Toys and playtime aren’t just a bonus for your pets—they need fun engagement to learn, stay active, and avoid boredom. Play can also help reinforce the good behavior you want in your pet and socialize them with people and other animals.
But not all pet toys are created equal. Depending on your pet’s size and personality, some toys are safer—and more fun—than others. Keep your pet’s playtime as fun as possible by using this guide to find out what hazards toys can present, how to select the safest toys for your pet, and the safe pet toys we recommend.
Pet toy hazards to watch out for
The safest toy for your pet isn’t necessarily the fanciest or newest item at the pet store. In fact, the toy your pet is most attracted to may be the most dangerous. Here are some of the most common things to be aware of.
Avoid toys that have strong chemical smells and beware of bright fabrics that may have toxic dyes. Some toys contain toxic levels of lead, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals, so research brands before you purchase toys.1 Stay away from toys that include aromatherapy and other herbal remedies: animals are sensitive to many plants and herbs, some of which can be deadly.
Dog and cat toys with ribbons, loose string or yarn, decorative eyes, or buttons present choking or digestive hazards. Feathers and bells look like fun, but unfortunately, many pets can easily remove them.
If a toy is stuffed, make sure your pet can digest the material if they break into the fluff. Watch out for stuffing that includes beads, nutshells, or other small items that are not good for your pet’s tummy.
Rawhide dog toys can also present digestive and choking issues. Consult your vet before giving any rawhide chews to your dog to make sure that you choose the safest option.
Yarn and string
Sadly, that leftover ball of yarn isn’t the best choice to keep your kitty safe and entertained. Yarn, ribbons, and strings can present a strangulation hazard for your cat, and if swallowed, may result in intestinal blockage.
Toys with small openings or gaps—like those colorful balls with bells in the middle—present another danger to felines: your kitty could get their paws stuck.
How to pick safe toys
Just because a toy is at the pet store doesn’t guarantee that it’s a safe choice for your furry friend. Use this guide, the advice of your vet, and input from other trusted pet owners to pick the safest toys. When it comes to particular brands, research company practices, materials, ingredients, and consumer satisfaction.
Closely inspect all toys for durability and safety, and prepare to modify them to increase their safety for your pet. If you can’t avoid strings, ribbons, or feathers, remove them before letting your pet dig into the fun. If you’re getting a cat post, make sure it is stable enough to stand on its own or secure it to a wall.
Consider the size of your pet. Some toys may be safe for smaller animals but present a choking hazard for larger ones. Take your pet’s behavior into consideration as well. Most dogs don’t simply chew on toys—they shred them. If you have a pup like this, seek out toys made of heavy, durable rubber to ensure they last longer and present fewer choking risks.
Best safe dog toys
Once you know what to look for, it’s time for the fun to start. Here’s a look at our favorite safe toys for your rambunctious pup.
This classic chew toy provides a safe way to engage your pet in both physical and mental exercise. You can throw it for a game of fetch or fill it with a KONG treat to keep your dog busy. Made of bouncy, durable material that holds up against even the most avid chewers, KONG toys are highly recommended by owners and vets. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, and prices.
These cute stuffed toys made our list thanks to goDog’s Chew Guard Technology, which adds a tough liner to help them last longer. In addition, all seams are double-stitched to stand up to the most enthusiastic play. The company even offers a one-time free replacement if this toy doesn’t last longer than other plush toys you’ve used. Priced around $10, this safe toy’s value can’t be beaten.
When it comes to rope toys, quality is the key to keeping your pup safe. You don’t want a rope that will easily fray, making it easy for your dog to swallow fibers. We like Multipet rope toys because they are inexpensive, well-made, strong, and able to endure a lot of play. The knots present less material for fraying than a traditional tug rope, which helps them last longer than many rope toys. No matter how tough a rope toy is, supervise your dog—consider using a pet cam when you’re away—and retire the toy as soon as you see any sign of fraying.
Made for dogs in need of mental stimulation, this mat provides multiple tasks to keep your dog on their toes. It comes with different components that let you configure unique challenges for your dog to figure out. The ActivityMat is made of nylon and comes with non-slip backing to make sure your pup stays safe and stable while they nose around for their reward. The starter kit costs about $50 and includes three activities that you can reconfigure into hundreds of fun challenges.
Best safe cat toys
Dogs aren’t the only ones who like to have a good time. Keep your kitty entertained with these cat toys that stand up to our standards for both safety and fun.
This ingenious toy combines two of your cat’s favorite things: scratching and chasing. The round toy has a scratchpad center surrounded by a track with a small ball that will keep your kitten batting for hours. It is BPA free, and the ball is solid and large enough to stay out of your cat’s mouth. The scratchpads are inexpensive and replaceable, and the scratcher itself costs less than $12.
We love this interactive toy because the fleece used to make the wand is less likely to tear and fray than other fabrics, which means your kitty is safe from choking. The bright colors and nearly four feet of playful fabric are sure to entrance your cat as you entice them to chase the wand. This wand is also very sturdy, and it’s nearly impossible for a cat to pull the material from the stick. For less than $5, this is one of the safest deals you’ll find.
We already love KONG products for our pups, and now the company has put together a safe plush toy that cats love. These toys are made without mylar, elastic, bells, or strings, which means your kitty can toss this squirrel around or safely cuddle with it. There’s also a refillable pouch that keeps catnip secure. This safe, snuggly toy is available as an add-on item for just $4.
You may have a state-of-the-art pet feeder, but this toy turns mealtime into playtime and gives your cat the extra mental stimulation they crave. Designed to tap into a cat’s instinct to catch food with their paws, this feeder lets them dig for their food, rather than scarfing it down the minute the bowl is placed in front of them. In addition to providing stimulation, this BPA-free feeder also helps cats slow down when they eat, which minimizes vomiting and improves digestion. You can add extra pizzazz to mealtime with this safe and fun feeder for less than $20.
Providing safe fun for your pet is just one of the ways you show you care. Spread the love by letting other pet parents know about these safe pet toy options. Let us know in the comments which toy you can’t wait to bring home or which awesome safe toy we missed.
*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more