Kicker toys are among the best toys for cats because they engage your cat’s natural predatory instincts to grab, hold, and kick their prey.
“Grabbing and kicking start out as a form of play in kittens but serves a purpose when the cat is grown,” explains animal trainer, zookeeper, and "How to Clicker Train Your Cat" author Stephanie Mantilla. “These play behaviors are practicing skills the cat would use as an adult to survive. Grabbing and kicking are how a cat will defend itself if attacked and also how they attack prey. By practicing these skills, the cat would have a better chance of survival. Your cat at home still has these primal instincts even though it may not be necessary to use these skills. In this case, it is a great way for your cat to burn off excess energy and have some mental stimulation.”
We tested 21 different kicker toys with a variety of cats—both kittens and curmudgeons—at Whatcom Humane Society in Bellingham, Washington, over a three-week period and also at home with two middle-aged cats. Each toy was observed and rated on its durability, safety, entertainment, design, and overall value.
Our top pick, the Petmate Jackson Galaxy Ultimate Bunny Kicker, features a spring action that simulates natural prey, triggering your cat’s hunting instincts. It is also one of the toughest and safest toys we tested.
Here are the best cat kickers available today, based on our extensive testing.
Jackson Galaxy Ultimate Bunny Kicker
Spring action response
Quality at a moderate price
Simple, lightweight, safe design
Catnip is not refillable—spot-clean only
Made in China
The Petmate Jackson Galaxy Ultimate Bunny Kicker is one of the longer kickers we tested at 13.5 inches. It’s made of bright green canvas that’s thick and durable and showed barely any sign of wear after several aggressive play sessions.
The design is unique among the other kickers we tested. A curved springy rod is sewn inside the length of the toy so that when a cat kicks it, the rod will bend backward in response and then spring back into place afterward. Cats seemed to love this feature that is meant to mimic natural prey. Although cats seemed to drool a lot while biting and playing, the canvas dried quickly without leaving noticeable stains.
We also noticed that one cat played so physically that they shed two claw layers while clawing the sturdy denim. A cat's claw has layers like an onion. As the claw grows out, the outer layer sheds periodically, making way for a stronger, sharper claw underneath. This kicker helped facilitate this normal, healthy process.
The only downside is that the catnip can’t be refilled. A little crinkling would have been nice too.
Price at time of publish: $12
Length: 13.5 inches | Colors: Green | Extras: Organic catnip sewn inside
Multipet Katz Kickerz Cat Toy with Catnip
Excellent length and size
Durable polyester fabric that can be spot-cleaned
You don’t get to select the print—you get what you get
Feathers get destroyed quickly
As you’ll read below in the What to Look For section, cost is not really a clear indicator of whether your cat will like the toy nor how durable or lasting it will be. The cost of cat kickers ranged from about $3 to more than $25 each. Some of the best were also among the most affordable. So it’s possible to get a quality, durable toy for under $10.
We liked this toy because it is among the longest kickers available, making it perfect for larger cats. This kicker also has the loudest crinkle of the 21 toys we tested. While that scared the more timid cats at first, they were able to get past it and eventually were spurred on by the responsiveness of the noise.
The Multipet Katz Kickerz is quite fluffy, so cats loved grabbing and hanging on and played with this toy for extended periods of time. Although they absolutely loved the feathers on each end, they were virtually destroyed after the first couple of uses (they are securely attached and did not come off during play).
The Katz Kickerz come in a bunch of fun animal skin patterns—zebra, giraffe, leopard, and jaguar—but there’s no way to select a preference when ordering online.
Price at time of publish: $6
Length: 17 inches | Colors: Four safari prints—leopard, zebra, giraffe, and jaguar | Extras: Catnip sewn inside
Potaroma Electric Flopping Fish
Durable, realistic-looking yet soft, plush fish body
Affordable and safe
Makes a mild banging and mechanical noise that scares some timid cats at first
Cats couldn’t resist this flopping fish. It triggered their instincts to pin it down to stop the flop. The Potaroma Electric Flopping Fish is an excellent choice for older and more picky cats that won’t play with just any toy. This kicker was a close runner-up for Best Overall for a number of reasons.
The Potaroma Flopping Fish has a rechargeable electronic unit inside a zippered pouch. You turn on the switch and the fish flops like a real fish. Cats returned to this toy often and played for longer periods of time because they just couldn’t resist grabbing and pinning the interactive flopping tail. Some cats played with it on and off for more than 40 minutes at a time before needing a nap. Even after taking breaks cats returned to chew the tail and face. They rubbed and marked the catnip in the convenient zippered pocket.
