Cats. They're either asleep or being perfection incarnate. To distract them from the aspects of their wondrousness that involve destroying our furniture when awake, their humanslaves may give them toys. Now a German company called 4cats Heimtierbedarf has created supersize toys for supersized cats, not for that furry load you overfeed but for tigers and other big cats in zoos, who tend to have boredom issues. 4cats has begun to donate branded giant cat toys to zoos in markets where it sells its regular cat toys. Its latest munificence has reached the big cats of Hamerton Zoo Park in Cambridgeshire, England.
Like your cat, zoo tigers and lions and their ilk get bored, and they can't climb the curtains or whack you for entertainment because they are in cages. Enter the giant cat toys, which 4cats stuffs with hay laced with "cat attractants" such as valerian to keep them engaged once the toy, being inanimate, has exhausted its novelty.
4cats, which designed the toys in-house, had a pretty straightforward concept, says spokesman Marc-André Runcie-Unger. It simply supersized the popular types of cat toys it sold. Why not: cat is cat, whether three kilos in weight or three hundred.
One might wonder if a lion that can strangle and eviscerate a gnu in minutes wouldn't ruin a catnip-stuffed toy in seconds. Yes, it could, but 4cats explains that it makes the big-cat toys of sisal, a durable cactus fiber. The toys are dyed with natural substances such as beet juice, to ensure that they are not toxic to the big cats, the company says. Nice: we wouldn't want our lions to be exposed to toxins like we are in our foods, kitchens, garages, bathrooms, hair dye, makeup, office environment, etc.
The company tends to use valerian root as an attractant rather than catnip, because the cats don't seem to get hangovers from it.
It first tested the toys at Cologne Zoo, then – as it started marketing cat toys in England - donated kickers and pillows to Hamerton Zoo Park in Huntingdon. They also gave medium-sized toys for the medium-sized wild cats like servals.
Asked why they had chosen Hamerton, which is 26 miles (42 kilometers) from Cambridge and not on the commonly beaten track, Runcie-Unger explains: "We wanted to work with a smaller wildlife park that could use support, rather than the big ones."
Its business model is to donate branded toys to a zoo, then photograph and film the animals playing. Visitors to the zoo can buy small versions of the toys for their own cats at home, says Runcie-Unger. "For Hamerton Zoo, we also donated loads of wildlife-themed normal cat toys in favor of their tiger and cheetah conservation project," he adds.
Just to be clear, there are hundreds of plants that lead cats to react, if they're in the mood – and if they're genetically predisposed to react. At least that is the theory about why 70% to 90% of cats react to catnip, but not all. It is of course possible that 100% of cats are genetically predisposed to react to catnip but 10% to 30% won't give you that satisfaction.