Friday, May 29, 2009

Great Interactive Toy - The Tornado

Recently we saw a reference to dog toys created by Nina Ottosson. The reference was in a cat context, and the writer suggested that the Ottosson toys, though designed for dogs, were great for cats. We had never heard of Nina Ottosson, so we googled her, and we found quite a bit of information on her and her toys. We also found several toys that even she recommends for use with cats. The above link goes straight to her own site.

Ottosson creates toys that challenge dogs (and cats), and that force the animals to use their brains. We've been looking for toys like this for a long time. We have one item, which we ordered from Drs. Foster and Smith, called the Peek-a Prize Toy Box. It's a box with holes along all but its bottom panel. It comes with balls to bat around, but we put treats in it, forcing the cats to work to get the treats. Boo, seeming to have some Maine Coon blood, puts his paw in, curls his toes around the treat, and pulls it straight up out of the box! Ivan has to work a bit harder, but he uses a bit more ingenuity to get his treats. The photo here is from the Drs. Foster and Smith web site.

We wanted something a bit more challenging for our cats, so when we heard about the Ottosson toys, we were very interested. After reading about several of her toys, we were most intrigued by the "Tornado". It was specifically marketed for dogs and cats. Ottosson does have a page at her site where she indicates the featured toys can be used by dogs, cats, "Polecats, Mini pigs, Parrots, Ratts [sic], Horses..." However, the Tornado looked to us like the easiest one for cats to use. (The word polecat, by the way, refers to a different animal in Europe than it does in the U.S. In the U.S. it is a skunk, but in Europe it refers to another member of the Mustelid family which we in the U.S. would call a ferret). Interestingly, the skill level of the Tornado is listed as "hard" on the box, but Ivan figured out the general principle, at least, in a matter of seconds! Of course, most cat lovers would argue that cats are more intelligent than dogs, and that this is proof. However, as we love cats and dogs, we will refrain from getting embroiled in that argument!

The Tornado is a bone-shaped toy (hey, the cats don't notice!) composed of different levels with compartments. Each level rotates separately around the center of the toy - hence the name Tornado. The cat must use its nose and/or paws to move the different levels and expose the compartments. We placed a piece of freeze-dried salmon in each compartment, and then we rotated all pieces so that each level lined up with the others and all compartments were covered. The salmon has a relatively strong smell which the cats love, and so they become intent on finding each piece (needless to say, they also love to eat the salmon!).

We videotaped Ivan and Boo (mostly Ivan) having a go with the Tornado.

We put a piece of salmon in each compartment and let them have at it. The video is only about three and a half minutes long, but the total elapsed time it took Ivan to find every piece of salmon was about 10 minutes. That's a long time to keep a cat busy! Even if you don't watch the entire video, just watching a few seconds of it will give you an idea of how it works.

We highly recommend this toy to mentally stimulate your cat(s). However, we have to add that they are not very interested in finding Greenies in this toy. These boys will only work for freeze dried salmon (which we discussed in a previous blog entry)! We purchased the toy from Dogs in Play via It was $49.99. This is expensive, but after seeing our cats with it, we feel it is well worth the price. However, with a bit of web research, you may be able to find it for a lower price.

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