Even older cats who showed no interest in other toys enjoyed this realistic-looking fish. They just had to "stop the flop." The toy showed no signs of wear despite several aggressive play sessions. While the internal electronics appear to be low end, they recharged quickly and performed reliably.
The external cover is made of soft yet durable plush that protects your cats as they nibble and struggle with the fish. The electronics and catnip can be removed so the fish can be hand-washed if needed.
While cats love the flopping fish, it is a little noisy, so you’re likely to get sick of it before your cat does.
Price at time of publish: $14
Length: 11.3 inches | Styles: Rainbow trout, clownfish, crucian carp, grass carp, red carp, and salmon | Extras: Comes with recharging USB cable and catnip
Kong Kickeroo Cat Toy
Adorable animal designs
Premium North American catnip
Ears and other parts were not very sturdily attached
While your cat isn’t likely to notice, we couldn’t resist the cute animal design of the Kong Kickeroo toys. Our favorite is the kangaroo toy—which includes a joey pouch for extra catnip and a fluffy red tail—but each Kickeroo is packed with premium catnip and crinkles on contact. Some of the Kickeroos come with little accessories, like the seasonal witch.
We liked the soft, yet strong polyester fabric that showed almost no signs of wear after play. The Kong Kickeroo is a nice size because it’s long enough to kick and claw but also lightweight enough for some cats to carry around. And while we were less than impressed with the construction of the ears, tails, and other features, the toy held up well to roughhousing throughout our testing period.
Price at time of publish: $7
Length: 16 inches, although tail is not rigid | Styles: Kangaroo, frog, raccoon, bear, witch | Extras: Catnip sewn in
Twin Critters Kittilush Refillable Plush Organic Silvervine Toys
Organic and no additives or preservatives
Lots of fun novelty designs
The zipper on the refillable pouch isn’t very sturdy
A zipper pocket on a toy allows you to remove stale catnip and replace it with fresh catnip so that your cat will have renewed interest in it. This also enables you to remove the catnip for hand- or machine-washing if needed. Those without pockets tend to have a shorter life because cats can lose interest in the toy.
Our favorite cat toys with zippered pouches are the Twin Critters Refillable Plush Organic Silvervine Toys, which use powdered silvervine instead of catnip. Silvervine is a species of kiwifruit that has a similar effect on cats as catnip and will often work with cats that don’t respond to catnip. Since not all cats respond strongly to catnip, the addition of silvervine fruit ensures your cat will go wild for this toy.
Of course, with the zippered pouch on each Twin Critters Refillable Toy, you can always switch to catnip.
These toys are available in a wide range of designs, including fish, cigars, and branded coffee cups, but our favorites are the “Kittilush” line, which includes kicker wine, liquor, and beer bottles. The vice-based designs make for great photos and are an excellent gift for the cat owner in your life with a sense of humor. The zipper is sturdy and sewn in well. The soft plush polyester-blend fabric is durable and can be hand- or machine-washed if necessary once you remove the catnip or silvervine.
Price at time of publish: $21
Length: 12 inches | Styles: Packs of two—wine bottles, beer bottles, coffee cups, liquor bottles, cigars, sardines, unicorns, and vegetables | Extras: Catnip and silvervine blend
Best for Kittens
Mad Cat Cactus Kicker
Contains silvervine catnip blend
Substantial polyester blend fabric and solid stitching
Catnip and silvervine are sewn in—toy not refillable or washable
For about the first year of their life, feisty kittens love to grab and kick and are often more responsive to catnip and silvervine. Although full-grown adult cats tend to prefer kickers that are at least 10 inches long, kittens and smaller cats find a lot of joy in grabbing and kicking toys that are shorter than 10 inches.
We liked this crinkly, well-made cactus-shaped kicker. Young cats were immediately interested in the pure and pesticide-free catnip and silvervine blend. Even after extensive kicking, the toy showed no signs of wear. The cats liked the crinkle sound and enjoyed biting the cactus spines, which are simple yet sturdily bound strings. The craftsmanship of this toy was superb compared to many others, with high-quality stitching, embroidered eyes and flower, and soft, plush fabric.
While our favorite is the Cactus Kicker, there were several similar toys that our cats loved just as much. The Petco Leaps & Bounds Little Thrills Bunny Kicker and Kong Wrangler Cactus Cat Toy were strong runners-up in the kitten category.
