare and adoption organization Bideawee, said “The key to easier travel, whether it’s simply a trip to the vet, or a car trip over the holidays, is a carrier your cat doesn’t hate and fear.” To solve the problem, she recommends the Sleepypod, calling it a “game changer, as your cat can use it as a bed when at home, thereby reducing negative associations.” Just fold down the sides and it becomes a plush, semi-enclosed bed.

Chewy resident pet expert Samantha Schwab recommended this soothing toy with a touch-activated purring mechanism for cats that are easily stressed. It’s cozy to cuddle up with at home or in any other situation that could make your cat anxious, like when guests come to visit or while traveling.

Accessories and grooming

This matching collar and friendship bracelet lets a cat owner show off their BFF (best feline friend) status. As Caitlin Ultimo, a former resident pet expert and content manager at Chewy, said, “any pet parent will jump at the opportunity to rep their pet, and this is just an understated way to do just that.” For the fashionable cat, there’s also this suede and leather option that comes in a “caviar” tin.

Writer Duncan Goodwin, who happens to be married to former Strategist senior editor Tony Rotunno, shared a guide to the care and keeping of their hairless sphynx cat, Pebbles. The main takeaway: Hairless cats need a good amount of upkeep. But they can also pull off cat clothing, like this tie-dye tee that Goodwin says “fits her snugly without being restrictive” and keeps her warm in the colder months.

If you know your friend’s cat loves venturing into the great outdoors, a harness-and-leash set will allow them to explore safely and securely. Dr. Darcia Kostiuk, a senior veterinarian with Champion Petfoods, gives a thumbs up to this Good2Go set, which features generous padding that she says makes for “maximum comfort.” Additional mesh on the bodice helps with breathability.

Lorbes uses some of this waterless shampoo on her cat when she feels that Nori could use some extra grooming but doesn’t need a full-on bath. “I spray it on my hands and then rub it all over her body, so she thinks I’m just petting her,” Lorbes says. “She doesn’t mind it, she doesn’t try to remove it from her fur or anything.” Its pleasantly subtle coconut-vanilla fragrance is a bonus, Lorbes adds, but won’t irritate either humans or cats who are sensitive to scents.

According to Ultimo, “Cats are very clean pets, and they are good at taking care of their own grooming needs. That being said, their aptitude for self-care can sometimes result in a buildup of hair balls.” To save your cat-owning friends from the gross experience of cleaning up regurgitated fur, a FURminator brush helps get rid of excess hair. Brushing can also be a soothing way for a cat and their owner to bond. Strategist contributor Elizabeth Gumport actually wrote an ode to the FURminator here.

All cat owners struggle with the Sisyphean task of preventing cat hair from covering every surface in their homes. To tackle the fur madness, Shimoda loves “this amazing two-sided grooming tool that brushes the cats and removes hair from your furniture.”

Cat books

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

For anyone interested in kitten care (or just adorable pictures of tiny kittens), Bleicher recommends Shaw’s book, in which she outlines how to care for newborn cats and shares her personal rescue stories. Bleicher calls her “the foremost expert on neonatal kitten care,” and added, “her sold-out speaking engagements across the country are [a] testament to her compassion for these smallest of furry fighters.”

Photographer Walter Chandoha devoted most of his decades-long career to capturing images of cats, in all of their grandeur (and silliness). This volume, a collection of more than 60 years of his work, made our list of the most giftable coffee table books of 2019, and would definitely earn a prized place in any cat lover’s home.

Some cats enjoy going on leashed walks outdoors, but a harness and leash might be a risky gift if you don’t know your friend’s cat’s temperament. If you think they’ll find the idea intriguing, though, Shaw recommends giving a cat owner a copy of Adventure Cats for “inspiration and instructions.” With useful tips and beautiful photography of cats exploring mountains, deserts, forests, and more, it may pique an owner’s interest in bringing their kitty outdoors.

For cat ladies and gents who already have it all, or ones you aren’t sure what to buy for, Shaw loves this book of “epic, beautiful, and downright hysterical photos of cats enjoying the green stuff” from cat photographer Andrew Marttila. Even the most reserved cats get silly under the influence, and this endearing collection captures them in all their blissed-out stoner glory.

When Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla learned about the bookstore Pillow-Cat Books, she was immediately enchanted by its animal theme — every book has to have animal in it. “The store just feels really fun,” Pardilla says. “They sell everything from really rare copies to more recent releases — think of what you’d see in the basement of some eclectic recluse’s estate sale.” As a cat lover, she was delighted to discover a cornucopia of cat-themed books such as the cult classic Dancing With Cats, as well as nostalgic favorites like Garfield in Training and a Hello Kitty book that will “probably be worth something someday.”

