Safest toys for when your pet is home alone

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Most pets are content to roam around the house and sleep all day, but will probably need some mental stimulation at some point or another.

Toys help alleviate boredom when their beloved pawrents aren't home, and can often be the barrier between them destroying pillows or digging up the garden. They help to stimulate and entertain your pet and keep them happy and healthy. The last thing you want to do after a day in the office is rush your pet to the emergency vet because they got bored and swallowed or played with something they shouldn't have. 

Ensuring the safety of your pet is one of your responsibilities as a pet owner. Giving your pet a toy that is not only mentally stimulating but does not pose any risks to their health and safety is incredibly important!

What to avoid

Cheap toys

Not all toys are created equal. Some are made more poorly than others, with cheaper materials or shortcuts that can compromise their structural integrity. While some cheap toys are acceptable for monitored play, paying a tad more can get you reinforced seams and a higher quality toy that could keep them occupied for longer. If your pet is an aggressive chewer, playing with a cheap toy made of plastic, for example, might do them more harm than good. 

We recommend avoiding toys made of hard or rubber plastic. Toys made of hard plastic can cause damage to your pet’s gums, especially if they’re an aggressive chewer. Instead, look for toys made of natural rubber, as they don’t tear apart as easily and are less likely to cause an obstruction.

While there are no pet toy safety standards or regulations in place right now, you can still take some measures to ensure your pet's toy is safe. Many pet owners opt for toys that are BPA-free or made from recyclable materials like hemp fibre, natural rubber, or bamboo.

A recent study found that BPA, a chemical found in hard plastic dog toys, some canned dog food and drink containers, can be toxic to dogs.

While it doesn't go into too much detail on the long-term effects, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid toys that contain BPA or are made of hard plastic.

Rope and string toys

Cats love to play with toys that resemble their prey – think mice, bugs, birds, or snakes.

Many cat toys, like wands, have a flexible string that cats like to pull and play with, resembling the moving prey they love to chase. If this string is swallowed or becomes detached from the wand, it can get anchored under your cat’s tongue, causing some serious, life-threatening pain.

Other toys like feathers, string, rope, rubber bands, and ribbons can pose the risk of strangulation, or choking if ingested. Toys made of rope or string especially can cause a blockage in the intestinal tract and can be a great cause of pain for your pet. While rope and string toys can be okay to give to your pet with supervision, we wouldn't recommend them for playtime while they’re home alone.

Small toys

Any toy small enough for your pet to swallow or choke on is a hazard. Rubber or plastic balls, stuffing from plush toys, and fillings like beads or polystyrene can all pose a health risk to your pet. We recommend pet-proofing the toy by removing any components of the toy (like eyes, tails, string, or ribbons) that are prone to falling off and becoming ingested.

Our recommendations

The best way to choose a safe toy for your pet is to know your pet’s play style. If you know they’re a rough player or an aggressive chewer, you probably wouldn't buy a soft plush toy because they’d mercilessly rip it apart and could ingest the stuffing or the squeaker. Consider a tougher, more durable toy, like a Kong, that doesn’t pose a choking hazard. 

Does your cat prefer to have mental stimulation, instead of sleeping the day away underneath the blanket? Think about investing in an interactive blanket, which will keep them foraging for toys and treats for hours.

Kong toys

Kong chew toy
Classic Kong Dog Toy
Starts at

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My dog has had a few Kong toys over the years, and finds endless joy in them.

Kong toys are made of hard (but not too hard) rubber and come in a wide variety of sizes. They also vary in durability, so you choose the best option for your dog depending on how much of a chewer they are. They also have options like the Kitty Kong for cats.

Kong toys can be stuffed with pastes, treats, or peanut butter (just double check your chosen brand does not contain xylitol, a toxic sugar substitute). They can also be frozen for an extra challenge, and are ideal for managing separation anxiety and boredom as your pet is often left licking it all day to get to the treat inside.

GOLDROC dental toys

GOLDROC dental toys

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We love the dental toys from GOLDROC. They can be stuffed with dog toothpaste to keep your pet's teeth extra clean, or they can serve as a treat dispenser.

Your pet has to chew and gnaw on the serrations to get to the treat inside, so it's great for keeping them busy during the day. It's an excellent way to relieve separation anxiety and keep your pet occupied for hours, as well as maintain or improve their dental hygiene.

Interactive mats

Interactive mat for cats

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Interactive blankets are safe, entertaining toys for both dogs and cats.

The WISTOM Cat Activity Mat has varying shapes you hide toys or snacks in, to keep your cat or kitten busy for hours. It encourages your cat to follow their hunting instincts by following their nose to get to the treats hidden inside the folds.

For an added element of fun, try altering the levels of the blanket with the clip buttons.

Interactive mat for dogs

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The SCHITEC Snuffle Mat is another fantastic interactive blanket. Not unlike the WISTOM blanket, you can hide treats or toys within the folds.

It can also be used as a slow feeding mat, as your pet has to follow their nose and work their way through the ruffles to get to their treats.

Final word

In a perfect world, we could take our pets with us everywhere we go. But we can’t, so it's important we do everything in our power to keep them out of harm’s way when we can’t be with them.

The best way we can do this is by ensuring they have toys that are not only safe but mentally stimulating. Some good rules are to steer clear of toys made of hard plastic, rubber plastic, small toys that could get lodged in their throat, and toys that are made of rope or string. 

A great way to keep an eye on your pets while you’re away is to invest in a home security camera. Check out the best pet cameras of 2023, or one of my personal favourites, the Wyze Cam Pam v3.

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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