Price at time of publish: $7
Length: 10 inches | Styles: Cactus | Extras: Catnip and silvervine sewn inside
Best Fish-Shaped Kicker
SPOT Hug'n Kick Gone Fishin' Cat Toy
Among the most durable fabrics
Catnip is sewn in and not refillable
You don’t know which style you will receive—you get what you get
Made in China
It’s hard to say if your cat is more enticed by a cat toy that looks like a fish than other toy types, but a number of realistic cat kickers are shaped and printed to look like a fish.
We liked this fish because it had a satisfying crinkle when grabbed, and its polyester fabric was quite sturdy and securely sewn. Although it had a felt fin that was less tough than the other fabric, it held up to play and biting. The cats we tested it with responded quickly to the catnip and loved rolling on it and marking it. They especially enjoyed chewing the realistic-looking tail fins. Cats also liked that this toy was lightweight enough to be carried around.
Price at time of publish: $8
Length: 10 to 14 inches | Styles: Three different types of fish | Extras: Catnip already sewn inside
Jackson Galaxy Hunting Instincts Kicker Cat Toy
Satisfying rip noise
Tough canvas and thick felt
Felt midsection shows wear faster than canvas
This dumbbell-shaped toy is made of enduring orange canvas with a thick felt midsection. Perfect for cats who like to kick, this unique design features a subtle ripping sound that gives cats a satisfying sensation while they kick, which triggers their predatory instincts. The organic catnip keeps them coming back for more sustained play.
The Best Overall Petmate Jackson Galaxy Ultimate Bunny Kicker was longer and slightly more durable because it lacks the softer felt midsection, but cats loved this product's chunky ends and ripping response.
Price at time of publish: $11
Length: 11 inches | Colors: Orange | Extras: Catnip sewn in
Kitty Kick Stix Original Catnip Kicker Toy
Organic catnip grown in the United States
Catnip is sewn in—toy not refillable nor washable
Includes a bell that doesn’t jingle
Although this kicker might not look like a splurge at first glance because it's just a long fabric tube, it is worth the $11+ price tag each. It’s an excellent length at 15 inches and has organic catnip sewn in, with durable double-stitched seams. Kitty Kick Stix has been a family-owned business since 2012 and is one of just a few that are handmade and shipped in the United States.
You can choose from among nine vibrant, rainbow-colored prints or elect to be surprised by choosing the “mystery” option. The fabric is cute and double layered to last. They come in a pack of two, so you can put each in a different room or save the second one for later.
Cats loved the length and played with it for longer periods of time than other toys. Most cats returned to it multiple times and enjoyed scratching and biting it. It showed no signs of wear after each use, although it got quite damp from mouthing and cat hair sticks well to the soft yet durable cotton-blend fabric.
This same product is also available in 6- and 11-inch lengths, for kittens and smaller cats.
When you buy direct from Kitty Kick Stix you can choose the shelter or rescue to which they’ll donate a percentage of each sale, so you can feel good about your purchase.
Price at time of publish: $24
Length: 15 inches | Colors: Colorful Paws, Paint the Cats, Crayola Cats, Glittery Butterfly, Kitties in the News, Neon Cats, Pretty Kitties, Unicorn Kitties, Calico Purple | Extras: Organic catnip and a bell sewn in
The Petmate Jackson Galaxy Ultimate Bunny Kicker earned our Best Overall spot because this affordable, tough canvas toy offers a satisfying spring action that stimulates your cat’s natural hunting instincts.
Cats of all ages and those who are especially picky won’t be able to resist pinning, biting, and kicking the interactive flopping tail of the Potaroma Electric Flopping Fish. The periodic flop will bring them back for long bouts of energetic play and mental stimulation.
What to Look for in Kicker Toys for Cats
Some cats, especially those over a few years old, may have no interest in cat kickers or cat toys in general, regardless of the toy. So first pay attention to your cat’s behavior. Do they tend to run around and play with items that aren’t cat toys? Or are they a couch potato? If your cat is generally playful, then it might be worth buying cat kickers. But you might have to try a couple of different kinds to find the one that works best for your cat.
While kittens and cats under about 3 seemed to reliably appreciate cat kicker toys, older cats varied widely in their preferences and playfulness. In general, we found that older cats that ignored most kickers still couldn’t resist the interactive flop of a moving fish kicker.
Design and Length
To be a quality kicker for adult cats, the length should be about 12 inches or longer. For kittens under a year old, more than 6 inches.
Animal trainer, zookeeper, and "How to Clicker Train Your Cat" author Stephanie Mantilla told The Spruce Pets, “For kicker toys, you'll want one that isn't too heavy and is long and thin.” “Think about your cat's body size. They'll want to be able to hold the toy with their front paws but be able to kick it with their hind legs. Kicking toys are typically around 7 inches long and may even have a tail attached to one end. Sometimes the toy will look like an animal, such as a fish.”