On Yappy, you can personalize tons of gifts with a pet’s likeness, from pillows to coasters to tote bags. Illustrator Rod Hunt’s Where’s Waldo?–style book inserts an illustrated Fido or Mittens into intricate scenes of amusement parks, opera performances, and history museums. Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio bought the dog version for her nieces and it was a big hit: “It’s definitely cute for families with kids who love their furry siblings,” she says.

Litter boxes and cleaning tools

Treat your loved one to the luxury of never having to scoop through a waste-filled litter box again with this self-cleaning litter “robot” that Bleicher owns multiples of. (He does live with up to ten cats at a time, though — both his own and fosters.) “They’re by far the most well built and reliable automatic litter boxes on the market, and they completely eliminate scooping from your daily routine,” he told us.

Modkat Top Entry Litter Box
$90
$90

If the Litter Robot is a little (or a lot) out of your price range, Viera-Newton is head over heels for the Modkat Top Entry Litter Box, which her mom gifted her for Christmas one year. The litter box design requires cats to jump into a contained space to do their business, thus minimizing litter tracking and preventing pee leakage. It also features a reusable liner for quick cleanup.

Not all cats like to be in an enclosed space when they visit the litter box. If your cat is one of them, this box from Tuft + Paw is a streamlined option with built-in slots to hold the included scooper and floor brush. The company went through several prototypes to get the box just right for both cats and their owners. Adelson received a model to test out and was impressed with how functional and sturdy the box felt.

$10

“I’m personally going be gifting this to all my friends who have cats,” says Hana of this Litter Lifter scooper. She’s deemed it “the king of scoops” for its hefty size and the way its crevices are designed so that “you don’t have to shake that much, you just lift and the litter falls out.” She confesses to feeling a bit “unhinged” because she’s so passionate about it and can’t stop evangelizing it to all her friends. “It’s just one of those small things that doesn’t cost too much, doesn’t take up too much space, but really makes a difference,” she said.

Although cats are obsessive about keeping themselves clean, sometimes it’s hard to mask litter-box smells in a tiny apartment. Adelson learned about these candles from her vet after asking how he got his office to smell so pleasant and so not like a vet’s office. They’re designed by veterinarians and made up of a blend of natural enzymes that actually destroy airborne animal odors at a molecular level, instead of just masking the smells. She likes this citrusy scent, but you can choose from dozens of other options, including vanilla and sandalwood.

Or if they own multiple cats and are in need of an odor eliminator that’s a little more heavy-duty, Strategist contributor Julia Gomez Kramer says this Rocco & Roxie deodorizer is “surprisingly powerful” and “has done wonders at neutralizing the smell of stinky litter in our apartment.” The product comes in the form of pellets that she shakes into the litter box; the pellets will “absorb the odors rather than mask them” so the “litter box smells more like nothing than anything.”

$25

Lorbes finds this reusable pet hair remover much more effective than a regular lint roller “because it works like a vacuum and you don’t have to deal with any sticky parts.” A brush inside collects all the hair, and you can press a button on the handle to empty the waste compartment. Since Lorbes owns a white couch and a black cat, when she has guests over she rolls over it “a few times” with this brush and “[the hair] is gone.”

This gift is not exactly luxe, but it is incredibly practical. If your cat is prone to coughing up hairballs and other unmentionables on your carpets and rugs, Brooklyn-based pharmacist Sera McNutt — cat parent to Santana and Konni — is obsessed with her Bissell carpet and upholstery cleaner. “It’s a godsend,” she says. “I love it because it’s pretty small and therefore easy to store, has cleaning solution built into the mechanism, and has worked on every stain I’ve tried it on.”

Simple and unobtrusive as a Glade plug-in, this little gift could be a godsend for cat owners dealing with frequently hissing cats. While often thought of as a sign of aggression, “it’s actually a defense mechanism” says Ultimo. “If your cat is hissing, they may feel threatened or on high alert.” This diffuser emits an odorless vapor that mimics a cat’s natural soothing pheromones, sending signals to her brain that relieve stress. It can also help with destructive scratching and litter-box issues.

Cat gear for humans

$10

Yes, it’s technically worn by cats, but it’s pretty obvious this adorable lion costume is meant much more for their owners’ enjoyment. And at under $10, it’s not a huge investment if your cat only tolerates wearing it long enough to get a shot for Instagram. It’s one of the best-rated cat Halloween costumes on Amazon, and one reviewer calls it “great entertainment.”