Several of the kickers also contain a material sewn inside that makes a satisfying crinkle noise. The amount of crinkling varies widely. Some scaredy cats don’t appreciate the crinkle at first, but if the toy is satisfying, they will get past the noise. Bolder cats are spurred on by it.
Although your cat doesn’t care much about aesthetics, there’s quite a range when it comes to the cuteness factor. Some of the most functional kickers look pretty plain to humans while even the cutest ones were not appealing to cats if they weren’t long enough or if their catnip isn’t powerfully scented.
Many include catnip or a catnip/silvervine blend sewn into the unit. Those without zippered pockets are not refillable nor washable and therefore have a shorter life and could end up in the landfill after just a couple of months.
Cats seemed to enjoy biting and chewing features like fuzzy tails, felt ears, or other appendages that stick out.
Safety and Durability
Durability and safety go hand in hand because if parts of the toy are not durable, they can be chewed or pulled off and swallowed. So inspect a kicker toy carefully before purchase or before giving it to your pet each time. Be sure that seams are still intact so that your cat won’t end up eating the stuffing. Check that any pieces such as felt ears or fuzzy tails are securely attached either via sewing or a sturdy nontoxic glue. As the toy wears out, these pieces can come loose and be swallowed. Remove the pieces if there is any sign they are loose, or remove the toy from circulation to ensure your pet’s safety.
Overall durability is often related to materials and craftsmanship. “For material, you'll want the fabric to be tightly woven so your cat's nails don't get easily caught,” says Mantilla. “From there, it's what your cat prefers. If they like fuzzy toys, choose a faux fur fabric. If they like catnip, you can usually find toys with catnip inside. Just make sure all components of the toy are safe for your cat. Some cats may try to eat the toy if it is made of real fur or could choke on small ornaments attached to it.”
Some kickers are made from tough canvas or denim. Felt is a common fabric that doesn’t tend to hold up to aggressive play as well as some others. Regularly inspect synthetic and "furry" fabrics: They tend to shed fibers, and long strands can hide holes that allow any polyester stuffing to leak out and be eaten.
There doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection between cost and durability, craftsmanship, or safety. In other words, some of the least expensive toys can still be durable, safe, and well-made, so don’t rely on cost as a guide to quality. Instead, inspect the toy’s seams and materials and opt for those that are carefully crafted and sturdy.
Entertainment and Value
No matter the cost of a toy, it's not valuable unless your cat will actually play with it. Cost did not seem to correlate with the entertainment value of a toy. Some of the moderately priced were the most durable and engaging while many cats completely ignored the most expensive toys. In our testing, some of the most popular were those that contained a blend of silvervine with catnip and toys that had interactive components like pockets, tails, or moving parts.
Is it okay to let cats play with kicker toys unsupervised?
“Unless your cat has shown unsafe play in the past, kicker toys are usually a tube of fabric sewn shut and are relatively safe,” notes Mantilla. “But if your cat tries to eat filling or has done something else with toys that make you worried, it's probably best to supervise them with their kicker toy, especially on its first use. Some cats are gentle players and the toy will look good as new for years while other cats tear through toys in a few days or weeks. Once the toy is worn out, it should be replaced.”
Are motorized kickers safe for cats?
“For motorized kicker toys, make sure you initially supervise your cat with them to see how they interact with them,” suggests Mantilla. “If using a motorized kicker toy, the electronic parts should be completely enclosed by the fabric so that your cat can't get parts of its body pinched. Over time, the kicking your cat does could tear or wear down the fabric surrounding the motor, so make sure to discard it if that happens. Some cats are much rougher players than others.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
The Spruce Pets exhaustively researches and recommends a broad range of products. We also tap a network of experts and testers to help you make smarter purchases.
This piece was researched and written by Lorraine Wilde, who tested 21 different cat kickers. She observed three to six different cats play with each toy, some on multiple occasions. Each was rated on durability, safety, entertainment, design, and overall value.
Wilde has been a dedicated pet lover and owner of cats and dogs for the past 35 years. When researching each product and brand, she also considered customer reviews, the company’s research and development, and its business ethics. She also holds a master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets and our planet.
Stephanie Mantilla is an experienced positive-reinforcement-based animal trainer with a focus on cat behavior. Her 12 years as a zookeeper have given her experience and training with a range of animals, from lions, cheetahs, and tigers to bears, elephants, shrews, and monkeys. Mantilla is also the author of the book "How to Clicker Train Your Cat," where she walks pet parents through the steps for training their cats the fun way.